Thunderbirds, Massachusetts Lottery Team Up for Community-outreach Initiatives

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds, in partnership with the Massachusetts State Lottery, teamed up to recognize individuals in the local community. Through the Hometown Heroes initiative, individuals were nominated for making a significant impact in their community. From the beginning of May through the end of June, the Thunderbirds selected nine deserving individuals over seven weeks to be recognized on Thunderbirds social media for their selfless contribution to others.

“The Thunderbirds have consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to the Greater Springfield community, and we are proud to have joined them in recognizing those who played a crucial role in serving others during the pandemic over the last year,” said Michael Sweeney, executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery.

The Thunderbirds teamed up with the Lottery on multiple community programs, including the recognition of a local educator as part of the Teacher Appreciation initiative, and Feeding the Frontline, where lunch was delivered to various organizations who were instrumental in their community during the pandemic.

“I want to thank the Massachusetts State Lottery for the emphasis that they place on the local community,” Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa said. “We try to align our organization with others that share our vision for community outreach, and we appreciate that the Lottery understands how each individual within the local community can make such an impact on others.”

The deserving individuals awarded as a Hometown Hero include:

• Dan Shaw is currently a sergeant with the Massachusetts National Guard. He enlisted in September 1999, deployed to Iraq in September 2006, and has been a full-time technician for the Massachusetts National Guard for more than seven years in the Westfield Field Maintenance Shop.

• Stuart Strohman joined the U.S. Army in 1989 serving with the 344th Military Police Company, which was deployed to Iraq in support of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He served his entire time with the 344th MP Company before leaving the Army in 1995, and in that same year graduated from Westfield State University with a degree in criminal justice. He began his police career in 1997 and has spent his entire career with the East Longmeadow Police Department, from which he will retire this October.

• Mike Borecki has worked diligently for the last 25 years to raise countless amounts of money for the Jimmy Fund and support those who are currently battling cancer along with those we have lost along the way. His nonprofit, Our Sisters, was started to celebrate the life of his late sister, Marcella Brown. Through the years, Borecki has taken part in numerous walks, participating annually with his daughter, Darcy, who is by his side every step of the way to support the cause.

• Dr. Laki Rousou is a thoracic surgeon, specializing in the diagnosis and surgical oncologic treatment of lung cancer. Through his work, he has been pivotal in establishing a lung-cancer screening program in an attempt to decrease mortality rate of lung cancer by discovering it in its early stages. He is a strong patient-care advocate, ensuring he is able to provide the latest in care, technology, and techniques locally.

• Amy McKay, who has been a traveling emergency-room nurse for the last 12 years, currently works at Baystate Health in Springfield. She has been working countless hours throughout the entire pandemic and has displayed great dedication to the local community through her work, treating each patient with the highest level of compassion and care.

• Springfield Police Officers Luis Delgado, Francisco Luna, and Josue Cruz were called last month to a home where a baby had stopped breathing. They quickly sprang into action, providing CPR to the young child, calmly caring for the 3-month-old for five minutes until the baby started to cry, which was a welcome sound to everyone. “These officers did an amazing job,” Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said. “Officers are trained in so many different areas, and life-saving techniques are one of them. When a baby is in distress, that can be one of the most difficult calls officers ever respond to, but to know that the baby is on the road to recovery and these officers helped prevent a tragedy, I am just so proud of them.”

• Kim Gorczyca has been a dedicated nurse for more than 20 years, with more than 18 of those working nights at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in pediatric oncology. In recent years, she has worked in Springfield at Shriners Hospitals for Children while still maintaining shifts at Connecticut Children’s.

In addition, Julie Penna, a fourth-grade teacher at Mittineague Elementary School, was selected as this year’s Massachusetts State Lottery Outstanding Educator. When students first went remote, she did everything possible to ensure that they stayed engaged in their work, including producing step-by-step video instruction for parents and students to understand each lesson and did weekly check-ins with students. When school started again in the fall, she even spent time reaching out to her former students to ensure they were progressing through the pandemic. And then she picked up right where she left off, making sure her current students were transitioning well, while remaining in contact with parents and students so everyone was well-informed at all times. And once classes returned to full in person learning, Penna worked tirelessly to get the students who may be having some challenges back up to where they should be.