During this time of challenge and change, Memorial Hermann Broadway at the Hobby Center was looking for local stars who’ve gone above and beyond for the community. These game-changers could be on the front lines, in healthcare, organizing community events, finding creative solutions to problems, teaching in social distance or leading the fight against inequality. We wanted to celebrate the stars who are helping our communities be safer, more inclusive and all together better for all of us – just like the arts!
Thank you to the wonderful members of the Houston community who nominated their friends, family, and coworkers for our Nominate a Star campaign! We reviewed the nominees and chose five winners, who will each receive four tickets to an upcoming show when Broadway returns to the Hobby Center. All the nominations we received were inspiring and heartwarming, and we are thrilled to share our winners and other nominations.
- Christina DuBois, nominated by Lynne Singleton: Christina has been managing the mobile integrated health department at Cypress Creek EMS, managing infection prevention for around 200 EMTs and paramedics. She has barely taken a day off and is available day and night to answer their questions about testing, symptoms, and whether or not it is safe to come to work. During this stressful time, she’s been a peaceful constant.
- Colleen “Coach” Russo
- Nominated by Kipp Baxter: Coach is diligent in providing educational and social learning to neurodiverse students. Mid-March, as pandemic hit Houston, she immediately developed a virtual curriculum, providing the necessary interactions for students to stay connected. As President of SSC Houston, she convenes weekly meetings to share best practices. Her dedication is unparalleled.
- Nominated by Lisa Graham-Garza: Colleen “Coach” Russo is a caring and compassionate advocate for special needs people and is the head of a special needs school for teens an adults with autism called The Hub. My 17-year-old son attends this program that is made exceptional by this amazing woman. Ever since the coronavirus hit, she has tried to be one step ahead having to make all the decisions, juggle all the stress and try to keep the school afloat from a business perspective as well as meet the needs of our children/adults with autism, and the teachers as well. She has handled the immense stress that has gone on now for almost five months with dignity and grace. She does this all while trying to keep up the Zoom programming and the online courses and the sense of community that she has fought so hard to build for our children who struggle with this and who count on the HUB “family” for consistency and some normalcy even during the stay at home orders. She has never stopped working, she has never stopped worrying and she has never stopped planning. It”s all been so much to handle and there’s nobody more deserving of this wonderful award than our Coach for her dedication and commitment and for even arranging free mental health Zoom support meetings for us parents. In the autism community, she is a “first responder” and deserves all our gratitude and support in return!
- Connie Reibenstein, nominated by Ashley Hewson: My mother, Connie, has been a Registered Nurse for 30 years. She is kind, caring, compassionate, and relentless when it comes to those she loves and those she cares for. My mother has been working extremely hard during this pandemic to keep the people she cares for at her state school safe, happy, and healthy. She goes above and beyond for her patients to ensure their happiness. Just ask any of their family members. She has given every patients family her personal cell phone so they can reach her anytime. My mom also uses her phone to Facetime the family members so they can see their loved ones while they are not able to visit them in person. She then comes home and continues that level of care with her family ensuring everyone is using precautions and staying healthy. My mother deserves this nomination because you will not meet another woman who is stronger, works harder, and enjoys theater as much as she does.
- Kristen Pappas, nominated by Konstantinos Pappas: She is in the education field for over 15 years in different areas. She’s been helping children of need to achieve their dream of college education!
- Tracy Stroh, nominated by Heather Rojas: I am the Volunteer Director at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital. Tracy Stroh is one of my volunteers. Since June 1, we have allowed volunteers under the age of 65 to return to volunteer on an optional basis. Many volunteers were not ready to return, but Tracy was one of the fist to sign up to return. Not only did Tracy return for her two 4-hour shifts a week, she has been volunteering 5 DAYS A WEEK, sometimes for 8 hours a day. She has gone above and beyond to serve our patients and staff. She has truly made a huge difference and is so appreciated!!!
- Ashley Hewson, nominated by Connie Reibenstein: Ashley is a new teacher. The love and knowledge she gives to her children is astounding. She cannot wait to get in the classroom to the children who make teaching such a rewarding profession!!!
- Aurora Brunel, nominated by Elizabeth Valeri: Aurora is the founder of Masks of Hope. She started just wanting to make masks for the local fire department and with a help of volunteers she has organized from March to the end of June, she has delivered 21,140 masks in the US and internationally.
- Avery Taylor, nominated by Zachary McKenzie: Avery has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one. She has helped prep and maintain a COVID unit through Houston Methodist. She downplays the importance of her role at her job, but she is pulling crazy hours, doing tough work, and still attending school online.
