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St. Joseph's Children's Hospital honors heroic kids

Kids Are Heroes nominee Riley Rubio, 11, poses with mom Dorothy for a photo taken by dad Mark. Riley collected novels from her school, Academy of the Holy Names, to donate to Ferrell Middle.

SCOTT MCINTYRE | Times

Kids Are Heroes nominee Riley Rubio, 11, poses with mom Dorothy for a photo taken by dad Mark. Riley collected novels from her school, Academy of the Holy Names, to donate to Ferrell Middle.

Colton Shepard wasn't coming from Lois Lane's office as he walked down Dale Mabry Highway near N Lakeview Drive.

He was coming from Whitney Shank's house.

He didn't have a red cape billowing behind him when he saw the overturned car on fire.

But he was wearing his brother's combat boots.

So without hesitation, Colton turned into a superhero. Using the boots, he kicked in the window and then used his shirt to clear away the glass.

"I just saw somebody in trouble and ran across the street," he said.

The mother, trapped inside, screamed, "Take my baby" and handed over her 5-year-old child.

Colton, 17, also helped the woman from the car with the aid of others and stayed with them until paramedics arrived.

And then the Gaither High senior walked home.

On Monday, Colton walked onto a stage at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital to be honored at the 14th annual Kids Are Heroes celebration. He joined 95 nominees and three first-place winners at the heartwarming event.

Colton's heroics earned him the first-place distinction in the age 13-18 category. In the age 9-12 category, Julianne Ramirez had her own story to tell.

When a young family friend began going under at a pool party, Julianne, 12, acted quickly. She jumped in, pulled the girl to safety and began CPR, which she had learned through Girl Scouts.

"She was blue in the face and her eyes rolled back in her head," Julianne explained.

Doctors credited Julianne with saving her friend's life, and now the Wilson Middle School seventh-grader has a medal commending her efforts.

In the category for children 5-8, little "Cowboy" Dixon earned top honors when he asked for gift cards instead of birthday presents and then donated the cards to Operation Helping Hand. The group helps wounded soldiers and their families at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center.

"I just felt really happy and I wanted to help other people," said Cowboy, a third-grader at St. John's Episcopal.

I guess that's how you Cowboy Up.

And that name? Well, drawing inspiration from the Toy Story character Woody, his then 2- and 4-year-old sisters started calling him Cowboy while he was still in the womb. Needless to say it stuck.

Cowboy's real name is not Cowboy, but he didn't want to divulge what we would find on his birth certificate.

Hey, being heroic has its privileges.

Overall, the nominees were just as impressive as the winners. The judges, including Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos, surely had a difficult task.

WFLA-AM 970 radio personality Jack Harris, who served as host, said I should check back in 30 years and chronicle the additional accomplishments of Tampa Bay's newest heroes.

Thirty years? Something tells me it won't take nearly that long for these kids to carve out new heroics. The selflessness displayed by these young people left an indelible impression, and the role fate played in their heroic acts is equally thought-provoking.

What if Colton hadn't been wearing combat boots? What if Julianne hadn't learned CPR? What if Cowboy had chosen to focus on himself instead of others?

Through drive, determination and maybe even a little luck, these kids have created seminal moments not only for themselves, but the people they've helped. The ripple effect of their actions has an endless number of possibilities.

Maybe the 5-year-old child in that car grows up to be a singing star. Maybe the girl in the pool becomes an astronaut. Maybe the veteran who got a gift card finds the strength to soldier on because a little kid reminded him that America appreciates his sacrifice.

It's in this framework that I believe the Kids Are Heroes celebration holds so much importance. It's not enough to tell these uncommon kids they've done something special. We need to remind them that in some small way, they may have just changed the world.

That's all I'm saying.

>>FAST FACTS

14th annual St. Joseph's Children's Hospital Kids Are Heroes winners

Ages 5-8

First: Cowboy Dixon, Tampa

Second: Lily Curwick, Redington Shores

Third: Breanne Harris, Tampa

Ages 9-12

First: Julianne Ramirez, Tampa

Second: Tyler Barat, Tampa

Third: Megan Knapp, St. Petersburg

Ages 13-18

First: Colton Shepard, Tampa

Second: Jonathan Bermudez, Tampa

Third: Geena Allen, Lutz

St. Joseph's Children's Hospital honors heroic kids 12/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010 10:37pm]
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