Superior Heating & A/C of Iron Mountain, Wisconsin selected Traci Jahnke, also of of Iron Mountain, as their 2016 Bryant Community Heroes winner. Traci has served her community since the late 80’s through her leadership and volunteer efforts with programs such as Make-A-Wish and Special Olympics. Even through personal hardships and a husband who is often overseas serving our country, she continues on with unparalleled level of love and passion to her work, her family, and her community. Below is the nomination that led Superior’s panel to select Traci as their 2016 Community Heroes recipient:
“Merriam-Webster defines a hero as “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.” When I think of a hero, I think of my friend, Traci Jahnke.
When Traci moved to the Upper Peninsula in 1989, she was an active volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which strives to “grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.” In her capacity as a coordinator for the organization, Traci helped the organization get a foothold in the Upper Peninsula, and actively helped make wishes come true for numerous kids.
She helped one child, who was suffering from leukemia, see snow for the very first time. And she didn’t just help the kid see snow, she went above and beyond to provide a life-defining weekend. She was indispensable in organizing a whole list of activities – dog-sledding, ice fishing, sledding, and a sleigh ride. Traci remained active in the organization until 1997, and strive to make the dreams of those less fortunate come true. Traci helped play a part in the most joyous occasion – the one wish – of numerous children with life-threatening conditions.
In the early 1990s, Traci became active with the Special Olympics. She served as a volunteer director for the Dickinson-Iron Special Olympics for several years. With a shoestring budget, Traci and several others helped identify organizations and individuals who helped to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Traci is a woman of many talents, but her volunteer work and selfless dedication to those less fortunate has always stood out to me in a way that I’ve never witnessed before. Traci has helped change countless lives, and always seeks to provide unforgettable experiences for those around her.
Traci’s volunteer work continued through the 2000s, eventually finding employment that has allowed her to effect positive change in her community, her city, and her state. In addition to her full-time work assisting others, Traci is a devoted wife, a loving mother, and a doting grandmother to several beautiful grandchildren. I’ve interacted with Traci in a variety of capacities, but seeing her with her grandchildren, and the way it brings her the same joy and sense of purpose that her decades of volunteer work has, is awe-inspiring.
And all the while, her husband has been serving overseas (since well before I met her). Traci sees him on precious few occasions, and speaks to him when they’re able to get a connection. Despite having her husband half a world away, I’ve never seen someone as fulfilled as Traci, and she brings the same level of passion to every relationship she has, whether it’s her children, grandchildren, or a complete stranger.
Earlier this year, Traci suffered a serious stroke. She spent several days in the hospital, and accumulated a significant amount in medical bills. Instead of retiring, or taking it easy, Traci has absolutely refused to let it set her back. Her therapy often leaves her exhausted, tasks that may seem second-nature to most of us require an exorbitant amount of concentration and focus, and it is something that she grapples with every day. But when most of us would have stepped back, and scaled back our commitments, Traci instead works twice as hard to deliver the same unparalleled level of love and passion to her work, her family, and her community. She still works full time, smothers her grandchildren, and is a leading local figure.
I recently found out that Traci needs to completely replace a furnace, and that this came after she poured a large amount of money into fixing another. I know that with her medical bills, she’s not in a position to be able to do it. But just as she as given so much of herself to everyone around her, I believe that it’s time for the community to rally around her. I nominate Traci so that I can honor the most courageous, selfless friend I have, whose character is beyond question, and selflessness is worthy of perpetual emulation.”