“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Courage. Passion. Commitment. Persistence. These are the things that make a hero, and these are the things that earn someone a Courageous Citizen of Colorado award from the Fields Wolfe Memorial Fund. And these are also the things that describe Rhonda Fields and Christine Wolfe. After their children were gunned down in June of 2005, these ladies would not sit back passively. They made sure the case against the murderers of Javad and Vivian was kept in the in the public eye. The mothers also made sure that the two young people were remembered in another way, as students who showed all of the qualities listed above to succeed in school and graduate Colorado State University.
In addition to the Courageous Citizens event, the two mothers coordinate an annual golf tournament in the Denver area to generate revenue for the scholarship fund. Since 2005, nine scholarships have been given to four students. One of the criteria for being awarded the scholarship is that the student must have actively contributed in their communities before arriving at Colorado State. “We’re striving to develop honor and integrity in young people so they will make good choices,” says Rhonda Fields.
The celebration began with the lovely jazz vocals of Ayo Avosika. Tamara Banks was recruited as mistress of ceremonies and as always her vibrant smile and professional demeanor kept the event moving along smoothly. When Rhonda Fields took the microphone, all eyes turned to her. She gave a brief history of the case that reflected the length, trials and pitfalls along the way, and she then invited the DAs, chiefs of police, detectives and others who worked tirelessly on the case to join Rhonda at the head of the room and receive much deserved recognition.
The energy was notched up a peg or two when Javad’s sister Maisha Pollard spoke to the room. With zeal and fervor, she asked, “How do we build a house?” (she was talking about community). She talked about strong families, encouraging education, civic involvement--all of which is exemplified by the Fields Wolfe scholarship recipient. Several officials spoke, including Chief Daniel J. Oates, Aurora Police Department and Arapahoe County Chief Deputy District Attorney John Hower. Each in turn praised the persistence of the Fields and Wolfe families.
To signify that building a community through service, four bricks were awarded to: Aurora police Detective Gretchen Fronapfel, Chief Deputy District Attorneys Ann Tomsic, John Hower and Chief Deputy DA Emily Warren, each of who worked on the Fields Wolfe case. Lastly, a toast was raised in memoriam of the past and celebration of the future.
Later, in the courtyard, Tamara Banks gathered the crowd's attention so Maisha Pollard could deliver another inspirational message, this one evoking a spirit of “release good things into the world and make a change, one person at a time." One of the best things that the Fields Wolfe scholarship released into the world is Loren Benavente, who spoke next. Loren’s message was: “No matter where you are in life and no matter how much you have accomplished, there is no reason to ever stop reaching.”
Loren was followed by Scott Anderson and Terrance Hunt from the Sean “Ranch” Lough Foundation, who also gives out scholarships to college students.
Kathy Sasaka rose to accept the award on behalf of Governor Bill Ritter and First Lady Jeannie Ritter. The keynote speaker at the event was Dr. David Benke. David Benke is a teacher and coach at Deer Creek Middle School. Teachers, by the very nature of the job, are heroes. Mr. Benke proved himself a hero as a person as well. When a gunman came to David’s school last February and wounded two of his students, Mr. Benke acted, and he became in his words a “domino pusher”
A “domino pusher,” as Dr. Benke described it, is the first person who acts in a crisis situation, leading others to act as well, David quoted Edmond Burke, who said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Like a true hero, Mr. Benke has the humility to share the credit of the act with others. He told how a second, third and fourth teacher joined the fray in subduing the gunman. For those who thought themselves incapable of acts like his, he advised “Practice doing something small every day” and “Any time life knocks you down, make sure while falling that you land on your back, because if you can look up, then you can get up.”
The last to speak was Pastor Del T. Phillips of House Worship Center, who spoke about “defining moments” and reminded everyone that “people don’t remember what you say, but what you do.” The House Worship Center choir shared inspiration through song after Pastor Phillips' speech. Javad Marshall Fields had the courage to stand up and testify, the passion to love Vivian Wolfe, the commitment to better his community and the persistence he inherited from his family.