Each year, the American Red Cross honors the people who make central Iowa a better place to live.
This year's "Heroes of the Heartland" include a police officer, a police officer's widow, and a Navy Seal.
Among the ten honorees are a retired veterinarian and his wife who have five grandchildren.
The word "hero" gets tossed around a lot these days. Far less often, it gets defined: by the Des Moines police sergeant who pulled three teenagers from a burning car, by the Rockford Navy Seal who gave his life for his country… and by Dave and Cheryl Pence.
The Pences did not put their lives in danger to earn the Red Cross "Heroes of the Heartland" award. But Dave and Cheryl have given freely of their lives, of their time and their money. They’ve given it all to help people rebuild after the tornado in Parkersburg, after the flood in Cedar Rapids. They give prom dresses to high school girls who cannot afford them, they give backpacks full of school supplies to children who would otherwise be empty handed.
Cheryl says, “It just makes us feel good that someone out there is truly in need and we are lucky that we can help them."
Elaine Haugen befriended the Pences at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. It is the home base for their disaster relief, their food drives, and too many other things to list. So friends and family summed it up with this over-due award.
Elaine says, “Long overdue. And we had to sneak, because as you know, heroes do not want to be called heroes. It's a strange thing."
And we find it just as strange when the hero ends up being the one who needs the help.
Dave says, “I've been through three rounds of chemo therapy at Rochester at Mayo and we're not able to bring the leukemia into remission.
Time is short. The doctors have given Dave four-to-six-months to live.
Cheryl says, "He is strong. Very strong. He's stronger than I am at times.”
Dave says, “Well, it's tough. It's not easy to leave your spouse and know that that will happen at some point in time, but miracles happen and people live six years beyond six month thought processes, and sometimes ten to fifteen years with conditions that are meant to be only four or five months. And you just have to have faith that the miracle's going to happen.”
“There's miracles out there and if there's one with his name on it, we'll be more than happy to take it," Says Cheryl.
When you think about it this way, the Pences only ask for one thing; Just a little more time to give.
"And we'll still continue to do some deliveries for those that are in need and things that we can gather yet to help those that are around us," says Dave.
"It's much sadder to lose someone who has never lived,” Says Elaine. “And David has lived to the fullest."”