Kaneshia Stokes received a 2021 Florida School Lunch Hero award for her actions.
Not all heroes wear capes, but on Thursday, May 6, one local hero did.
Kaneshia Stokes, a School Way Cafe employee at Ormond Beach Middle School was celebrated by Volusia County Schools, No Kid Hungry and the Florida Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness, for recently helping a coworker who was choking. Stokes quickly took action and performed the Heimlich maneuver, saving her coworker's life.
“I thought I heard a voice that told me to look, and when I looked, she was on the ground, and I was like, ‘Oh my God,’" Stokes recalled. "... I just darted out and did what I had to do."
In recognition, School Way Cafe nominated Stokes for a 2021 Florida School Lunch Hero Award, and she also made it to the top four finalists in the state. She received a $2,000 check and a Tampa Buccaneers-themed gift basket.
Stokes, who has worked for School Way Cafe for the past year and a half, has never been formally trained to perform the Heimlich maneuver, but she is a mom of five. Her youngest child is special needs, and she's always on high alert for choking hazards.
As someone who is used to helping others, but not being in the spotlight for it, Stokes said the recognition felt overwhelming. From the moment she walked into the OBMS cafeteria, wearing a red cape around her neck as she was greeted by students, Stokes was visibly emotional. She wiped tears from her eyes throughout the entire ceremony.
“It’s mind blowing," Stokes said. "I was not expecting this.”
In front of school staff, fellow School Way Cafe employees, Superintendent Scott Fritz and School Board member Carl Persis, Stokes expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the recognition. OBMS principal Susan Tuten congratulated her for her lifesaving actions.
“Her actions not only saved her peer, but also demonstrated to middle school students present at lunch what an everyday hero can do," Tuten said.