Hero at Heart Award Recipients: 2003-2011

First awarded in 2003, the Hero at Heart Award is given by Life Issues Institute to recognize select individuals who demonstrate outstanding courage or compassion on behalf of innocent life.


Dr. and Mrs. Willke, Abby Johnson, Bradley Mattes - Life Issues Institute2011: Rev. Walter B. Hoye II
Life Issues Institute is very pleased to announce the recipient of the 2011 Hero at Heart Award, Rev. Walter B. Hoye II. Rev. Hoye, a resident of the Oakland, California area, has led a ministry of reaching out to abortion-minded women. He and his volunteers stand outside area abortion mills to speak with women who are going in to end the lives of their unborn babies. His gentle message of hope and love has been enormously effective in this bastion of bay area pro-abortion thinking. Walter was so effective; the abortion mill complained to the Oakland City Council. They in turn passed an ordinance against pro-life speech in an attempt to keep Walter and his volunteers away.

Rev. Hoye challenged the ordinance in court, and in the process, was subjected to arrest, harassment, physical threats and court challenges. Through it all, he has remained faithful to his call to minister to women in crisis.

A huge turning point in Walter’s journey was a unanimous decision by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The city ordinance was so blatantly discriminatory against pro-life speech that even the Ninth Circuit couldn’t stomach it. By sending the case back to a lower court, the Court effectively declared victory on behalf of Rev. Hoye’s efforts.

Bradley Mattes, Executive Director of Life Issues Institute said, “Ever since my very first encounter with Rev. Hoye I was impressed by his demeanor and dedication to a just cause. Walter is a still, small voice in the verbal turmoil of the abortion debate… his humble and loving actions are effectively turning the hearts and minds of women against abortion. Life Issues Institute is honored to give him this award.”

Rev. Hoye was interviewed on Life Issues Institute’s Emmy® Award winning television program, Facing Life Head-On. Watch the episode in which he was featured, Free Speech Denied.


Dr. and Mrs. Willke, Abby Johnson, Bradley Mattes - Life Issues Institute2010: Abby Johnson
Life Issues Institute is pleased to announce this year’s recipient of our prestigious Hero at Heart Award. The honor has been given to Abby Johnson, former director of a Texas Planned Parenthood abortion facility. The Hero at Heart Award recognizes select individuals who demonstrate outstanding courage or compassion on behalf of innocent human life. Abby Johnson has clearly demonstrated pro-life courage. Immersed in a pro-abortion environment, Abby was assisting with an abortion procedure via ultrasound. Faced with the reality that abortion kills an unborn baby, Abby had the courage to reject pro-abortion rhetoric, resign from her job and publicly take a stand on behalf of women and their unborn babies.

“The timing of this award is particularly meaningful,” said Bradley Mattes, Executive Director of Life Issues Institute. “This week marks the first anniversary of Abby’s conversion to being pro-life. Abby was in the lion’s den, but had the courage to speak truth to evil. Since then she’s been a marvelous and effective spokesperson for the pro-life movement. I’m very proud to present this award to her.”

Due to Abby’s heavy travel schedule, in order to present the award at the time of her first anniversary, Mr. Mattes caught up with her by phone on the road. The award will be physically presented to Abby later this month (10-21-10).

Abby Johnson’s compelling story was told on Life Issues Institute’s Emmy® Award winning television program, Facing Life Head-On. Watch this two-part episode, Insider Exposes Planned Parenthood: Part One and Part Two.


Mary Ann Glendon2009: Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon
Life Issues Institute presented its prestigious “Hero at Heart” award for 2009 to Mary Ann Glendon, former US ambassador to the Vatican. The honor is given annually to individuals who demonstrate outstanding courage or compassion on behalf of innocent human life. Recipients have included Congressman Henry Hyde and former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline.

Ambassador Glendon recently declined the University of Notre Dame’s most revered honor, the Laetare Medal, which was to be presented to her during the university’s May commencement ceremony. In a letter to Notre Dame President, Father John Jenkins, Ambassador Glendon made clear her decision was based on the invitation of pro-abortion President Barack Obama to speak at the commencement, as well as presenting him with an honorary doctor of law degree. The university is currently scrambling to find an alternate designee for the medal.

Mr. Mattes said, “Ambassador Glendon has demonstrated courage and grace in declining this prominent honor. Her action has demonstrated the critical need for all of us to stand up for innocent human life in the face of a pro-abortion president. That’s why she’s a Hero at Heart.”

Both President Obama and the current Congress are the most pro-abortion in the nation’s history. During his first months in office, Mr. Obama has made decisions and appointments which will adversely affect countless lives of America’s innocent unborn babies.

Dr. Willke, President of Life Issues Institute, stated, “Ambassador Glendon’s action has been noticed around the world. She’s sent an unmistakable message that a Catholic university claiming to stand against abortion must be true to its word.”


Phill Kline

2008: Phill Kline
Life Issues Institute is pleased to announce that Phill Kline has been named the 2008 Hero at Heart. As Kansas state Attorney General, Mr. Kline took on two giants of the abortion industry, Planned Parenthood and George Tiller, the latter a notorious late-term abortionist also known as “Tiller the Killer.”

