Governor announces 2017 New Mexico True Hero award winners

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A group of New Mexicans were honored Monday for being real-life heroes.

Gov. Martinez announced the 2017 New Mexico True Hero award winners. They are five people from all walks of life who make the state a better place to live.

They include 14-year-old Donovan Smith, who makes homemade soaps and sells them to help the homeless in Albuquerque.

Another honoree is Dona Ana County Deputy Jamar Cotton, who volunteers his time and service to the community when he’s not on duty.

“We all have an obligation to make our community better. We all have a place in this world in which we can make a difference. It doesn’t have to be financial. It doesn’t necessarily have to be giving something — a hug, a handshake, a hello,” Deputy Cotton said.

List of 2017 New Mexico True Heroes: 

1. Donovan Smith of Albuquerque, age 14, helps the homeless of his city by creating and making homemade soaps. He has made and donated more than 12,000 soaps to homeless shelters. Donovan himself was homeless six years ago and this year he opened a physical store in downtown Albuquerque to not only sell his soaps but to hire and train local homeless.

2. Gwendolyn “Winnie” Keller of Carlsbad, age 14, began helping others at a very young age. Winnie’s first charitable endeavor was to turn her 5th birthday party into a fundraiser for a friend with leukemia, which was the beginning of her nonprofit, “It’s My Party.” Winnie’s nonprofit helps other children turn their parties into fundraisers. Now a freshman at Carlsbad High School, Winnie continues to help others by raising thousands of dollars for sick families in Carlsbad. Winnie fights her own chronic illness while she raises money for families in need.

3. Mike and Debbie Torres of Rio Rancho have helped special needs children in their community as coordinators for the Special Olympics for nearly 20 years. Mike and Debbie founded the Rio Rancho Rockets Special Olympics in 1998, initially to help their son meet other special needs children. They coordinate dozens of aspects of the organization and events for hundreds of athletes and volunteers. They are the primary volunteers and have continued to give back while they raised a family and worked full-time jobs.

4. Jamar Cotton of Las Cruces is a Deputy for the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department but spends countless hours volunteering his time and resources while he is off duty. He has awarded scholarships to students, helped local homeless veterans, spent time with youth who are bullied or struggling with substance abuse, created a community fitness program, organized toy drives, and so much more. He mentors within his community and is very active in the quest to be the best role model and leader by example

The honorees will be recognized at this year’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

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