CAM Cougar Football Team (video)
Pursuing Victory With Honor

For the CAM Cougar football team, it’s not always about football. Consistently making good choices is a common practice for the team. Cougar players are encouraged in weekly meetings and “in the huddle” to fulfill team goals of perfect attendance, high academic standards, and supporting their teammates and fellow classmates.

Head Coach Joe Wollum leads by example and during high-scoring games does not allow the team to “run up” a score when the opposing team is struggling.

The CAM Cougar football team is involved in an annual food drive campaign (CAM Cougars Tackle Hunger) within the CAM communities, mentors at-risk students at the elementary schools, participates in the Cougar reading program with elementary students, and meet at a “homework table” after school where players must attend to complete homework if behind before attending practices. 

“CAM athletes have contributed to creating a positive culture in our schools,” Superintendent Steve Pelzer said.


Paws & Effect (video)
Organization of Character

In preparing service and therapy dogs to help those in need, Paws & Effect operates on the principles of the Six Pillars of Character. More than 150 volunteer puppy raisers and therapy participants serve their community with their time and talent. 

Volunteers sign onto a commitment of 12-24 months involved in raising and training well-qualified service dogs. These service dogs help active-duty and veteran military members diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries, children suffering from neurological and/or physical disorders, hospice residents, and lots more.

Paws & Effect was recognized for its work with the Iowa Army National Guard Resilience, Rick Reduction & Suicide Prevention program in 2011 and received the 2012 American Human Association Hero Dog Award for the group0’s service dogs, animal-assisted activities and pet-therapy programs.


Sibley-Ocheyedan Elementary (video)
School of Character Award

At Sibley-Ocheyedan Elementary, good character means everything. Students recite the Character Pledge every morning as a way to set the tone and mindset of students. The students at Sibley-Ocheyedan Elementary give back to the community by honoring “Hometown Heroes” during CHARACTER COUNTS! Week, raising money for those in need, and hosting CHARACTER COUNTS! family nights. This year the elementary started the WatchDOGS (Dads of Great Students) program. The program has dads volunteer during the school day to help kids in the schools be successful. 

To demonstrate caring and kindness, students hold a Gently Used Book Fair where other students can purchase books for $.25. The funds raised from this were used to buy beef sticks for soldiers in Afghanistan. Along with raising funds for soldiers, students adopt a family at Christmas and donate to the Humane Society of Northwest Iowa instead of giving gifts to each other at the holiday party. PE classes participate in Jump Rope for Heart to help raise funds for kids with heart problems. 

“The first thing you see when you approach our school is our CHARACTER COUNTS! banners. This tells everyone that character counts at Sibley-Ocheyedan. Our school board has made character education on of our top three district goals. This made all teachers more aware of ways that character education can be incorporated into their classrooms.” Nominator Laurel Klaassen said.

“Sibley-Ocheyedan Elementary makes good choices in a number of ways. First of all, we put students first. We do this by making education important to them and setting our standards and methods of teaching high.” Klaassen said.


TC (video)
Cat of Character

TC is the official mascot of the University of Northern Iowa. TC loves to support a variety of organizations, schools and individuals throughout the Cedar Valley. Some of the many events that he has attended this year include the MDCA Muscle Walk, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraising walk and the Northeast Iowa Food Bank Combat Hunger event. 

“It is not always easy being a mascot.” Team TC Adviser Constance Hansen said. “Not everyone is a fan. But TC treats everyone like a friend.”

He works hard to entertain kids and makes them smile and laugh. If there is an important community event, TC is there. 

“He is someone you can count on. Like a true friend, who is there when they should be, and loyal to the end.” Hansen said. 

UnityPoint Health (video) 
Partner of the Year

UnityPoint Health’s support of Character Counts In Iowa runs broad and deep. Through participation in our Pursuing Victory With Honor Summit and An All-Star Evening, UnityPoint has been a dependable and valuable partner. Their support helps Character Counts In Iowa build quality programming from classrooms to board rooms. 

In addition to being a long-term and generous partner, UnityPoint is creating a culture of good character at their clinics. When the leaders of UnityPoint Health wanted to identify their core values to shape the culture of the organization, they enlisted the help of Character Counts In Iowa to help arrive at a set of values to drive their work into a new era of providing healthcare across Iowa and parts of the Midwest. Training and support sessions were provided to over 600 front-line customer service representatives on communication and collaboration competencies needed to shape organizational habits in support of their new mission.

Don Adams Ph.D. (video)
Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award

Don Adams, Ph.D. has served on the Character Counts In Iowa board of directors since 2002. He currently is chair of the research committee, co-chairs the program
advisory committee and is a member of the civility advisory committee. During his time on the board he has also chaired the Youth Advisory Committee, where he worked with individual students, and trained them to teach other students about the Six Pillars of Character. Don Adams has been impacting the lives of young people and those around him his entire life,” says Ray. “In many ways, Character Counts in Iowa would not be what it is today without Don and his efforts. He continually demonstrates good character and provides leadership and inspiration to meet our mission.” Dr. Adams worked for ten years at Michigan State University where he received his masters and doctorate in Higher Education Administration. In 1969 when he was appointed vice president for student life at Drake University Later, he served as vice president for enrollment management and executive assistant to the president. Dr. Adams is well known at Drake and has received numerous University and community awards throughout his career, including the Drake Medal, the Madelyn M. Levitt Distinguished Community Service Award, and the Neighborhood Leadership Award from the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.