- Barry Wiener, nominated by Lance Wiener: My dad is an ICU at Lyndon B. Johnson hospital. He’s a self-made man and I respect his craft as a nurse, but I love him so much. Nurses are an essential part of this fight, and I’m proud to say he’s one of the many nurses fighting COVID-19.
- Bella Delgado, nominated by Christie Chen: Bella is one of the hardest working neonatal ICU nurses taking care of one of the most critically ill populations in the biggest medical center in the world. Her job involves multiple roles: support system for parents, training new nurses, and fellow team player in her unit.
- Caroline Bortz, nominated by Lisa Caledonia: She is a young nurse, working, helping patients. Long days and nights and she currently has contracted COVID.
- Christine DeLong, nominated by Ashley O’Malley: Christine is my mother and I have spent all 32 years of my life trying to be half as amazing as she is. She taught fifth grade and ran a drama club for 20+ years, providing thousands of kids with the opportunity to shine on the stage. The last three years she move to junior high to teach theater arts, where she shares her love of the theater and allows her students to experience all avenues of the theater, so they too can fall in love with the arts!
- Christy Maeker, nominated by Jeff Harris: Christy is the director of Counseling and Psychological Services with Katy ISD. Christy has devoted her time and efforts to ensuring that the students in Katy can all graduate and continues to work with students, families, and administrators to ensure that the students are in school (virtually) and are receiving the required courses to graduate high school.
- Coleen Stavinoha, nominated by Kate Ostrow-Yadan: Colleen has been a teacher with HISD for 25 years. The past five were spent in a high-functioning life skills class at Westside High School. Never did she belittle, infantilize, or treat her student’s sub-par because of their differences. Instead, she challenged them, loved them, and encouraged them to use their intelligence and strength of emotional intelligence to teach society all that they have to offer. Many of her students and her parents will tell you the same. She is an angel on earth!
- Cristina Reyes, nominated by Cristina Rodriquez: Mrs. Reyes has gone above and beyond for her students. Always encouraging the to strive to be better. I have seen high school students who see her at random places made it known who she is in their lives. She loves her job with so much passion to make change for every student that she encounters. She is a local star for her school.
- David Dalton, nominated by Judith Dalton: As a music teacher at a Title 1 elementary school, David fosters a foundation of music appreciation in the lives of hundreds of students each year. Over his 32-year career at the same school, he has shared his love of and joy in music with thousands of children, many of whom go on to enjoy singing and playing instruments for the rest of their lives. He begins his 33rd year at Stephens Elementary School in the Aldine ISD this August.
- Grenita Lathan, nominated by Scott Allen: Dr. Lathan has shown support to teachers, principals, parents and students during the COVID-19 crisis. Making difficult decisions, while communicating with all stakeholders she has never wavered. In an almost no win situation, she has handled it with grace. She deserves appreciation and recognition.
- Iris Rodriguez, nominated by Robbin Colgrove: I’ve know Iris for over 30 years. She is the first to come through anytime anyone needs help of any kind. She is also a first responder HFD Captain (I believe she was the first female to earn Captain). And she is a Sergeant Major in the US Army. Due to firefighter personnel shortages in Houston she, along with others on her team, have been working countless overtime hours to make sure firefighter and first responder needs in Houston are met. Her friends and community already considers her a star so thank you for considering her. She is also an avid lover of theater so it would be a great treat for her to win.
- Julie Ly, nominated by Sarah Wall: Julie is a nurse practitioner at UTH Neurosciences in the ICU. Julie goes above and beyond 365/days a year, but this pandemic has really shown what a star she is. She is always volunteering to care for the sickest patients and work extra to get things done. She is always training new staff on the safest most effective way to care for these sick patients and she does it ALL with a BIG SMILE. We are so lucky to have her.
- Kelsey Seifert
- Nominated by Jonathan Aigner: My wife Kelsey is a mental health therapist working overtime to ensure her many clients remain healthy in mind and spirit during this crisis. Her warmth, empathy, and kindness is contagious, and she cares for her clients with strength. She loves Broadway and this would mean the world to her.
- Nominated by Mattie Berry: Kelsey is a mental health specialist and mother, who works 19 hour days battling the degrading effects COVID has on the mental state of first responders. She saves lives by taking on their sorrows and deserves to have a night of song and laughter. She is a hero to so many!
