As a seven-year volunteer with the Heartland Therapeutic Riding Academy, you might say Keryl Brady has seen it all.

It all began as a way to meet people and makes friends for Brady after she and her husband moved to La Vista. Now, it is her passion.

Throughout her time volunteering at the horse therapy barn, Brady has earned the highest level of volunteer responsibility: barn leader.

“I started out where everybody starts out, as a sidewalker: somebody who walks next to the horse and holds on to the kid,” Brady said. “We have a lot of unbalanced riders.”

Moving up to horse leader and beyond, Brady took on more training with each advancement.

Now, as barn leader, Brady manages a number of volunteers and keeps horses on schedule, coordinating tacking, equipment care and feeding.

Brady’s efforts were recognized Friday as she was celebrated as the Adult Volunteer selected in this year’s ServeNebraska Step Forward Awards.

“I didn’t expect to win at all,” Brady said.

“There’s tons of volunteers here doing good in Nebraska. When I got the news I was stunned, surprised...shocked. I’m very happy and very grateful for it. I’m humbled by it, and I’m also really pleased that HETRA is going to get some good attention from this as well.

ServeNebraska is the Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission, which coordinates and supports community involvement by Nebraskans.

“It is our honor to recognize the hard work of Nebraskans who volunteer to make this state a great place,” said Cathleen Plager, executive director. “ServeNebraska is thankful to collaborate with the Governor’s office and host the Step Forward Awards.”

Brady was not the only local volunteer to be recognized through this years awards.

The Tri-County Emergency Response Team (CERT) — reaching Sarpy, Cass and Washington counties — was recognized among disaster volunteer groups.

The 24-member team aided efforts in Sarpy and Washington counties following the March flood. They set up a Red Cross shelter in Bellevue where they volunteered for 48 hours straight until the National Red Cross relieved them.

They then assisted the Salvation Army with camps at Hanson Lake and Hawaiian Village, working 12 hour days, before manning a Volunteer Reception Center in Washington County.

“We do what we are asked to by the emergency managers,” said Carole Clausen, CERT program coordinator. “We teach people in our basic course to take care of themselves, their families and neighbors first, and if they can, to help their community.

“It’s a very big honor for us. I was very surprised to be notified that we won it. I’m very proud of all my CERT members. We’re not in it for the awards; we want to help the community.”

Bellevue Christian Center, which was turned into a disaster relief center under the leadership of Pastor Richard Nakai following the March flood, was also recognized among disaster relief groups. Thousands of donations were received with hundreds volunteering to help get necessary information and items to survivors.

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