In the early 2000s, Manti artist Kaziah Hancock was flipping through the radio station when what she heard made a chill run up her back.
She sat down and tears ran down her cheeks as she heard about the life story of Marine Staff Sgt. James W. Cawley, a Utah soldier killed while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I thought, this beautiful man … his parents have lost a son, his wife has lost her husband, children have lost a father,” she said in a video interview with the American Red Cross. “I thought if anybody deserves to be remembered in an oil portrait, it’s this beautiful man.”
So she painted a picture of him and sent it to his family. Word got around, and soon requests started coming in from all over the country. She established a nonprofit, Project Compassion, and painting portraits of fallen soldiers became her life’s work.
“I realized there was nothing that I can paint that will mean more, that I could leave behind, then to bring a mother’s son home,” Hancock said.
Since then, she has painted more than 1,400 portraits and given them -- free of charge -- to the families of fallen soldiers.
“I’m an old lady -- I don’t know how much longer I’m going to live so I’m just going to burn out the rest of my days trying to bless as many lives as I can and bring as many soldiers home to their families as possible,” she said.
Hancock was just one of nine women and men honored Thursday at the annual Heroes Recognition Event in Provo hosted by the Central and Southern Utah chapter of the American Red Cross. Among other heroes of community service and education was South Jordan’s John Renouard, the founder of the nonprofit WHOlives.
After a family humanitarian trip to East Africa in 2010, Renouard returned to America on a mission.
He said in a video made for the American Cross event that he was amazed that people were still suffering from the lack of clean water. In some countries women and children are walking two to five miles a day to get water, and it’s contaminated.
So Renouard thought and thought about how to solve the problem. The idea of a human-powered water well drill came to him months later in the middle of the night. Two days later he received a call from BYU’s engineering department asking if he had any projects for them to work on.
Engineers there took Renouard’s concept and turned it into the Village Drill, a simple drill designed to dig a six to eight inch borehole up to 250 feet deep. Upon completion, a well pump is attached, giving whole villages access to clean water.
We’re not only producing water, but jobs, Renouard said. Wells are privately owned by schools, churches or farmers who are trained to operate and fix the equipment. The people or organizations can then charge for the clean water.
Now women don’t have to spend all of their time walking to get water -- they can start micro businesses instead, Renouard said. Now kids will have time to not only do their homework, but enjoy their childhood.
March is Red Cross Month when the American Red Cross recognizes Everyday Heroes -- ordinary people doing extraordinary things. At the event, Utahns from across the state were honored for demonstrating extraordinary courage, compassion or service. Similar events will be held in Salt Lake City, Ogden and St. George in the coming weeks.