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NEWS Peace Awards on October 24, 2019, Honor...

(All Photos: Lowell Downey, Art & Clarity)

NEWS-Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse Services held their newly revamped annual awards ceremony on October 24th. At The Embassy Suites Napa Valley. Rebranded the NEWS Peace Awards (formerly Man Making NEWS), this fresh and inspiring ceremony acknowledged the strength and worth of exceptional people guiding our community in Napa County who change the lives of families and youth for the better, Awards were given to these community members in several categories:

2019 Coach of the Year: Randi Simmons and Donny Robinson

2019 Youth Activist of the Year: Ryan Kyote

2019 Male Role Model of the Year: Jesse Ward

2019 Peace Officer of the Year: Detective Dustin Dodd

2019 NEWS Champion: Aimee McLeod

2019 Hope Award: Alaina’s Voice Foundation and Be Kind Napa

The NEWS Peace Awards were sponsored by a generous donation from The Doctors Company. Certificates of Special Recognition were presented by Susan Duke, The Doctors Company Community Relations Specialist, Shao Chang, representing Congressman Mike Thompson, Alex Pader, representing Senator Bill Dodd, and Tracy Krumpen, representing Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.

An integral part of NEWS' mission is to work toward changing the aspects of our culture that perpetuate domestic violence. Therefore, NEWS honors those who present positive role models for our children, youth and community by publicly recognizing their outstanding contribution with a corresponding award. By acknowledging their accomplishments in teaching respect, non-violence and positive family values, we hope to inspire our community to do more to prevent the epidemic of family violence.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of Coach of the Year to Olympic Bronze Medalist and Napa BMX Coach Donny Robinson. The award was presented by Megan and Jason Dominici, parents of 6 year old Addie Dominici who recently passed away. The Dominicis told of the special bond that Addie had with Donny, and how he gave her and the other BMX children confidence by challenging and inspiring them.


2019 Coach of the Year
Coach of the Year will honor a coach who makes a difference in the lives of their athletes every day by empowering their athletes to stand up for integrity, non-violence and respect. This coach is dedicated to developing positive character and leadership and their impact on the athlete extends far beyond the playing field.

2019 Youth Activist of the Year
There is no better leader than one who starts young. Napa County has a wonderful youth community; therefore NEWS wants to acknowledge a leader between the age of 13-21 who is passionate about ending violence and creating youth leadership and activism in Napa County.

2019 Male Role Model of the Year
Who demonstrates to us that to be a real man requires strength not violence? Who illustrates that they are not the same thing? Who reminds us that respect for others is the greatest power? This person can be a teacher, mentor, preacher, police officer, firefighter, crossing guard, public service provider, coach, community volunteer, Scout Leader, or any other educator or community leader.

2019 Peace Officer of the Year
The work that NEWS does would not be possible without the dedicated work of our local law enforcement officers. Whether calling us to advocate for a victim at the crime scene, police department, hospital, or coming to our offices to make a police report, we appreciate their service.


2019 Coach of the Year, Randi Simmons
Presented by NEWS Sexual Assault Victim Services Program Manager, Coach Bailie: Randi has been on the forefront of establishing and instituting the Storm Against Violence initiative within her women's soccer program at Napa Valley College. Randi has worked closely with Coach Bailie at NEWS to implement the curriculum that engages coaches and athletes as allies in preventing gender based violence to create a safer campus culture for everyone. Randi has raised awareness in regards to gender based violence on the Napa Valley College campus and the athletic department as a whole. Randi's positive attitude and ability to work collaboratively amongst her peers is recognized by everyone in the department and throughout our community. Randi is a positive and influential role-model to her student-athletes and is the type of coach that engages her students on a daily basis, providing insight and creating constructive dialog within her program. Randi not only instructs the girls in the coaching realm, but more importantly about life lessons and empowers the girls to make positive and meaningful decisions. Randi has impacted the athletic program and students at Napa Valley College in a way that makes everyone very proud.

