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Founder of White Oak nonprofit Jamie's Dream Team hailed as hero

| Friday, March 8, 2013, 5:16 a.m.

Jamie Holmes, founder of White Oak-based nonprofit Jamie's Dream Team, was honored by KDKA with four others as a Hometown Hero on Thursday night at PNC Park.

Holmes, 26, founded her charity in 2005. It is dedicated to making dreams come true for the terminally ill and injured.

Joining Holmes as Hometown Heroes were Penn Hills police Sgt. Patrick J. Manning, William R. Neal Jr. of Pittsburgh, Penn State University student Paul Shields, and Military Connections founder Summer Tissue.

KDKA Radio personality Larry Richert hosted the program. It also featured members of the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises public awareness and solicits support for injured service members.

Retired Army Ranger Capt. Sean Parnell said Thursday's honorees embody the spirit of Pittsburgh.

“Making life better for everybody is the most noble pursuit of all,” Parnell said. “They are leaders who always do the right thing, even when nobody is looking. Especially when nobody's looking. Their courage and selflessness knit communities together.”

“I'm not the hero here in this room,” Holmes said. “The heroes in this room are the men and women who fought for us to be here tonight, who served our country. The heroes in this room are their families who sit with them tonight, and also the families of the heroes who did not come home. We wouldn't be here tonight if it wasn't for them.”

Holmes was born with the rare disorder VATER Syndrome, which causes congenital abnormalities of the vertebrae, lower intestine, trachea, esophagus and kidneys. She's had more than 45 surgeries and medical procedures, including fusing several vertebrae in her spine. One of her kidneys has disintegrated, and the remaining kidney is not fully functional.

Those challenges help fuel Holmes' passion to assist others.

“I wake up every day battling my own illness, and I will have to have more surgeries soon,” Holmes said. “What gets me through the day is knowing that someone else needs my help, whether it be a child who has an illness, or an adult with a trauma. These children and adults who we grant dreams to touch my life, each and every one of them. They become like family.”

Jamie's Dream Team began by fulfilling the dream of Mallory Oross, 5, of West Mifflin, who was suffering from neuroblastoma.

It since has made wishes come true for more than 400 others, providing gift cards to needy families, arranging meet-and-greets with athletes and celebrities, organizing princess parties and planning trips to Disney World.

The group will host a princess party Sunday at LakeView Banquet room in Greensburg for 9-year-old Kaeleigh Beregi of Greensburg, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 2.

Information about Jamie's Dream Team is available online at www.jamiesdreamteam.myfastsite.net.

Manning restored his town's Bessemer Baseball Field, which had gone unused for more than 15 years.

Neal founded Champion Enterprises, a nonprofit, all-volunteer community service agency that for 38 years has provided 25 programs to disadvantaged and low-income families in Allegheny County at no cost.

Shields helped to rescue the occupants of a burning building.

For 10 years, Tissue's charity organization has provided more than 1 million care packages for soldiers.

Each hero received $1,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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