Thunderbirds and the Massachusetts State Lottery Wrap Up Successful Hometown Hero Initiative

Jul 8, 2021

Springfield, MA- The Springfield Thunderbirds, in partnership with the Massachusetts State Lottery, teamed up to recognize individuals in the local community. Through the Hometown Heroes initiative, individuals were nominated for making a significant impact in their community. From the beginning of May through the end of June, the Thunderbirds selected nine very deserving individuals over seven weeks to be recognized on Thunderbirds social media for their selfless contribution to others.


“The Thunderbirds have consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to the greater Springfield community and we are proud to have joined them in recognizing those who played a crucial role in serving others during the pandemic over the last year,” said Michael Sweeney, Executive Director of the Massachusetts State Lottery.


“I want to thank the Massachusetts State Lottery for the emphasis that they place on the local community”, said Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa. “We try to align our organization with others that share our vision for community outreach and we appreciate that the Lottery understands how each individual within the local community can make such an impact on others.”


The Thunderbirds teamed up with The MA State Lottery on multiple community programs, including the recognition of a local educator as part of the Teacher Appreciation initiative, and Feeding the Frontline, where lunch was delivered to various organizations who were instrumental in their community during the pandemic.


The deserving individuals awarded as a Hometown Hero are listed below, in no particular order:


Dan Shaw- Dan is currently a Sergeant with the MA National Guard. He enlisted in September of 1999 and has more than 21 years of service. He deployed to Iraq in September of 2006 and has been a full-time technician for the MA National Guard for over 7 years in the Westfield Field Maintenance Shop. When he’s not working, Dan can be found spending time in his garden or tinkering with his house, watching NASCAR, and playing board games with his 5 children and wife, Stephanie, who serves as Director of Veterans Services for the City of Chicopee.


Stuart Strohman- Stuart, pictured on the left with Officer Scott Skala, joined the United States Army in 1989 serving with the 344th Military Police Company was deployed to Iraq in support of the United States effort in Desert Shield/Storm. He served his entire time with the 344th MP Company before leaving the Army in 1995, and in that same year graduated from Westfield State University with a degree in Criminal Justice. Stuart began his police career in 1997 and has spent his entire career with the East Longmeadow Police Department from which he will retire in October of this year, dedicating over 30 years to our country and his community. In his free time, Stuart enjoys staying fit, traveling, scuba diving, and working on cars. He is also worked with the Fit Ops Foundation whose mission is to erase the stigma around veteran mental health, helping to organize a 22-mile event in East Longmeadow to raise money for this cause.


Mike Borecki- Mike has worked diligently for the last 25 years to raise countless amounts of money for the Jimmy Fund and support those who are currently battling cancer along with those we have lost along the way. Mike’s non-profit, Our Sisters, was started to celebrate the life of his late sister Marcella Brown. Through the years, Mike has taken part in numerous walks, participating annually with his daughter Darcy, who is by his side every step of the way to support the cause. In July of 2019, Mike participated in a walk from Russell, MA to the steps of City Hall in Springfield where he was presented with a proclamation for his passion, dedication and commitment to the role he has played in an attempt to find a cure for cancer. Mike was raised in Springfield and is a proud graduate of Technical High School where he is currently chairing a committee to plan and organize a reunion taking place next year. Mike is active in several youth sports initiatives, such as Holy Name Athletic Association and other community events like Bring It Home Baseball. In his free time, Mike enjoys spending time with his family, including his granddaughter and his beloved wife of 40 years, Cristina Borecki.


Dr. Laki Rousou-. Dr. Rousou, is a Thoracic Surgeon, specializing in the diagnosis and surgical oncologic treatment of lung cancer. Through his work, Dr. Rousou has been pivotal in establishing a lung cancer screening program in an attempt to decrease mortality rate of lung cancer by discovering it in its early stages. Dr. Rousou is a strong patient care advocate, ensuring he is able to provide the latest in care, technology, and techniques here locally. Born and raised right here in the Pioneer Valley, Dr. Rousou is a proud father of four, coaching several of his children’s sports teams while also serving as an active member of his community, participating in school committee meetings and identifying other key opportunities to advocate for those in his local community.


Amy McKay- Amy, who has been a traveling emergency room nurse for the last 12 years, is currently at Baystate Health in Springfield. She has been working countless hours throughout the entire pandemic, and has displayed great dedication to the local community through her work, treating each patient with nothing but the highest level of compassion and care. When not on the job, Amy enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, including her dog, as well as attending numerous concerts and sporting events in the area.


Officers Luis Delgado, Francisco Luna and Josue Cruz-Last month the three officers were called to a home where a baby had stopped breathing. They quickly sprang into action, providing CPR to the young child, calmly caring for the 3 month old for five minutes until the baby started to cry, which was a welcome sound to everyone. “These officers did an amazing job,” Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said in a statement. “Officers are trained in so many different areas and life-saving techniques are one of them. When a baby is in distress that can be one of the most difficult calls officers ever respond to, but to know that the baby is on the road to recovery and these officers helped prevent a tragedy, I am just so proud of them.”


Kim Gorczyca- Kim has been a dedicated nurse for over 20 years with more than 18 of those working nights at Connecticut Children's in pediatric oncology. In recent years she has worked right here in Springfield at Shriners Hospitals for Children while still maintaining shifts at CCMC. Kim, a loving mother of three and a devoted wife to her husband of 21 years, describes her career and her family as her joys. In her free time Kim, enjoys watching her kids play soccer and hockey as well as traveling with family and visiting local wineries and antique shows. 


Julie Penna - Julie, a fourth-grade teacher at Mittineague Elementary School was selected as this year’s Massachusetts State Lottery Outstanding Educator. Julie was selected from several very deserving nominations, all of who gave their time, energy and complete dedication to those students that they teach in a very challenging time and Julie is no exception. When students first went remote, Julie did everything possible to ensure that they stayed engaged in their work, including producing step by step video instruction for parents and students to understand each lesson and did weekly check-ins with students. In fact, when school started again in the fall, Julie even spent time reaching out to her former students to ensure that they were progressing through the pandemic. And then she picked up right where she left off, making sure her current students were transitioning well, while remaining in contact with parents and students so everyone was well informed at all times. Once classes returned to full in person learning, she worked tirelessly to get the students who may be having some challenges back up to where they should be, doing so in such a positive manner, instilling confidence in each of her students and making learning fun with various activities that she knew would keep students engaged to finish each project and remain focused. In her free time, Julie enjoys spending time with her family, working in her garden and loves the beach. Thank you to all of the teachers out there for your time and dedication, especially during some very challenging times, and congratulations to Julie Penna as the Massachusetts State Lottery’s Outstanding Educator.


For more information or to become a 2021-2022 Springfield Thunderbirds ticket member, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit

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