NORTH CANTON  A program for the Daughter of the American Revolution nine years ago in Columbus (DAR) was Audrey Morrison's inspiration for honoring everyday heroes back home.

Morrison, a regent at the time, heard another regent refer to someone as an everyday American hero. Hearing those words made her think about finding a way to honor Stark County residents who have made a difference in the lives of others. She began looking through local newspapers for stories of people in the area who were doing something significant for their communities.

The Canton Chapter of DAR began honoring people in the many stories Morrison found with a special ceremony once a year.

“We began giving out the Every Day American Heroes awards soon after I started finding stories of everyday citizens making a difference and we’ve been continuing with the tradition every year since,” said Morrison.

This year’s awards were presented on April 5 at Faith United Methodist Church in North Canton. The class of 2017 Every Day American Heroes includes the following six recipients:

- Todd Blackledge, Hoover High School’s boys’ basketball coach, who awarded for instilling integrity and character in his athletes. Blackledge is a former football quarterback in both the NCAA and National Football League. While at Penn State University, he guided the Nittany Lions to a 31-5 record, which included a national championship in 1982. Following that season, he won the Davey O’Brien Award for best quarterback in the nation.

He was named a first team Academic All-American and awarded the Eric Walker Award, which is given to the Penn State senior student who has most “enhanced the esteem and recognition of the University." Blackledge played for the Kansas City Chiefs for five seasons (1983-1987) before ending his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he played for one year (1988).

Blackledge, now one of the faces of college football as a color analyst for ESPN, was inducted into the Academic All America Hall of Fame in 1997. He sits on the Board of Visitors for Penn State’s Center for Sports Journalism. He’s coached Little League youth basketball and conducted quarterback camps for high school kids. 

“I’m honored to be part of this group, it’s humbling and inspiring to be with a group of people who have made an impact in such unique ways,” Blackledge said.

- Charita Goshay, journalist with the Canton Repository, awarded for excellence in journalism. She’s been employed at the Canton Repository since 1990. Her areas of coverage have included medicine, religion, and general assignment. 

Goshay is a nationally syndicated columnist at Gatehouse News Services and a member of the Repository editorial board. She is a seven-time Associated Press Best Columnist in Ohio and has earned recognition from the Stark Bar Association, the Greater Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, Ohio Legislature, Canton City Schools, Boy Scouts of America, Buckeye Council and others. 

A founding board member of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Stark and Carroll Counties, Goshay is also a graduate of Leadership of Stark County.”

“It’s humbling to receive the award especially when considering that the people in this year’s class are so amazing,” Goshay said.

- Jackson Gray, Miami University student, awarded for fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention after the death of a close friend. The McKinley High School graduate and two others are planning Race the River 2017, where they will canoe the 981-mile length of the Ohio River to raise money, along three more fundraising events with local organizations. They plan to communicate with city councils across the route of the river to set up speaking events in the towns along the trip. The goal is to spread their testimony and awareness for this very important topic. 

“My son is away at school and couldn’t be here but I know how humbled he is to have received the award. He’s so passionate about his project called Race the River 2017 and he’s thankful to DAR for the award and is appreciative that Charita Goshay started a conversation locally that could help save a life,” said Jackson Gray’s mother Angie Schering who accepted the award for her son.

- Patti Hostetler, director of Hannah’s House 119, awarded for providing a safe haven and for addressing the needs of victims of human trafficking and neglect of young women and girls in Northeast Ohio and Stark County.

Missy Fletcher accepted the award for Patti Hostetler and said, “We are humbled and appreciative of the receiving the DAR award. We’re happy that God has chosen and trusted us with this ministry. I want everyone to know that the girls we work with are survivors of the most horrific actions, they aren’t victims, they are survivors.”

- Chad Weaver, engineering teacher at McKinley High School, awarded for Replay for Toys: Reworking Toys for Kids with Disabilities, and for helping his engineering students learn how to adapt toys for kids with disabilities and for teaching them to be useful in their work by helping others.

“I’m honored, humbled and flabbergasted for winning the DAR award. I’m also honored that I get to work with and teach my students how to fulfill their civic duty by using their skills and intelligence to make a difference in lives of others,” said Weaver.

- Stephan Wilder, retired North Canton Police Chief, awarded for 36 years of service to the city of North Canton. Wilder recently retired from the North Canton Police Department but plans to continue living in North Canton.

He wants to continue to serve on the North Canton Chamber of Commerce and to stay active with the Stark County Police Chiefs Association. He also looks forward to continuing his work with the Boy Scouts and is vying for the position as assistant regional commissioner for the national organization. 

“I want to thank DAR for the award. I’m surprised to be honored with the DAR award and to be among the other award recipients who have made remarkable contributions to help better their communities,” Wilder said.

DAR is a non-political service organization open to any women who is directly descended from a person involved with the United States’ struggle for independence. As a non-profit group, DAR promotes historic preservation, education and patriotism.

For more information about he Every Day Hero program, contact Morrison at 330-494-6319. For more information about DAR, contact Regent Joanne Malene at 330-494-5760.