He is also known nationally for his commitment to higher education and student affairs. He has served as regional vice president and president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), and was selected for NASPA’s Scott Goodnight Award as the outstanding student affairs administrator in the U.S. He also received the Fred Turner Award for outstanding service to NASPA. 

Although Dr. Adams officially retired from Drake University in 2007, he continues to have a significant influence on the campus community through the Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute. The defining characteristic of the Adams Leadership Institute is that of connection – connecting students’ in-class and out-of-class learning experiences and connecting the insights and experiences of alumni and community leaders with the talents of current faculty, staff and students. The Adams Leadership Institute offers upperclass students the opportunity to discuss and reflect on leadership issues related to theory, effective communication skills, ethical decision making, and importance of inclusivity in organizations. The six personal values of Dr. Adams are the foundation of the Adams Leadership Institute: Take Responsibility, Be Honest and Dependable, Be Persistent, Preserve Your Options, Never Stop Learning, and Love Unconditionally.

Doug Cutler (video)
Educator of Character

Doug is a math teacher, cross country, and track coach at Pella High School. Under his leadership, the Pella High Dutch Cross Country Team has grown from 20-30 student athletes to 130 in six short years.

Coach Cutler focuses on each athlete’s strengths and weaknesses, and then works with them to improve both. He has instilled a theme of “EveryONE Counts.” He has a “can-do” attitude and persists at treating people well and expecting others to treat each other well.

A parent of one of his students said, “Coach Cutler doesn’t demonstrate performance character, he is performance character. He is passionate about what he does and whatever he does, he does with love. He epitomizes what every coach/teacher should be.”

Lauren Larson (video)
Aaron Eilerts Community Service Award

A senior at Iowa City’s West High, Lauren mentors elementary students and tries to reach out to other students to help them make good choices.

“Her decision to do the right thing in all circumstances is a great example for others. Her character is unmatched and there are many younger students who strive to follow her example,” nominator Paul Breitbach said.

Lauren enjoys being involved in community service projects. She is involved in her high school community service club, 1440 Interact. As a leader this past year for 1440 Interact, Lauren has helped in a variety of outreach service projects for Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, and UNICEF. She also organized a dance marathon
that raised over $22,000 for charity.

“Lauren is one of the most wonderful, caring, compassionate people that I have ever known,” said Iowa City Community School District Junior High Athletic Director Jeff Wieck.

Tito Parker (video)
Citizen of Character

Manuelito “Tito” Parker has worked with youth in the Sioux City community for more than 15 years. He started working with children and students and it transformed to working with complete families and with area organizations. He has helped students stay away from making bad choices.

Tito helps families in need find a place to stay, and food and clothing by helping them get back on their feet. In the summer months, Tito volunteers his time with a program he developed call “Ready Set Achieve” so kids of all ages have a place to go. 

By working with students of all backgrounds and always listening to everyone’s opinions, Tito demonstrates fairness.

“Tito cares for his students, parents, families and community as if it were his own family.” Nominator Mary Parker said.

Pat Powers (video)
Character Champion

Pat Powers from Duncombe is passionate about CHARACTER COUNTS! In addition to volunteering for Character Counts In Iowa, he is also an advocate through his job as news director at KQWC. “We can always count on Pat to help us spread the word about the Six Pillars of Character,” said Scott Raecker, executive director of Character Counts In Iowa. 

Pat doesn’t just talk about good character – he demonstrates his commitment to doing the right thing. His positive attitude and helpful spirit are just a few of the reasons that his friends call him “Mr. Character Counts”.

Pat is a dedicated and active member of his community. He welcomes students back to school on the first day of classes, participates in community theatre, emcees local dances, and much more. “We’re lucky to have Pat as a friend of our organization,” said Scott. “He is a great example of the Six Pillars of Character in action.”


Pella, Iowa (video)
Community of Character

The Pella community works diligently to recognize good character. Throughout the year Pella conducts recognition for the Business of Character, Student of Character and Citizen of Character. Award recipients receive $50 to donate to the charity of their choice.

The citizens of Pella coordinate two additional recognition programs for kids each year. Kids in the community who are caught demonstrating good character receive prizes donated by local businesses.

“I am proud that Pella has chosen to be an active part of CHARACTER COUNTS! and that their community group has taken ownership of helping the cause,” said community member Jodi Bokhoven. “I am so happy to raise my kids in this community and watch how CHARACTER COUNTS! influences them as they grow.” 


Sarah Wilson (video) 
Citizen Of Character 

Helping people is second nature to Sarah Wilson from Eagle Grove. Sarah is an active leader in her school’s Character in Action (CIA) group.

As a CIA Agent, Sarah has been very involved in planning lessons
to teach her peers about sportsmanship, respect and trustworthiness.
After attending the Iowa Governor’s Summit on Bullying, she worked with two other classmates to create 12 different lessons on various aspects of bullying.

Throughout the past year, Sarah has been actively working with various students to help them with their homework. One of her classmates said, “Sarah is always so kind. She has something nice to say to everyone.”

Sarah loves animals and shares her passion with others. At the county fair, she completed a working exhibit where she showed children how to create cat toys and then donated them to the local humane society.