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 July 2009

July '09 eBuilder Front Page

Kiwanis International World Service Medal Awarded to Colonel Donald Gray Heppner, Jr. for Malaria Research; Sponsored by Kiwanis Club of Lynchburg, VA & Capital District

Photos and Story by Past Governor Bob Cressy

United States Army Colonel Donald Gray Heppner, Jr., was named the 2009 recipient of the prestigious World Service Medal at the Kiwanis International Convention in Nashville at the opening ceremony, June 25th.  Colonel Heppner is the deputy commander of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Gray Heppner has devoted much of his career in research on the disease of malaria which causes 1.5 million deaths world-wide each year, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia.  While malaria has been virtually eradicated long ago in North America, it kills over 3,000 children every day in the world.  Colonel Heppner is dedicated to finding a vaccine and cure for malaria through his research at Walter Reed.  He has a goal of providing 100% protection against the disease.

His work came to Kiwanis' attention in a very understandable way, yet somewhat by accident.  Back in 2007, then Key Club Governor Peter Simesek ran a very successful project called "Nothing But Nets". Key Clubbers district wide raised over $14,000 in various fund raisers to purchase mosquito nets for the people of Africa to help protect them from mosquito bites, a cause of malaria.  Each net cost only ten dollars so over 1,400 nets were distributed. 

Peter was trying to find a key note speaker for the Key Club DCON in April.  He mentioned it to Nancy Cressy, a Registered Nurse, who remembered Kiwanian David Heppner speaking of his brother Gray doing research on malaria. She and David discussed it.  David contacted Gray and Doctor Heppner agreed to speak at the Key Club DCON.  In fact, Gray flew in from Africa on the red-eye to meet his commitment. His message was spell binding for the Kiwanis family.

Conversations continued after that DCON and several Kiwanians were thinking of how his research might get support, perhaps a grant, from the Kiwanis International Foundation.  While this was being pursued, Colonel Heppner was invited to be the key note speaker at Governor Bob Cressy's 2007 Capital District Convention in Rockville.  Gray again accepted and again fascinated Kiwanians with his mission. From there, David Heppner and several members of the Kiwanis Club of Lynchburg put together an application for consideration as the Kiwanis International 2009 World Service Medal nominee.  It was sworn to secrecy, submitted, reviewed and accepted by Kiwanis.

In an article on line at www.kiwanis.org , World Service Medal, Kiwanis reports the award comes with a $10,000 grant by Kiwanis which Colonel Heppner is giving to the Kiwanis Nursery School in Kisumu, Kenya. It is operated by the Kiwanis Club of Kisumu which educates and feeds children whose families have been afflicted by malaria and HIV/AIDS.  Upon notification by Kiwanis they said Heppner was deeply moved. "I had welcomed my Lynchburg, Virginia hometown nomination but never, ever anticipated one of the world's preeminent charities for children would recognize the importance of the Walter Reed Institute of Research's efforts to fight malaria.  I hope this Kiwanis award will inspire thousands more to join the fight," said Heppner. "Malaria can be eliminated if we say enough is enough and take action."

All the Capital District thanks Colonel Heppner and the Walter Reed Army Institute for this most important research and the Lynchburg Club for nominating him for the 2009 Kiwanis International World Service Medal.  Please see the accompanying photos of the ICON award ceremony. You see, 'One Can Make A Difference' can't they.

Kiwanis cites previous award recipients that include Mother Teresa, actors and humanitarians Roger Moore and Audrey Hepburn and First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Rosalynn Carter.  Thank you Kiwanis International President Don Canaday and your Boards.

2009 Kiwanis International World Service Medal Award Announcement

KICON Big Screen:  Recipient: Cornel Donald Gray Heppner, Jr.

Colonel Heppner presents to Kiwanians:  "Malaria kills 3,000 children every day".

David Heppner's daughter Francis shows the plaque while Dr. Heppner speaks with Juan Torres, Past President of the Manila, Philippines, Kiwanis club, after the ceremony.

The Heppner Brothers:  Chris, David and Gray.  A proud family.

Nancy Cressy, David Heppner, Gray Heppner and Bob Cressy pose briefly after the ceremony.


Colonel Gray Heppner, Lynchburg Club Kiwanian David Heppner, and Kiwanis International President Paul Palozzolo share stage as Paul congratulates both Gray for his dedication and David for the sponsorship of his brother.

The Heppner family gathers under the entrance.  (Left to right) Amy, wife of Chris, Chris, Mom Natalie, Gray and David Heppner at the entrance to the 94th Annual Kiwanis International Convention.  Congratulations to you all!

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