Heart Driven Community Builders

Meet the People in The Gift of Courage

The people of The Gift of Courage have positively transformed their communities. They serve others and elevate the state of the world. They live a life they dreamed of by finding their purpose. Being in the company of these amazing people, at our Evening of Empowerment events, during workshops, or in the classroom, is time well spent.

We invite you to watch a video about these life-changing people and read below as first steps toward learning more about them and meeting them in person. Whether seeing them in person at a live event or reading about them in the book The Gift of Courage, we are confident these purposeful and caring everyday heroes will inspire and empower you to be the same!

Josh Kern and Thurgood Marshall Academy

A white law school student who challenged the stigma of hopelessness in a violent black inner-city neighborhood with Thurgood Marshall Academy, a charter high school where every single graduate advances to college as a future leader, Josh (right, bottom) empowers hundreds of at-risk children and young adults with confidence to pursue their dreams. Read more about Josh and Thurgood Marshall Academy;

Kelley Kalafatich

A pioneer world-class adventure guide (right, second from top) who helped create a new third-world economy, worked to preserve wild rivers, inspired hundreds of young women to live their dreams, and who is now hoping to walk again, Kelley’s determination in the face of a life-altering illness illustrates the power of facing fears to realize a life of purpose. Learn more about Kelley;

Eric Plantenberg

A personal development leader who inspires people to realize their own personal summits, as he did by climbing Mt. Everest to raise money for children’s education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Eric’s life and teachings spotlight introspection as a gateway to courage and an abundant life. See more on Eric;

Russell Redenbaugh

The international jiujitsu champion, human rights advocate, and leading investment consultant, Russell (right, top) lost his eyesight and fingers from a teenage accident. From his hospital bed as a youth Russell vowed to never let his injury get in the way of building a truly meaningful life. His presentations today inspire us to do the same.  Learn more about Russell;

Brianna Mercado

A teenage cancer survivor who lost a precious year of her life fighting the disease and now a young college student, Brianna (right, second from bottom) gives very ill children reasons to live through the gift of dance and laughter. With preternatural wisdom, Brianna teaches us how resilience—getting back up—is vital to joy and generosity. Read more about Brianna;

Dennis Guthrie

A highly decorated Vietnam War hero who buried his emotions during the war to save hundreds of lives and now shares them freely to save thousands more, Dennis’ devotion to fellow soldiers at times of war and peace empower him and countless others to survive the literal and emotional hell of war. Find out more about Dennis;

Jim Adams

A devout fireman who was baked alive and survived through technology, grace, and a need to serve a greater cause, Jim’s conviction in his beliefs and commitment to a community of firefighters and burn survivors enable him to lead a rich, passionate life as he did before and since surviving an accident in which most others would have died. Learn about Jim;

Martha Ryan and Homeless Prenatal Program

A care-giving program founder, along with former homeless mothers Judy Crawford and Carrie Hamilton, who now use their past hardships to help build bright futures for those who live on the streets, Martha and her employees, such as now thriving Judy and Carrie, showcase how acceptance and self-forgiveness are necessary to serve others well. See more on Martha;

Jeff Leeland and Sparrow Clubs

A teacher whose students raised money to save his son’s life, and who built an organization from that experience to save hundreds more lives and unexpectedly, his own, Jeff ’s compassion for others and himself reveals the cornerstone of a passion-filled life. Find more on Jeff.


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