At this year’s Spark!Fishers festival, we honored local heroes at Heroes Hall sponsored by Folds of Honor. Our community packed bags filled with treats, handwritten notes, and drawings for local heroes to thank them for all they do for us. We also highlighted some heroes in our community with a video. The following heroes took time out of their day to sit down with us and share some of their experiences serving in Fishers and share advice on how others can get involved.
El Ahlwardt — Navy Veteran
El Ahlwardt moved to Fishers with his family in 1992 to serve at Fort Harrison. When the base closed, he and his family decided to stay in Fishers rather than move across the country to Maryland.
“It’s the best decision we’ve ever made,” he said.
Ahlwardt said inspiring others to serve starts at home, and Fishers is a great place for young people to start getting involved and learning from one another to make the community a better place.
Rachel Strandt — ER, ICU nurse, IU Health Saxony
Rachel Strandt and her team at IU Health Saxony saw some of the worst parts of the pandemic. Though it wasn’t always easy, she said her team motivates her by supporting her in any worst-case scenario.
Strandt’s mom was a nurse and brought her along to classes and other events, inspiring her to pursue a career in nursing. Strandt was one of the Grand Marshalls of this year’s Spark!Fishers Parade, alongside Dr. Indy Lane.
FF Johnathan Kelley — Fishers Fire Department
Firefighting runs in Johnathan Kelley’s blood. His dad and uncle have been firefighters for the Indianapolis Fire Department, and it was only natural for him to join the Fishers Fire Department when the time came.
Kelley said he believes the firefighters in Fishers are the best in the state, and possibly the best in the country, due to the deep knowledge base the department has.
FF Patrick Keith — Fishers Fire Department, Air Force Veteran
After serving in the Air Force, Patrick Keith came to Fishers to continue serving others through the Fishers Fire Department.
Keith said a piece of advice he’d give to someone looking to serve as a firefighter is prepare for the mental strain that you’ll go through, and for someone looking to enter the military, “do it.”
Kristen Distler — HSE District Teacher of the Year
As the Teacher Librarian at Fall Creek Junior High, Kristen Distler sees children across our community learn and grow every day. Even when the pandemic made it difficult, Distler and fellow teachers were able to overcome barriers to reach children at home.
She started teaching in the Ben Davis School Corporation after graduating from Purdue University and said her favorite part of her job is building relationships with the students who come into the library.
Dr. Indy Lane — OBGYN, Chief Medical Director, Fishers Health Department
When the pandemic hit Indiana, Dr. Lane became one of the leaders of the new Fishers Health Department, which she said allowed the city to have greater access to testing and vaccines when they became available.
She said was drawn to healthcare so she could be a teacher and advocate for others in her community and works toward seeing change and progress in healthcare and in Fishers. Dr. Lane was a Grand Marshall of this year’s Spark!Fishers Parade, alongside Rachel Strandt.
Officer Edgar Holmes — Fishers Police Department
Officer Holmes’ family has deep ties to law enforcement. His cousin was a police lieutenant in Gary, Indiana, and became a role model for Holmes at the age of 10.
His advice for those looking to serve in their community is to identify what their interests are, and then find the best fit for them.
Officer Jessica Stout — Fishers Police Department
Officer Stout didn’t start at the Fishers Police Department, but when she moved to Indiana she asked where the best department to work in the state would be, and everyone she asked pointed her to Fishers.
Stout said her favorite part of her job is being able to leave a good impression on people who may be meeting and talking to a police officer for the first time.
Deb & Jesse McDaniel — City of Fishers Essential Workers of the Year, American Red Cross Volunteers
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Deb & Jesse McDaniel had an urge to go help those in need. They couldn’t, as they both had jobs to attend to, but they decided when they retired in 2009, they would begin helping those in need wherever they could.
Since then, they’ve helped people from their American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle after events like Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Great Flood of 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and wildfires on the west coast in 2020, and more.
Colin Kulpa is a Communications Intern for the City of Fishers Public Relations Department. He is from Knox, Indiana, and graduated from Knox High School in 2018. He is currently attending Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in Media Science and Media Management, Law and Policy. In the fall, he will be the Editor in Chief at the Indiana Daily Student, one of the nation’s premiere student news outlets. He loves IU football and motorsports, specifically IndyCar, and plays the drums whenever he gets a chance. He is new to Fishers, but is quickly learning the area and enjoying all it has to offer. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter, @ColinKulpa.