More than 290 Houstonians joined Crime Stoppers of Houston on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel for their annual Houston’s Heroes Awards Luncheon, which honors outstanding community members who have made incredible contributions to public safety. This year, the organization honored larger-than-life individuals in appreciation for their larger-than-life efforts made on behalf of public safety for all. Whether through their time, talents or treasures, Crime Stoppers encouraged guests to join them in keeping Houston safe and by the end of the afternoon, more than $230,000 had been raised to directly fund critical public safety and crime prevention initiatives working to make our communities safer.
Guests were welcomed by Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious and received a heartfelt chairman’s message from board chair Lindsay Aronstein. The luncheon concluded with the presentation of the 2023 Dave Ward Excellence in Media Award which was presented by Laura Ward and Mankarious on behalf of Houston Media Icon Dave Ward. Although he was not able to attend in person, Dave Ward sent a heartfelt audio message explaining why he chose Bill Balleza for the prestigious award.
“Houston is an incredible city built on the shoulders of absolutely spectacular people. As Harris County comes out of a difficult season of concerning crime rates, Crime Stoppers of Houston wanted to pause and honor those who really stepped in and stepped up. This year, our Houston Heroes luncheon did just that by honoring larger-than-life individuals who’ve shared their larger-than-life gifts with our group and the community at large, in a larger-than-life way. We were thrilled to honor them and look forward to continued work together.” shared Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious.
The following 2023 Heroes were presented with distinguished awards for being positive contributors to the community through their long-standing support of crime prevention and public safety initiatives that make Houston, and Texas, safer for all:
- The Johnny Klevenhagen Award – Detective Frank Muniz, Katy ISD Police Department: Recognized for his contributions and impact throughout his 29+ year career in law enforcement. Over that time, he has worked in many areas including the University of Houston-Downtown, the Houston-Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Katy ISD where he’s currently a Mental Health Officer, Detective and Lead Trainer for the district. Through his work on child exploitation cases, cell phone forensic investigations, crisis intervention and more, he remains a constant resource for schools, students, media and the Crime Stoppers of Houston team.
- The Fenner Weller Award – Alison Steele, Originator of the CLEAR Alert for Missing Adults: Alison endured the greatest loss a parent could imagine when her beautiful 19-year-old daughter Cayley Mandadi was kidnapped and killed in 2017. In her grieving, Alison recognized that there was no system in Texas to alert the community that an adult had been kidnapped. She got to work and created the Coordinated Law Enforcement Adult Rescue or CLEAR ALERT. The acronym symbolized the multiple namesake victims that the law was intended to honor, starting with Cayley. Out of her love for Cayley and all of us, she fought until the CLEAR ALERT became the law in Texas in 2019 and available for all adults moving forward.
- The Leiv Platou Award – Jordan Seff: Recognized for her incredible philanthropic contributions, specifically her focus on the needs of Houston children. She passionately and generously dedicates her time, expertise, and knowledge to creatively find solutions to address important issues like trafficking, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children, school safety concerns and more.
- The Corporate Citizen Award – Albert & Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation: Recognized for their philanthropic commitment and support of causes in education, religion, support services for the underprivileged and the arts, primarily in the Houston area. Crime Stoppers of Houston has been lucky enough to be one of those recipients since at least two decades – funding both Crime Stoppers programs and their Capital Campaign to build their first HQ. The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation board has also taken a direct interest in the safety of all Houstonians, often sitting with Crime Stoppers of Houston team to discuss, learn, challenge and examen crime trends, issues and solutions.
- The Safe School Award – 104.1 KRBE The Roula and Ryan Morning Show: Recognized for their contributions as a passionate partner of the Crime Stoppers Safe School Institute over the last 10 years, lending their support to help Crime Stoppers expand the reach and footprint of the program. Recognizing the importance of the life-saving messaging the program offers to students, parents, teachers, and even the community at large, they continually partner with Crime Stoppers through on-air interviews, public service announcements, breaking news segments, advertising campaigns and have co-presented at Houston area schools with the Crime Stoppers team.
- The Women Who Shape Houston Award – Susan Boggio: Recognized for her incredible contributions to children and animals near and far. Her efforts are countless but include monumental work with children in Houston but also across the globe. From building schools to ensuring healthcare and safety, Susan provides resources but also works to change policy. Additionally, she has a heart for animals and rescues approximately 200 animals a year, caring for them personally until they can find a safe forever-home. In a world where children and animals are abused and exploited, Susan is on the front lines to stop these injustices.
- Partner of the Year Award – Jim and Whitney Crane, The Astros Foundation: Recognized for their dedication, commitment, and significant contributions to our city and communities. victim advocacy and the public safety. Jim and Whitney consistently show their love for our city and want to keep it a safe place for friends, family and the wellbeing of Houston. Together, with the Astros Foundation, they helped Crime Stoppers as the organization worked hard to serve an overwhelming number of victims while also navigating a record high crime rate, as well as many other challenges. They continue to push our entire city forward, offering services that meet direct needs of children, police, veterans, healthcare, infrastructure and more.
- The Dave Ward Excellence in Media Award – Bill Balleza, KPRC Anchor (retired)