ST. PETERSBURG — For the 12th consecutive year, Bay News 9 celebrated the community-minded efforts of seven Everyday Heroes at a luncheon ceremony this week.
The event celebrated the work of all the Everyday Heroes profiled every Monday evening during a segment hosted by longtime Tampa TV news reporter Bill Murphy. The luncheon brings as many of them together as possible to honor them, but also so they can share each other’s stories.
“It’s about people who give back to the community,” said Alan Mason, Corporate Vice-President, Local Programming Group, Bright House Networks. “Because they’re people who volunteer, or who’ve come up with an idea to help out, they’re passionate. They want to tell their stories.”
And those stories, one and all, were inspiring.
There’s Patrick Jackson-Williams, an ordained minister at the age of 16 who the event honored as its “Young Hero.”
For Jackson-Williams, who overcomes mild cerebral palsy every day as he works to further community outreach for his ministry, Angels on Assignment, the recognition was humbling.
“It’s a humbling experience, because I don’t see myself as a hero,” Jackson-Williams said. “I’m just a regular person just trying to make lives better. It’s humbling for me.”
Jackson-Williams says Angels on Assignment is about bringing love, smiles and hope to those who need it everywhere.
“Just being able to see the smiles on people’s faces,” Jackson-Williams said. “I may never see them again, but I know they had a smile on their face. And people don’t forget that. They don’t forget the impact. They don’t forget the love. They’ll forget words, but they won’t forget that.”
Someone else who had an impact on the lives of others was Jessica Purcell, honored as 2016’s “Hero of the Year.”
Purcell, a U.S. Army active reservist and airborne soldier, was there to help when Reginald D. White of Bradenton fell from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge while changing a blown tire on his SUV.
“I don’t really feel that I’m that deserving of this title,” said Purcell when asked about her feelings about the recognition for her actions. “[I’m] certainly thankful, but I don’t really feel that I did anything to deserve this title that I just did something that I felt like anybody should do.”
Unlike so many others driving by in those terrifying moments, Purcell stopped, assessed the situation, called 911 and stayed with White’s wife, also named Jessica. They both called down to Reginald in the water, talking to him, reassuring him they weren’t going anywhere until help arrived.
“Really, I came here to see Reggie and Jessica myself,” Purcell said. “I was hoping they could make it and just give them a big hug because I feel tied to them for life.”
The list of all those honored at the 2016 luncheon were:
Young Hero – Patrick Jackson-Williams
Volunteer Hero – Chuck Donaghe
Health Advocate – Bob O’Brien and Vince Blancato
Animal Advocate – John and Angela Spillis
Education Hero – Scott Malone
Viewer’s Choice – Ralph Zuckerman
Hero of the Year – Jessica Purcell
Check out their inspiring stories again or for the first time in the links below. “Everyday Heroes” airs on Bay News 9 at 5:53 every Monday evening.