A scholarship to help Kalamazoo graduates has been named in honor of an alum who saved a toddler from a burning building.
A scholarship for Kalamazoo Public Schools students was created to honor Phillip Blanks, the former Kalamazoo Central High School football player who made national news after he caught a child who was dropped from a burning building.
Blanks, 28, a former U.S. Marine and wide receiver at Kalamazoo Central, caught a 3-year-old boy who was dropped from an apartment balcony Friday, July 3, in Phoenix, Arizona. After a video of the dramatic catch went viral, Blanks’ story was spread on both local and national news.
He is the type of person that local nonprofit Kalamazoo Mortgage Hero Salute looks to honor for giving back in their community, co-founder Brian Methner said.
“He not only saved a life, he will change a lot of lives using this platform for good,” Methner said.
The nonprofit was created in 2015 by Methner, the owner of Kalamazoo Mortgage. The organization’s mission is to honor first responders and military veterans.
The organization’s annual fundraiser, which was scheduled for Monday, July 20, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Methner said. But organizers still wanted a chance to honor a local hero, he said.
The scholarship in honor of Blanks will be available to graduating seniors from Kalamazoo Central, Loy Norrix and Phoenix high schools, he said. Nonprofit organizers are currently working on more details on the scholarship, such as its monetary value.
Though many students receive tuition assistance from The Kalamazoo Promise, Methner said the scholarship can help with other costs such as room and board.
Methner said the scholarship will be given to students who give back to their community, an important characteristic of individuals and businesses in Kalamazoo.
“Kalamazoo has made national news before, but it hasn’t always been for positive things,” Methner said. “We have a community of servant leaders.”
Hero Salute received a $10,000 donation from U.S. Senate hopeful John James Monday, a portion of which will go toward Blanks’ scholarship, Menther said.
The scholarship was a surprise to Blanks, he said in an interview with MLive.
“It’s a blessing that my name is associated with blessing other children coming up below me in the KPS school system,” Blanks said. “It’s definitely an honor and I hope that it changes many lives down the road.”
According to ABC15 in Arizona, the boy that Blanks caught and an 8-year-old girl were both taken to the hospital with injuries. The children’s mother died in the fire, ABC15 said.
A video of the catch was shared by WWMT’s Andy Pepper.
The child that Blanks saved was released from the hospital Sunday and will make a full recovery, Blanks said. Since the fire earlier this month, Blanks said he is well connected with the child and his family.
“It’s great to be able to use this platform to spread positivity given the circumstances,” Blanks said.
The Kalamazoo native served four years in the military after completing one year at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Blanks said. Prior to college, he played four years as a wide receiver and linebacker at Kalamazoo Central.
Mayor David Anderson presented Blanks with thanks on behalf of the city of Kalamazoo in a Facebook Live video shared Monday morning.
“Phillip’s Marine Corps training and his expertise on the football field proved to be paramount in a selfless act to help save the young boy from the burning building,” Anderson said, reading from a proclamation in honor of Blanks. “Phillip did not hesitate to assist his new community in Phoenix, Arizona, acting swiftly to protect and save lives when he heard desperate calls for help.”
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