WAPAKONETA — Marlene Froning lost her son, Keith, to a car-bicycle accident when he was 9 years old. Twenty-five years later, the Wapakoneta area resident was able to turn her family's tragedy into a campaign to save others.What has resulted is a Bicycle Safety Day in Wapakoneta. Now in its fourth year, the program covers the full spectrum — from ensuring children's bicycles are mechanically safe to informing the children and parents about all manner of different traffic laws and safety tips. Each child also receives a properly-fitted bicycle helmet.“I decided that I needed to do something to recognize him and do something that I could give back to the community because everybody had been so kind and forthcoming to me,” Froning said. “I decided rather than sit back and not do anything but to give away helmets was one way to protect other children. I didn't want anybody else to go through what we went through. It's something you live with daily. You can't walk away from it. It's always going to be there.”Froning is one of eight winners for the 2012 Jefferson Awards for Public Service. The eight winners were chosen from nearly 50 nominations from across the region. One local winner will be announced next week to represent the area in Washington, D.C., at the national awards presentation.Wapakoneta Firefighter Doug Kill, who assists with the annual program held at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds, said Froning's leadership on the effort has been invaluable in promoting safety.“It really expands our program. She does most of the work on this,” Kill said. “This whole thing is Marlene's. It's a huge addition to our overall program. To have somebody like her come in and do this is great. She's certainly very deserving of this award.”Froning was nominated for the award by her daughter, Kelli Froning-Rempe. Froning-Rempe was three when her brother was killed.“She has found the motivation of turning something that was tragic in our lives into a positive thing in order to help other people so they don't have to endure the pain and suffering that we did,” Froning-Rempe said. “If she can just help one child, that's thanks enough.”Froning-Rempe said growing up with a mom who is always volunteering to help others and putting others before herself was an inspiration.“She's an amazing woman,” she said of her mother. “It makes you want to be the same way.”Froning doesn't just limit her volunteer activities to the safety initiatives associated with the Bicycle Safety Day. Froning said she's also active with events with her church and anywhere else she can be of service.“I think a person should always be giving back. It feels really good to know that you can make changes, it doesn't matter who you are or what you do, just the difference of helping someone else means a lot to me,” Froning said. “I've always been in a family where we were trying to help others in need. I just grew up that way so it's always been normal to me.”Froning said she was honored and humbled by the recognition, though that's not why she gets involved. The biggest honor is to know how her daughter sees her, she said.“She could have just said it to me personally and I as a mother would have been overwhelmed by what she had to say,” Froning said. “Just because it's nice to know what your child thinks of you as a parent. To me, that was really special.”
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.