Kline brought to light the fact that dozens of girls as young as 11 or 12 have been subjected to abortions, while not one count of sexual assault on a child has been pursued. Evidence seemed to suggest that Planned Parenthood has been cooperating with sexual predators to cover up criminal activity. Mr. Kline has also charged that Planned Parenthood has performed illegal, late-term abortions in violation of Kansas law.

Phill Kline has not backed down in the face of relentless and withering personal and professional attacks. Those zealously guarding the right to abortion-on-demand have opposed Kline at every turn, including the unlawful falsification of documents and failure to comply with required state guidelines and medical reporting. His primary opponent obstructing this investigation recently resigned his elected position in the wake of a sex scandal. In contrast, Mr. Kline’s dedication to justice and the protection of innocent human life has been remarkable.


2006: Congressman Henry Hyde
Veterans of the pro-life movement know that Congressman Henry Hyde’s efforts have saved the lives of countless unborn babies. Mr. Hyde announced his retirement this year, so it was fitting that he be honored with our 2006 Hero At Heart award.

On the announcement of Mr. Hyde’s retirement, Life Issues Institute Executive Director Brad Mattes wrote, “Any pro-lifer who’s been around for a while has a soft spot in their heart for Congressman Henry Hyde. For over thirty years he’s been an eloquent and tireless voice for unborn babies and their parents on Capitol Hill. The well-known Hyde Amendment effectively stopped your tax dollars from funding hundreds of thousands of abortions and is saving countless lives.

“This year Congressman Hyde announced he would retire from the House of Representatives. We will miss his gentle and persuasive influence.

“Every year I give a Hero At Heart award to recognize select individuals who demonstrate outstanding courage or compassion on behalf of innocent life. This year I am honored to give this prestigious award to Congressman Hyde. I was in Washington, DC, last week and presented him with the award. . . .

“There is one particular quote by Congressman Hyde that has motivated many a pro-life leader. He said, ‘When the time comes as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God – and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world – and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, “Spare him, because he loved us,” – and God will look at you and say not,”‘Did you succeed?” but “Did you try?”‘”


2005: W.C. and Donna Martin
Announcing the 2005 Hero at Heart Award, Life Issues Institute Executive Director Brad Mattes wrote, “Pastor Martin and his wife, Donna, are living witnesses of their faith. He pastors a church in Possum Trot, Texas. They felt called to adopt children considered unadoptable because of previous physical or emotional abuse. They adopted four.

WC and Donna Martin and family

Other members of their predominantly African American church followed the Martins’ example. So far 40 families have adopted 70 children. The church provides support groups to these parents.

“I’m giving Pastor and Mrs. Martin my Hero At Heart award. It’s given to select individuals who demonstrate outstanding courage or compassion on behalf of innocent life. God bless this special congregation for living their faith and making life-long commitments to these kids. 

The Martin family, clockwise from bottom center: Tyler, Mercedes, Terri, WC, Donna, Princeton, LaDonna and Joshua.


Tasha Danvers-Smith 2004: Tasha Danvers-Smith
The 2004 recipient of Life Issues Institute’s Hero at Heart Award is 400-meter hurdler Tasha Danvers-Smith, one of Britain’s brightest Olympic hopes.

The newly-married south London athlete, who now lives in Los Angeles, admitted she was so shocked that she even briefly considered an abortion, before deciding she could not terminate the pregnancy. Continue reading.

Update: Tasha took home a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Continue reading.


 Peggy Bull2003: Peggy Bull
Life Issues Institute’s 2003 Hero At Heart Award goes to Peggy Bull of Sunrise, Missouri. The Hero at Heart Award is given to those who demonstrate outstanding courage or compassion on behalf of innocent life. Wrote Life Issues Institute Executive Director Brad Mattes, “Peggy’s the epitome of grass roots pro-life workers. She’s been working tirelessly for decades to protect unborn babies from abortion. You name it, she’s done it. Here’s what I found particularly moving. In the ’80s, Peggy wanted her neighbors to hear Dr. Willke’s radio program on abortion. She couldn’t afford to sponsor it. So instead, she agreed to clean the radio station in return for them airing the program. She did this for six years, until she broke her leg. Peggy has a servant’s heart, which makes her our Hero At Heart.”


William Pryor2003: Alabama Attorney General William Pryor
Established in 2003, the Hero at Heart Award is given to those who demonstrate outstanding courage or compassion on behalf of innocent life. The inaugural award goes to Alabama Attorney General William Pryor. Mr. Pryor has been nominated by President George W. Bush to serve on the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the ultimate career opportunity. Previously Mr. Pryor has said that abortion is “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” When grilled by pro-abortion senators during his confirmation hearing, he didn’t dive for political cover. He said, “I stand by that comment. It has led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children.”

Announcing the award, Life Issues Institute Executive Director Brad Mattes wrote, “Mr. Pryor is a pro-life hero in my book and would make an excellent judge.”

Update: Mr. Pryor was confirmed and began serving on the 11th Circuit in February 2004.

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