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Sunday Mornings with Rania: Heroes amongst Us

Rania Mankarious
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Rania Mankarious

Rania Mankarious is executive director of Crime Stoppers of Houston(Photo: lawellphoto.com)

What really makes a hero? Do you ever think about that?

Certainly, law enforcement, firefighters, doctors and all first responders come to mind. I think of people like Officer Ann Carrizales, the Stafford officer shot in the face and chest during a routine traffic stop in 2013. Never one to back down, she got back in her car, chased her suspects into Houston and apprehended one of three before seeking medical treatment. Today, she divides her time between protecting the community ("I was born to be a protector," Carrizales said, "I would gladly lay down my life to protect any of you”) and using her personal story of danger, the fight and triumph to give strength and inspiration to millions around the globe through her travel and public speaking.

What would our society be without these true gems?  Joining their ranks, though, are many everyday people and children who I believe are also heroes.

There are parents who have lost children to cancer, children who might have been graduating preschool or high school this week . . . these parents, some of whom I know well, have taken this unimaginable loss and continued to live lives of peace, fruitfulness and purpose. To me, they are heroes.

There are children who stood up to bullies, decided not to follow the crowd and withstood mountains of pressure at school this past year. To me, they are heroes.

There are people enlisting in the military, choosing to leave the comforts of home and do missionary work, serve the poor, rescue animals, and stand up to social injustices whatever it might cost. To me, they are heroes.

There are many heroes amongst us. This week, Crime Stoppers honored three of them at our Houston's Heroes Awards Luncheon: Michelle Heinz, Laura Ward and Lt. Wendee Wakeman. These women are very different yet share a passion and dedication towards their cause that goes above and beyond the normal. They have each, in their own way, thrown themselves into the trenches and conquered things many of us cannot even imagine.

After realizing that there were legal loopholes that essentially protect those who prey upon children, Michelle Heinz rolled up her sleeves, went to Austin and testified before the Senate and House to legally close those loopholes. And she succeeded. Michelle isn’t an attorney or a policy maker. She is an incredible person, a mother of three and adored in her community. Strapped with nothing more than impeccable research and a determination to see this change, Michelle’s work will protect children for generations.

Similarly, Laura Ward, the wife of Dave Ward, could spend every day being a “lady who lunches” but that wouldn’t sit well with her. Instead, she wakes up every day and works with her board at Houston’s Children’s Charity to give every child in this city a bed to sleep on, clothes to wear and toys for the holidays. She doesn’t have to do it but through her work, she is overseeing life altering gifts to families truly in need, families who will be forever changed by her presence.

And finally, Lt. Wende Wakeman took the hard road and worked the ranks through the Department of Public Safety, to the Texas Highway Patrol to DPS Narcotics. Being stationed on the Texas/Mexico border where the risk was most dangerous didn’t phase this incredible woman. Can you imagine what her days and nights were like there? What she saw? The arrests she made? And she did it all for you, me and hundreds of thousands of other people she will never meet. Noticed for her willingness to give everything she had, Lt. Wakeman became the first female ever to be promoted to a Texas Ranger Lieutenant.

There are people every day who defy the odds, do their best and give of themselves. They make this world a better place and I am so thankful for them.  

Who are the heroes in your life? Who has inspired you? 

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