2019 Coach of the Year, Donny Robinson
Presented by Megan & Jason Dominici: Addie had a love for BMX. She started it at the age of 4 and spent the next 2 and a half years out at the North Bay BMX Track under the leadership of her coach, Donny Robinson. As her parents, it was one thing for us to challenge and encourage her, but her love was for her coach Donny Robinson. If you have not met Donny, he is so much more than an Olympic medalist or a coach.  He wears his heart on his jersey at all times. While he is a fierce competitor, he still sees the big picture. I have often said that when Donny gives his racers his team talks, as he always does: it is 1 part for the kids and three parts of inspiration for us parents. 

Here are two examples of how much Donny would go the extra mile for Addie.  Addie started out at the track on her small 20 inch Paw Patrol bike! When it became time to move up to a bigger bike, Addie was not so sure of that.  With lots of tears, Donny assured Addie that he would be right there with her as she rode the new bike. So, Donny did just that. Donny ran next to her the entire way around the track.  For your is not easy to walk, let alone run the track. Well, Addie made it around on her new big bike, with Donny running at her side the entire way. It was quite the image as Donny collapsed at the finish line!

The second example of Donny’s big heart was when Addie was ready to move up to Open Racing and hopefully join Donny’s Dream Team.  For Addie one of the biggest things in her 6 year old mind was “when do I get the cool team jersey”.  In a special moment, Donny got down on one knee and took Addie’s hand and proposed to our sweet little Addie, asking her if she would  join his team. She promptly said "yes" and came home telling everyone she was now on Donny's Dream Team!!

Donny is amazing with the young people he coaches. His words to his racers are inspiring to all. He has created quite a family out on the North Bay BMX Track. He pushes his racers and celebrates with them! Donny literally stands at the finish line for all the races and gives high fives to everyone as they finish.

We are incredibly grateful that Addie had Donny as her coach! What an impact he has had, not only on her, but on all of us!

2019 Youth Activist of the Year, Ryan Kyote
Presented by NEWS Executive Director, Tracy Lamb: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a measure that guarantees students will receive state-funded lunches regardless of whether their parents or guardians have unpaid meal fees. The bill, which was spearheaded by state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, prohibits so-called lunch shaming, a practice in which institutions deny students with unpaid fees a meal of their choice. It also seeks to ensure that a student "is not shamed or treated differently from other pupils" for having unpaid lunch debts. "Creating a 'California for All' means ensuring schools are inclusive, accepting, and welcoming of all kids," Newsom said in a statement before crediting Napa County elementary school student Ryan Kyote for bringing national attention to the issue. Kyote, a student at West Park Elementary School, gained acclaim earlier this year after using his allowance money to pay off school lunch debts for his third grade class. Governor Newsom thanked Ryan "for his empathy and his courage in bringing awareness to this important issue." The law amends the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017 by requiring school districts, charter schools and education agencies to invalidate policies that ask officials to give alternative meals to students with unpaid fees. These young children are acutely aware of the disparity of income and wealth in our society, and one can infer that they are aware of their own poverty.

2019 Peace Officer of the Year, Detective Dustin Dodd
Presented by Napa County District Attorney, Allison Haley: Detective Dustin Dodd works at the Napa Police Department in the Investigation Bureau. He has been in law enforcement for a number of years and during that time has developed many specialized skills including, but not limited to; bomb technician, K-9 Officer, computer forensics, and he is Multiple Disciplinary Interviewing Certified. Over the past year, Detective Dodd has been the lead detective and assisted other officers and detectives in over 130 investigations, many of those being cases involving domestic violence, sexual assaults, and child abuse. Detective Dodd displays empathy and patience, especially when interviewing children that have been assaulted. While assisting in the service of search warrants on suspect cell phones, he has uncovered many items of evidence that would have not been discovered without his expertise. Detective Dodd recently assisted in a investigation into a prolific sexual predator who took a plea deal that is over 101 years. This suspect will never be able to victimize a child again. Detective Dodd has also been lead Detective in many recent child sexual assault cases that have been very traumatizing to everyone involved. During those investigations he has maintained professionalism, was thorough in his investigations, and showed compassion towards the victim. Detective Dodd is very deserving of this recognition for his service to our community.

