Adrianne Haslet-Davis. Adrianne Haslet-Davis was severely injured by the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. A 32-year-old professional ballroom dance, Adrienne’s left leg was amputated below the knee because of her devastating injuries. Her three-year recovery was painful and difficult but her resilience and determination had her walking and even dancing again. In April 2016 she accomplished an even greater challenge by completing the 26-mile Boston Marathon, a race she’d never dreamed of running. Today, besides volunteering with a number of organizations including Limbs for Life, dedicated to providing prosthetics for people who cannot afford them, Adrienne speaks around the world about her road to recovery and the life lessons she has learned. “I refuse to be called a victim. I am not defined by what happened in my life. I am a survivor, defined by how I live my life.”
Christine Leinonen. Christine Leinonen is the mother of Christopher Andrew “Dru” Leinonen, an LGBT activist and professional counselor, who was among the 49 killed at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. The attack was the biggest mass shooting in the history of the United States to date, as well as the biggest attack on the LGBT community in history. To honor the memory of her only child, Christine has stood up as an advocate for common sense gun reforms and supported “The Dru Project” an LGBTQIA organization founded by Dru and his friends- a mission to spread love across the nation and promote gay straight alliances. “He can’t do that on his own now, but I can do it for him. I can speak for him.”
Lieutenant Mike Madden. On December 2, 2015 Lieutenant Mike Madden, a 24-year veteran of the San Bernardino Police Force, was first on the scene when the Inland Regional Center came under attack by terrorists. Trained for active shooter situations, he waited two minutes for backup. When three other officers arrived, he led the team, guns drawn, into the building where the assailants could still be at large. Into the chaos of screams and fire alarms and through the fog of gun power and torrents of water from broken sprinklers Madden made his way from room to room clearing the building of panic stricken people. As waves of emergency service officers rushed to the scene Madden helped extract frightened survivors from their cars and then supervised the evacuation of an adult day care center. The next day Madden reported to work as usual as head of Dispatchers. “I am not a hero,” he said, “I was just doing my job.”
Alana Simmons. Alana Simmons is the granddaughter of the Reverend Daniel L. Simmons Sr., one of the parishioners who gathered for Bible study at “Mother” Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC when a white Columbia area man opened fire. Rev. Simmons was one of nine murdered in cold blood on June 17, 2015, a senseless victim of the murderer’s attempt to ignite a “race war.” Just days after her grandfather was slain, Alana along with family members of other Charleston victims, publically forgave her grandfather’s killer in a South Carolina courtroom. Shortly after, Alana created the social media hash tag #HateWontWin to encourage people to post a picture showing love to someone “different from them.” Instantly, the hashtag went viral and her website “Hate Won’t Win” was born. Its mission is to create a more culturally cohesive society that appreciates and celebrates differences instead of allowing them to divide us. Alana says, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, they lived in love and they preached love, and their legacies will be love.”
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