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Beaver Creek Elementary
School of Character

Principal Eric Toot leads Beaver Creek Elementary staff and students in modeling CHARACTER COUNTS!

Beaver Creek Elementary has promoted the Six Pillars of Character for the past eleven years. Teachers believe in the importance of good character and that it helps to meet achievement goals.

Students begin each morning with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Character Pledge.  The principal talks about the Pillar that is being emphasized for the respective month and a specific area of the school that students should demonstrate behavior expectations of that Pillar.

Beaver Creek also gives students an opportunity to be role models for the Pillars and plan character building projects for all of the students.  This year, Beaver Creek started a Kids’ Character Council.  This group of students will help plan character activities.

Beaver Creek Elementary has shown a lengthy history of helping the community.  They have helped organizations including Combat Hunger, Amanda the Panda, New Directions Women’s Shelter, Animal Rescue League, Youth Emergency Shelter, Family Violence Shelter, Good Samaritan Urban Ministries and Blank Children’s Hospital.

Marilyn Clauss (video)
Educator of Character

Marilyn retired after serving 34 years as a 2nd grade teacher with the West Des Moines Community School District.

Marilyn’s classroom motto encouraged students to achieve their full potential.  “Good, better, best…Never let it rest…Until your good is better, and your better is best!”  Her students talked about doing their best and doing it honestly.

Marilyn has been an active volunteer for many organizations including a prison ministry at Mitchellville, the Storybook Board of Directors, Habitat for Humanity, Good Samaritan Urban Ministries and collecting furniture and food for African refugees trying to make their transition to Des Moines. Marilyn continues to make a difference in the lives of West Des Moines students as she serves as a substitute teacher.

Eddie Diemer (video)
Citizen of Character

Eddie is a graduate of Northern University High School in Cedar Falls.  His good character has made him a leader in his school and on the school basketball team.

“What makes Eddie stand out to me over my thirty-plus years as an educator is the depth of “goodness” in the many consistent good choices he makes,” said Clare Struck, who nominated Eddie for an Iowa Character Award.

“Eddie’s selfless personality is constantly looking toward supporting the common good,” says Clare.   “He has been one of our school’s student leaders in the Pursuing Victory With Honor program.  He and other students wrote a good sportsmanship pledge that the players read before every home game.”

He has spent his high school years volunteering at the Country View Care Center, the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and many school functions.

Aaron Eilerts (video)
Community Service Award

2009 marks the first year that we have presented a Community Service Award, and we are honored to present it to Aaron Eilerts, posthumously.

Aaron’s life was cut short when he was killed by a tornado that struck the Little Sioux Boy Scout Ranch in Western Iowa on June 11, 2008.

Though his life was short his accomplishments were many.  There were many ways Aaron served his community.  Aaron was a Boy Scout for eight years and a member of the Humboldt Boy Scout Troop #108. He achieved the Life Scout Ranking, awarded the Order of the Arrow, and was a National Leadership Trainer.

Aaron was an altar server for Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Eagle Grove, sang in the Sacred Heart Youth Choir and taught bible school.

Aaron was an honor roll student, participated in his school’s CHARACTER COUNTS! Youth Leadership program and was involved with several theater productions.  Aaron volunteered at the senior citizens center and Rotary Ann Nursing Home; he founded the program Pillowcases for Patients, sewing pillowcases for children in hospitals all over central Iowa.  Aaron also created small fleece blankets for the animals at the local humane society.

He made scarves and ties for his teachers, gave pillowcases to local firefighters, made table decorations and folded colorful origami napkins for the local senior citizen center, cleaned up the neighborhood park, baked goodies for others, all the while remembering the Boy Scout Motto:  Do a Good Turn Daily.

It is for his amazing commitment to serving others that we are honored to name this award after Aaron. Going forward, this award will be named the Aaron Eilerts Service Award and will be presented to Iowans whose strong character leads them to service for their communities.  Accepting the Community Service Award on Aaron’s behalf are his parents, Bob and Carol Eilerts.

Thank you Aaron, for all you have done for your community, state and country.

Jim Hallihan
Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award

A member of our board of directors since its inception in 1997, Jim has been a true leader in promoting the Six Pillars of Character over the last 12-years.

