Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Joseph's Children's Hospital hands out Kids Are Heroes awards

Jared Upmann, front right, the winner in the 9-to-12 age group at the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s 15th annual Kids Are Heroes awards, is joined by Sydney Fisher, front left, who took third place, and Ainsleigh Wall, center, who took second. On the stage are other children in the age group who were recognized for their achievements, along with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Jared Upmann, front right, the winner in the 9-to-12 age group at the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s 15th annual Kids Are Heroes awards, is joined by Sydney Fisher, front left, who took third place, and Ainsleigh Wall, center, who took second. On the stage are other children in the age group who were recognized for their achievements, along with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

TAMPA — They were trying to get back to shore.

Dustin Bush and his three fishing pals felt the rough water, saw the waves stretching four to six feet.

But 11 miles from land, the 22-foot fishing boat's motor failed.

The men tried to anchor. Moments later, the boat capsized.

Dustin swam 250 yards, collecting floating debris and hauling it back to his friends.

"I swam around giving the guys stuff. I gave one of the guys a marker buoy," he said. "And I just tread water."

Dustin kept himself moving, and grabbed 55-year-old Richard Green when the man fell unconscious last April.

He held his friend's head above water for an hour, until a charter boat found them.

"It was just adrenaline," Dustin explained.

Green was pronounced dead. But Dustin is credited with trying to save him, and still saving the two other men.

Ten months later, the Gulf High School teenager walked steadily to the gold-and-black decorated stage among a sea of applause. He had earned top honors in his age 13-18 category at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital's 15th annual Kids Are Heroes awards ceremony.

Situations of tragedy and adversity gave way to a night of hope and excitement Monday.

The hospital's Medical Arts Building Auditorium, filled with star-shaped balloons, a one-man circus, a DJ and dinner, hosted a joyous celebration honoring more than 100 of Tampa Bay's youngest heroes.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who helped hospitalized children choose the night's winners, shook Dustin's hand. Dustin was handed a trophy. A medal was placed around his neck.

"A lot of the times people look up to us athletes as being their heroes," Stamkos said. "What these kids have done at such a young age — they're real heroes."

An even younger hero found his place of service in the kitchen.

Valrico's Jared Upmann didn't expect his aunt to have a heart attack and for five cousins to become permanent company. Neither did he expect his parents, just months later, to separate.

Jared knew his mom needed more help around the house.

He decided he'd pick up a savory skill and learned to cook. For nine.

After a full school day, Jared opens the refrigerator and turns on the stove.

"I get home from school around 5 (p.m.)," said Jared, the winner in the age 9-12 category. "It's done and cleaned up by 6 or 6:30."

He tries to keep his meals nutritious, his family healthy.

The Mulrennan Middle School student smiles when he dishes his favorite meal.

"Steak and mashed potatoes."

In the age 5-8 category, Connor Rakoczy was looking forward to having spring break off from school.

He had plans to set up a lemonade stand and earn some spending money. Then, he learned a nearby family's house burned to the ground.

Connor revised his business strategy and came up with something easier and ready-made.

For four days he sat outside his neighborhood gate, swapping sticks of gum for coins, or, when drivers learned of his cause, dollars.

"I can do it for the things they need," Connor said.

When it was time to go back to school, the Odessa Elementary student had raised more than $700. Excitedly, he handed the money to the family in need.

The three top winners were accompanied on stage by 110 other heroes, all with extraordinary stories to tell.

"I got to read every story," Stamkos said. "They're all amazing kids. Hopefully this is a great start for each and every one of them."

Sarah Gottlieb can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

St. Joseph's Children's Hospital hands out Kids Are Heroes awards 02/23/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 23, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries

    Blogs

    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.