- Lily Olson, nominated by Steve Hardcastle: Lily is 22, and she received her nursing license at the same time the pandemic started. She immediately went to work full-time at a elderly care facility. She loved the people there and helped them with many extra things their families might have done if they were allowed in (fixing hair, doing nails, many things above and beyond her job description). With great empathy, Lily always worked hard to keep her patients cheered up. When she moved to another elderly care facility, she continued to work at the first one until the found her replacement. So, she was working two 8-hour shifts a day. She now always offers to work double shifts at her new job whenever they are short handed. She is new in this profession, but shows real compassion and dedication.
- Maria Olfindo, nominated by Renato Aquino: She’s my local star since she works hard as a PACU nurse in the women’s pavilion of Texas Children’s despite the pandemic. She likewise makes sure that her family back home in the Philippines [is] safe despite the distance between them in the last few months. Being honored as a local star will be a welcome treat for her after months of working hard despite limitations of hours and staffing.
- Meghan Zeien, nominated by Olivia Mauricio: She is a mental health therapist! During this pandemic she has went above and beyond to let my family and I know she’s here to help with whatever she can no matter how big or small!
- Melissa Gracia, nominated by John Gracia: I nominate my wife, Melissa Gracia, RN. She is an ICU nurse working directly to care for COVID-19 patients and has voluntarily accepted extra shifts to care for the increase in patients. She works tirelessly and also cared for me when I contracted the virus (I am also an RN).
- Micahl Wyckoff, nominated by Debbie Mathisen: Micahl and his wife Courtney, while out of work due to COVID, transformed Courtney’s business into “Grab Bag Masks”. Although they sell the 3-layer masks to make a living, they have donated tons of masks to many good causes.
- Monica Huchton, nominated by Lauren Huchton: Monica is the perfect nominee for this contest because she is a NICU nurse, and helps stray dogs during COVID-19. After arduous night-shifts, Monica dedicates hours defending dogs’ lives, or educating about kill-shelters. However, she unwinds through theatre and arts. Her love for nursing, and strays, proves she’s a star.
- Monica Rios, nominated by Karla Rios: She worked tirelessly to make sure her students learned and understood during this trying time. Even during summer she continues to work and plan for the upcoming school year.
- Pablo Vãsquez, nominated by Catherine Zakes: The best way for anyone to see why Pablo is a front line ‘Star’, is to see it for yourself: https://vimeo.com/405625148/acf26ee401
- Patty Matin, nominated by Jane Waguespack: My sister works in an assisted living center. She recognizes the safety issues with her position. She is 63 years-old, an “at risk” person herself. My sister has always taken care of the elderly, including when our mother died nine years ago of Alzheimer’s disease. She comforts and understands how to care and be safe for herself and family.
- Rhozine Hart, nominated by Hillary Kern: She work at Brookwood, a place for adults for special needs. She has [a] kind [heart] and [is] great with resident and day citizens.
- Susan Wallace, nominated by Levi Hernandez: Susan epitomizes what it means to love thy neighbor. Albeit her days are filled with being a nurse, she always comes home with a warm smile. Once, after a long day at work, she came home and made us all personalized face masks. She cares for her patients and humanity!!
- Tracy Ahrens, nominated by Wendy Adler: As the Activities Coordinator at Brookdale (Galleria), Tracy has been in charge of keeping a residence of active senior citizens from going stir-crazy during their community lockdown. She’s creative, cheerful, thoughtful, and loved by all. She’s been there for the seniors throughout the pandemic–she deserves recognition!
- Trina Hilton, nominated by Candy Davis: Trina oversees the activities in our apartment complex. During this pandemic she has made sure we had fun things to do to stay positive. From a daily teddy bear hunt, popsicle pickup, food trucks visiting, to giving out chalk & bubbles for the kids, she keeps us happy and connected. Her smile, friendliness, and these FUN activities make her a STAR for our community and neighbors!
- Tyson Stittleburg, nominated by Elissa Wedemeyer: Tyson is the general manager of our local city center/golf course/restaurant. He has worked tirelessly over seven days a week during COVID to keep his staff employed and working and the only Park and Rec Center that brings money back to the city, producing. He has prepared the facilities to have two blood drives for our community and tried to keep the facility available for local service clubs to continue to meet to raise money for local charities. He cleans and disinfects, changes light bulbs, and cleans the bathrooms. No job is beneath him to keep our city center open and prospering to keep our citizens and community able to have some semblance of normalcy during these very stressful times! Tyson is a true STAR in Missouri City, TX