It has been two years since Kim Olsen of Salem learned that her son Lance Corporal Nigel Olsen had been killed in Afghanistan. Since then Olsen has created a scholarship fund in her son's name and is now making gold star window stickers for other families who have lost soldiers.
On Wednesday Olsen will receive the Lifetime Achievement Hero Award, an annual recognition from the Mountain Valley chapter of the American Red Cross. She will be recognized alongside half a dozen other ordinary heroes.
"I really was surprised," Olsen said. "I am just an ordinary person and I was really honored that someone would think of me."
Olsen started goldstarstars.com a few years ago, making personalized gold stars featuring the soldier's name, rank, branch of military and date they died. She gives the first star to families for free. She also makes gold stars for families of soldiers who have killed themselves while battling post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I am especially concerned about those families," Olsen said. "They are still heroes, they still stepped out in the battle lines and fought and they should be honored too. This war is taking a terrible toll on our young men and women and I am happy to create the gold stars so when people see them they know there is a story behind that."
Olsen's service to the community goes beyond making gold stars. She has assisted military families as a Red Cross volunteer, spoken at military events and written letters of comfort to hundreds of families who, like her, have lost a family member in the military.
"Kim has always been caring toward other people," said Shaun Heaton, chairman of the Mountain Valley Heroes event. "She saw a need and a service to help those families, and I thought that was great. She has done many, many wonderful things and used her adversity in her life to better the world rather than crawl in a hole and cry."
Olsen says she hopes she can inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and help others in need.
"When adversity hits you can become bitter or you can become better. I am hoping that I can be the second and help other people," Olsen said. "It is really a wonderful healing process when you are able to give back. It has been a marvelous experience for me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. But it shows I can do hard things and still smile."
Others being honored at the second annual event are:
• David Maughan, Adult Good Samaritan Award -- After watching his friend's van skid into a lake, Maughan, a Lehi resident, used a rock to break the rear window of the van and cleared away the glass so the family of seven trapped inside could escape, sustaining a cut to his hand in the process that required 10 stitches.
• Bonnie Rosdahl, Community Good Samaritan Award -- Rosdahl has delivered Meals on Wheels to seniors for more than two years, but she also delivers home-cooked meals from her own kitchen on holidays when Meals on Wheels does not deliver. Each week she bakes a special treat for her clients and helps them with other needs, such as running errands and bringing in the mail.
• David Fullmer, Educator Hero Award -- For 21 years Fullmer has been the cornerstone of the Timpview High School Band program. He teaches his students to be compassionate and caring human beings, in addition to being top-notch musicians. His music program has won numerous awards. He has shown his students how music can touch individual lives in profound ways.
• Andrea Anaya, International Hero Award -- Anaya helps nonprofits in Ghana by building schools and apartments and providing safe transportation for exchange students and medical personnel. All of the funds are out of her own pocket.
• Lehi Chief of Police Chad Smith, Law Enforcement Hero Award -- While on vacation in Monticello, Smith decided to go to the public pool with his grandchildren. After realizing that a young boy at the pool was not breathing, Smith used his CPR and first aid skills to save the boy. He stayed with the boy until additional help arrived and visited him over the next few days to make sure he was OK.
• Bruce Rowley and Marvin Kennison, Community Safety Hero Awards -- Rowley and Kennison founded the Levan First Responders in 1999. They procured an ambulance and other vital lifesaving equipment and operate the ambulance without funds from the city's budget.
• Preston Arnoldsen, Youth Good Samaritan Award -- During a bus ride home from school, Arnoldsen, trained in CPR and first aid, noticed that his friend was choking on a piece of candy and had stopped breathing. Using his training, Preston was able to dislodge the candy and save his friend.
"There are our friends and neighbors and I think it is important for us to reach out and honor and recognize our fellow citizens for the heroic things they do," said Teresa Zundel, spokeswoman for the Utah region of the American Red Cross. "So many times we idolize popular personalities when we have everyday heroes living among us that do amazing things every day."
Those being honored were nominated before being chosen for the awards by a committee made up of local leaders.
Tickets for the event are $75 per person, with all proceeds going to directly benefit the Red Cross. For tickets to the event contact Jeremy Marsh at (801) 373-8580, ext. 2306.