In 1999, the Josephson Institute of Ethics convened more than four dozen leading figures in amateur athletics to Scottsdale, Arizona, to develop ways to reform the way sports are played, coached, and watched in America. The result was the Arizona Sports Summit Accord, a manifesto of 16 sportsmanship principles to which all athletic programs should adhere.  The Pursuing Victory With Honor campaign is the vehicle for carrying forth those ideals.

Not only did Jim attend the Summit in Arizona, he has been advocating for Pursuing Victory with Honor ever since.

In addition to passionately supporting our mission, Jim has been a person of strong character throughout his life.  As Executive Director of the Iowa Sports Foundation, Jim spends a great deal of his time traveling the state of Iowa promoting the Iowa Games and the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. His travels include a 100-stop media tour, as well as speaking engagements at sport clinics, schools, civic organizations, church groups and corporations.

For 8 1/2 years, Hallihan hosted a radio show, “Sports for the Right Reasons,” in which sportsmanship and character-building are the focus for youth, parents and coaches.

In October 2006 at the National Congress of State Games Symposium, Hallihan was awarded the first ever Executive Director of the Year award. He received this award from his fellow colleagues from state games organizations all around the country. In March 2009, Hallihan was a recipient of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Sportsmanship Award at the Girls’ State Basketball Tournament .

A native of Decatur, Ill., Hallihan enjoyed a successful basketball playing career at Miami (Ohio) University, where he was a two-year starter and team captain on the Redskins’ NCAA Tournament team.  After a short stint as a head coach at Casey (Ill.) High School and a tour of duty in the Army, Hallihan joined the coaching staff at Virginia Tech. In 1973, Virginia Tech won the N.I.T., and the 1974-75 Virginia Tech coaching staff was named one of the Top Ten College Coaching Staffs of all time by Mike Douchant of the College Sports Xchange.

Hallihan joined Johnny Orr’s basketball staff at Iowa State University in August of 1982 after serving as head coach at East Tennessee State from 1979-1982, guiding the Bucs to a 57-53 record. He served as Johnny Orr’s top assistant at ISU for twelve years. During that time, the Cyclones made six NCAA appearances and three N.I.T appearances.

Hallihan holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami and Ohio in physical education and administration.

He and wife Trish have two daughters, Jennifer and Kelly; one son, Danny; and one granddaughter, Rosie.

Meghan Hammen
Citizen of Character

Meghan is a 2009 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Nursing in Iowa City.  She seeks out opportunities to give back, takes on leadership roles and always gives 100 percent.

Meghan has been an active participant in Dance Marathon, a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting oncology patients who are being treated at the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital.  Last year she was the Dance Marathon Hospital Chair, which involved being a full-time hospital volunteer and visiting the pediatric inpatient unit.   She has  also volunteered at the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, participated in Relay for Life and many other philanthropic activities.  She recently spent two weeks in St. Lucia working at a clinic with impoverished diabetic patients.

Susan Lichner, who nominated Meghan for an Iowa Character Award says, “Meghan is one of the people in her generation that will work tirelessly to make our world a better place – one of good choice, one right decision, one selfless contribution, one act of kindness at a time.”

Iowa Hall of Pride
Pursuing Victory With Honor

The Iowa Hall of Pride offers a unique, educational experience at a state-of-the-art facility which features the accomplishments of Iowans in athletics, music,
and more.

Their mission is educating the future, preserving the past and celebrating the accomplishments of all Iowans. Additionally, the Hall of Pride highlights the good character of Iowa’s best and brightest.  The Six Pillars of Character are showcased in the hundreds of video interviews with outstanding Iowans from all walks of life…Dan Gable, Peggy Whitson, Simon Estes, Shawn Johnson, Ed Thomas and many others.

The Six Pillars of Character are also featured in a scavenger hunt for students while visiting the HOP and character education is woven into their activities and terminology.

Whether you are a school-age student visiting on a field trip or an adult visiting with family or friends, the Hall of Pride will inspire you to be your best and to be a good citizen. Kids and adults from all over the state (visit the Hall of Pride to celebrate what’s best about Iowa…its people!


KDSM Fox 17
Partner of the Year

KDSM Fox 17 in Des Moines has been an integral partner in promoting the Six Pillars of Character for many years.

Through public service announcements and commercials,KDSM has helped teach the Six Pillars of Character to central Iowa.  This outreach continues to expand the CHARACTER COUNTS! message to the public and was a influential part in expanding the Six Pillars of Character into Iowa families, workplaces and communities.

