As the lights went down in the Ford Wyoming Center, right before some of the nation's elite athletes mounted their steeds for a night of roping, riding, and wrestling, they tipped their hats to a group of people who were nominated to be some of Casper's 'Hometown Heroes.'

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The people in question were Courtney Boland, Dr. Andy Dunn, and Tina Barnes.

Each of these people have impacted the community in their own ways, both big and small and, for that, the powers-that-be with the Ford Wyoming Center and the College National Finals Rodeo wanted to take a moment to honor them, these 'Hometown Heroes.'

This idea was the brainchild of Kendra Ziler, the Director of Marketing for the Ford Wyoming Center.

"Every year, we try to think of fun promotions that we can do that get the public excited about being at the rodeo and getting involved, and just reminding people how important it is for to our community for the rodeo to be here," Ziler stated. "As we all know, in 2020 we missed the rodeo and it was a rough time for everybody. So we thought this year would be a great time for us to do some sort of a promotion where people can nominate their favorite healthcare provider or first responders that had to really pick up the slack, or teachers that have really had to step up their game in the last year."

Ziler took that idea to Holly Kennedy, the Production Manager for the CNFR's opening ceremony. Ziler said Kennedy was immediately on board. CNFR put out the word that individuals could nominate who they believed to be heroes of the community, and three people were selected and honored.

On Thursday, June 17th, during the opening ceremonies these three people were brought onto the main stage (or dirt arena, as it were). There, they watched videos of their loved ones speaking about why they thought their person was nominated. Each of the videos spoke to the hearts, the passion, and the heroism of each of the individuals that were nominated.

Dr. Andy Dunn was one of them. According to his profile on the Wyoming Medical Center website, Dunn is a board certified family medicine doctor. He is also the Medical Director of Mesa Primary Care and Sage Primary Care.

“This sounds corny, but I love the Norman Rockwell approach to medicine," Dunn stated to the WMC website. "There is a painting where the doctor is listening to a young child’s doll with his stethoscope, and that has always kind of stuck with me,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be in that kind of setting, to help someone when they need it.”

Another hero of this town is Tina Barnes. Barnes owns a janitorial company that cleans all of the county buildings in Casper. This is hard work in and of itself, but it was especially difficult during the pandemic. Every person that walked into a county building (and there are a lot), unknowingly depended on Tina and her team to keep them safe and healthy.

"We had to take extra precautions and we spent longer hours working to disinfect everything before and after [the work day]," Barnes said. "It was very stressful, but we accomplished a lot."

Barnes said, after learning of her nomination, she was "grateful, thankful, and really surprised."

The final person nominated was Courtney Boland, a teacher at Dean Morgan Junior High, who also happens to be a single mother. When she first heard about her nomination, she was humbled and completely surprised.

"It kind of feels extra special because I was born and raised here, so it really is my hometown," Boland stated. "But it's also very undeserved. I'm just one of the thousands of teachers in this district that goes above and beyond for their students every day. The things I do and the things that were said about me in that video honestly represent the qualities and actions that every one of my coworkers exhibit every day. I feel like it means that people are recognizing not just me, but what all teachers do every day. So, I just hope that people know how hard teachers worked and continue to work to minimize the impacts of the pandemic on our students."

Boland's attitude is one that is shared by all of her fellow nominees, which really just demonstrates why they were nominated in the first place.

"What is heartwarming is that the few winners I've talked to are so humble and they just feel like they don't deserve the recognition, that other people are so much more deserving then them, and they're not saying it in a humble-brag kind of way, but in a legitimate way," Ziler said. "That's probably exactly why they deserve the recognition; because they're giving of themselves so much."

Ziler said that it meant a lot for these individuals to be recognized, but that it also means a lot to the community to have an opportunity to lift each other up and focus on the good, after so many months of not-so-good.

"I think what makes that special for us as a community is that we've been hungry to recognize each other. We're looking for the good stories and we're looking for the helpers and the heroes in our own community. I think it's awesome for us to have the platform to say 'You've done a great job, we recognize that you went above and beyond, and you're appreciated."

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