KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. -- As we honor Remarkable Women here in Washington, we're introducing you to a woman who has gone above and beyond to serve her community.
Cheri Marusa paved the path to life-saving support for tens of thousands of people in western Washington. She's an unrelenting force who has proven she can tackle any challenge, and achieve it.
"There's a lot of heat when you try to lead change, but there's a lot of love too," she said. "And so I've been able to withstand the heat because I can lean into the love."
Love has always been the catalyst. From homemaker to changemaker, Cheri created Life Support in 1999. It's a non-profit dedicated to improving emergency response.
Marusa says it was the death of a child who sparked a fire in her.
"This 14-month-old had passed from Kent, Washington, and you never forget the look on those parents ever. They said 'We called 911,'" Marusa said. "It stayed with me and it's like why are we in this situation? What do we need? And I sprung into action and never looked back."
Before Life Support's help, Kittitas County Fire and EMS had more responsibility than resources.
"When you're covering 120 square miles and you only have three people who are fulltime staffed, you get spread really thin," said firefighter/EMT Rachael Malcom.
Cheri says it was her mission to make sure fire and EMS had the tools needed to save lives. Life Support has raised millions of dollars to purchase equipment, fund three fire stations in Kittitas County and a 100-foot aerial ladder truck for station 73.
"Our old one was beyond repair and Cheri was able to raise the funding for a newer truck for us," said Battalion Chief Dave Ewing.
"One person fighting for everyone in the district’s health and safety and hoping that when they do call 911 someone is going to be there and that’s Cheri caring about everybody in her community," Malcom said.
Cheri's work doesn't end there. Cheri travels daily to her hometown of Roslyn, another community touched by her work.
As volunteer president of the Roslyn Downtown Association, Marusa wrote grants that got state funding to help buy and renovate the NWIC building.
"We totally renovated it, have great tenants and landed an anchor tenant called Heritage Distilling from Gig Harbor," she said.
Marusa's heart drives her passion to create change for people around her.
"When I'm trying to champion a cause you're just seeing this body, but it's everybody who has totally come full circle and touched my life or autographed my heart," she said.