Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Brittany's Standing O

Staff Writer | August 28, 2020 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — There was a standing ovation at the Hayden Chamber of Commerce's annual H.A.Y.D.E.N. Awards presentation Thursday morning.

It wasn’t for a business leader.

It wasn’t for a civil servant.

It wasn’t for an elected official.

It was for Brittany Cooper.

The 9-year-old received the Youth award not so much for what she's done, but what she hopes to do. She received it for having a huge heart.

“My dream is to get one big Children’s Village,” Brittany told the crowd of about 50 people at the Kroc Center on Thursday morning. “And maybe you guys would like to help.”

The applause and standing ovation that followed indicated that, absolutely, they would.

“I can count on one hand the number of standing ovations I have ever received, so you nailed it today,” said emcee Kerri Thoreson, who gave Brittany a hug.

The event honored people in several categories.

The Human Rights award went to Jeanette Laster, executive director of the Human Rights Education Institute. She was nominated for “raising the awareness of human rights by education, and recognizing that everyone has value and worth.”

“A lot of people are living in fear and we are daily answering questions about peoples’ rights,” she said.

The Arts award went to Jeni Hegsted, executive director of Emerge. She was praised for being “instrumental in bringing awareness to homelessness through art installations, volunteer artists and special events.”

The nonprofit lost its Fourth Street home in January to a fire and has faced challenges with the coronavirus crisis, as well.

“The most important work we do is being able to be a safe, inclusive space in downtown Coeur d’Alene,” she said.

The Distinguished Citizen award went to Lisa Martin of the Hayden Senior Center, which has gone through numerous challenges this past year with new management, expansion and the virus. “Lisa stepped up to the plate in such a way that our seniors haven’t even felt a small blip in the daily operations,” Thoreson said.

“It’s an honor to be able to serve,” Martin said.

The Education Award went to Sharyl Rasmussen, a teacher at Hayden Meadows Elementary School. She was nominated for “her dedication to her students.” She was unable to attend, as she was on her way home after completing a 28-day, 260-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail with her daughter. Her husband, Rick Rasmussen, accepted the award for her.

“Sharyl really loves what she does,” he said. “She was the most heart-broken person last year when school got closed. She just felt like she let those kids down.”

The New Business award went to Tom Robinson of Robinson Financial Services. He was honored for quickly becoming involved by coaching, volunteering and helping at his church.

“I love to give back to my community,” he said.

The morning, though, belonged to Brittany Cooper.

She and her sisters, Kaitlyne and Sarah, have a connection to Children’s Village. They lived there before Zack and Ginger Cooper adopted them from foster care about six years ago. Brittany remembers what life was like at Children’s Village and is determined to help other kids in a similar situation.

While she said Children's Village was wonderful, she feels blessed because she and her sisters were adopted together and are part of a loving family.

“Knowing so many other kids didn’t get a home, I’m going to help them,” she said.

Brittany said those who want to support Children’s Village can go to their website, where they will find a list of needs.

“I’m not doing this for attention,” she said. “It comes from the bottom of my heart.”

Her mom, Ginger Cooper, was beaming with pride.

“I’m just so proud at how well she’s growing up and being such a loving person who wants to help,” Cooper said. “When you come from a bad background you can turn it around and do good.”

Thoreson said she became acquainted with Brittany when she read a story The Press published about her in May, when she and her family donated food and supplies to Children’s Village.

Thoreson said she was delighted to meet her in person Thursday.

“Let me tell you, when I grow up I want to be like Brittany,” Thoreson told the crowd. “She is awesome. She is my new BFF.”



Winners at the Hayden Chamber of Commerce awards breakfast on Thursday, from left, are Jeanette Laster, Jeni Hegsted, Brittany Cooper, Lisa Martin, Rick Rasmussen accepting for wife Sharyl Rasmussen, and Tom Robinson.



Characters from Dreams Are Forever Events attend the Hayden Chamber of Commerce awards breakfast on Thursday.