The Iowa Character Awards program would not be the same without the vignettes that highlight each of the winners.  KDSM staff travel throughout Iowa to get footage of all award winners and their nominators.  They spend hours working to produce heartwarming videos that not only serve as a wonderful memento for the award winners, but provide the banquet guests with great insight about each award winner and why they were chosen for this award.

KDSM has frequently been approached with new ideas and projects.  They have a “can do” attitude have been a true partner in our work.  They continue to find ways that they can use their work to help improve our community through the Six Pillars of CHARACTER COUNTS!

Beth Stephas
Character Champion

Beth Stephas has been a passionate CHARACTER COUNTS! advocate for more than 10 years.  As the counselor at Robert Blue Middle School in Eagle Grove, she is a leader and champion for good character in her school and community.

In her job as school counselor, she is constantly dealing with issues that are both personal and potentially traumatic to both students and their families.  Beth uses her core beliefs to guide the students to make good decisions and do the right thing.  Colleague Scott Jeske says, “Her sense of fairness and helping the less fortunate is a guiding force behind her decision making.”

Beth has been a leader in Eagle Grove for the CHARACTER COUNTS! initiative.  She has also provided instruction and guidance to hundreds of other Iowans who are interested in character education.

Beth is passionate about the Six Pillars of Character and continuously looks for opportunities to share the importance of good character.


Lizzie Swanson
Citizen of Character

Lizzie is a sixth grader at Malcom Price Laboratory School in Cedar Falls and her teachers say she is a great role model for her peers.  She can often be found helping those in need or serving as a leader in her school.

At the age of 5, Lizzie began asking for donations to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank instead of toys for birthday presents.  She also encourages her friends to do the same.

“Lizzie is one student who doesn’t succumb to the pressure of fitting in.  She truly stands up for what she believes and does so with grace.  Students in her grade, and even those younger and older than her, look to her as a quiet leader,” said her teacher, Amy Lockhart.

Lizzie’s mom, Michelle says of her daughter, “Lizzie truly shows that she cares about the hearts of other people through her kindness, compassion and giving to others.  I’m very proud of her pursuit of the common good.  She is not the smartest 6th grader, she is not the fastest 6th grader, she is not the most popular or outgoing 6th grader, but I would not trade one of those characteristics for Lizzie’s heart.”

The Cedar Valley (video)
Community of Character

The mission of the Cedar Valley CHARACTER COUNTS! Committee (CVCC) is “To grow awareness of the involvement in the CHARACTER COUNTS!  program in the Cedar Valley and assist in developing citizens who live, model and encourage positive character in home, business, community and service organizations and faith communities.”

This group formed in November 2005 and now has 44 members.

The CVCC has hosted many events to support the local initiative.

The CVCC hosted the first annual Champions of Character event on April 30, 2009 at the 5 Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, recognizing students who consistently demonstrated outstanding achievement in modeling the Six Pillars of Character.  Additionally, the Waterloo Kiwanis has sponsored a 5th grade
character-based essay contest for the past three years.  Numerous members of the community have attended workshops and events to improve their knowledge of the Six Pillars of Character.

The Cedar Valley CC! Committee is constantly looking for innovative ways to improve the quality of life, through good character, for the residents of Cedar Falls, Waterloo and surrounding communities.


Trinity Regional Medical Center
Organization of Character

Trinity Regional Medical Center (TRMC) is dedicated to improving the lives of Fort Dodge citizens through the promotion of CHARACTER COUNTS!, healthy living and positive choices.

TRMC makes good character and community service a priority in the daily operations by expecting all employees to be leaders at TRMC and in the Ft. Dodge community.  TRMC was the first Iowa Health System affiliate to provide CHARACTER COUNTS!  training (funded by the Hospital Auxiliary) for more
than 1000 of their employees and volunteers.

TRMC recently completed a $32 million outpatient addition and decorated the addition with the Six Pillars of Character to remind both employees and patients the importance that TRMC places on good character.

As an employer and health care provider, TRMC consistently applies the Six Pillars in the search for health care initiatives that serve their patients with passion and compassion.  TRMC’s Service Excellence Values outline a level of conduct and values that are taught to all employees.  Additionally, the comfort and safety of patients is always put first at TRMC.



August 21, 2020
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