2019 NEWS Champion Deputy District Attorney Aimee McLeod
Presented by NEWS Program Director, Shea Hunter: Napa County Deputy District Attorney Aimee McLeod joined the Napa County District Attorney’s Office in 2016 and was immediately assigned to work on Domestic Violence cases.  Aimee’s experience working the same case load in San Diego immediately benefitted Napa County survivors of domestic violence incidents.   At that time Aimee was the only DDA working on the very full domestic violence caseload, a caseload that now has 2 Deputy District Attorneys assigned.  Domestic Violence Detective Hernandez has worked with Aimee on hundreds of cases and has witnessed her compassion towards victims, her dedication to do what is best for victims of domestic violence, and her veracity in prosecuting cases that absolutely needed to be pursued. Out of the courtroom, and despite Aimee’s busy schedule, she took the time to learn about the hazards of strangulation and has conducted trainings for community members, doctors, and law enforcement officers regarding this very lethal form of abuse.  In the courtroom, Aimee recently prosecuted a particularly heinous domestic violence case where the suspect was accused of multiple crimes, including attempted murder, kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon.  Aimee’s hard work led to the suspect’s conviction on 14 counts with 4 special allegations, the suspect won’t be eligible for parole until 2048.  After the conviction Aimee was quoted in the Napa Register about the case and stated, “It is extremely difficult for victims in these types of cases to testify to intimate details of their lives and describe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of someone they once loved.  It took great bravery for the victim to tell her story to a room full of strangers.  In addition, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our law enforcement for their heroism that day.  Their response to this incident saved not only the life of the victim, but also protected the public by apprehending such a dangerous criminal.”  Aimee Mcleod understands victims, she appreciates the work others in the system do, and she is most deserving of this award.

2019 Hope Award goes to Alaina's Voice Foundation
Award presented by NEWS Executive Director, Tracy Lamb: Accepting the award for Alaina's Voice Foundation was Alaina's Father, Arik Housely

Arik Housley and his family have taken the unfathomable loss of his daughter, Alaina, and in his grief, has chosen to honor her by working to create peace and nonviolence in our society. He states, "Alaina's Voice Foundation was created not to immortalize her, as she will live forever in our hearts. We created this foundation to make change in our society. We are broken, mental health in our country is in a downward spiral. What can a small act of kindness do on a daily basis to help one person." The foundation believes stopping one act of senseless violence in the future may not be measurable, but it is worth saving one more life and one more family the heartache.

2019 Hope Award goes to Be Kind Napa
Award presented by NEWS Executive Director, Tracy Lamb: Accepting the award for Be Kind Napa was Founder, Ruby Finkelstein.

The idea for Be Kind sprouted from the mind of Finkelstein family friend Laurie Philips of New York City. Philips became aware of the self-imposed isolation of her fellow New Yorkers and how there was very little interaction happening among them. As a way to break the ice, she made the now iconic "Be Kind" buttons and would wear them while out and about in the city. Anytime someone would compliment her button, she would take it off and gift it to that person. A friendly conversation would start naturally and smiles would ensue. The buttons would then be paid forward by their new owners and are now found all over New York and the surrounding areas.

Talulah and Ruby Finkelstein brought this idea home and since 2017, have distributed more than 10,000 of the iconic Be Kind buttons all over the world. They have also created the Kindness Kids, a youth-led group that brings together kids throughout our community to organize acts of positivity and compassion. Among their projects, they collect warm coats for those in need, prepare food for those who are hungry, and organize birthday parties for children without homes. The girls have spoken to school assemblies, professional groups, service groups and at large gatherings such as Napa’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. Be Kind is kid-driven and kid-led. Be Kind brings people together to spread and celebrate kindness. Be Kind is not a protest or political or religious in nature. Be Kind seeks to strengthen communities through the power of kindness.