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Maryland Visionaries and Heroes Honored at Inspire MD 2024

May 13, 2024

Business Leaders, Entrepreneurs, Community Servants and Bridge Collapse First Responders Recognized

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce celebrated the state's most exceptional business and community leaders at its annual Inspire MD event May 9 at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. The evening also paid special tribute to the brave first responders, emergency personnel and volunteers who demonstrated extraordinary heroism following the tragic Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

"While we will never fully comprehend the challenges these heroes faced, we are forever grateful for their extraordinary bravery and service," said Mary D. Kane, President & CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. "Their actions undoubtedly saved countless lives and helped restore stability to our communities and businesses in the wake of this horrible tragedy."

Those honored with the Public Service Award included:

  • Representatives from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command: Lieutenant Commander Kate Newkirk, Waterways Management Division Chief at US Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region
  • Representatives from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police: Colonel Corey McKenzie, representing Acting Colonel Joseph Scott, Chief of the MDTA Police; Corporal Jeremy Herbert; Sergeant Paul Pastorek; Officer Gary Kirts
  • Representatives from the Baltimore City Fire Department: Fire Chief James W. Wallace; Deputy Fire Chief/Special Operations Command Ronald J. Hudgins; Deputy Chief Operations John Eid; Director of Communications Kevin Cartwright; 11 members of the Baltimore City Fire Department
  • Representatives from the Anne Arundel County Office of Emergency Management: Director Preeti Emrick and Public Information Officer Kasey Thomas
  • Representatives from the Baltimore County Fire Department: Assistant Fire Chief Marcus D. Johnson; Fire Captain Joseph K. Devito; Fire Lieutenant Howard Simons
  • Representatives from the Baltimore County Police Department: Major Wes Fischer
  • Representatives from the Northpoint Edgemere Volunteer Fire Department: Brenda Marr; Matt Morgan; Andrew Ratajczak; Christopher Gleason Smuck; Samantha Roberts; Joel Jablonski

These heroes were recognized for their selfless actions, quick thinking and tireless efforts in the rescue, recovery and rebuilding operations. In addition to honoring these first responders, the event celebrated business excellence and community impact across the state.

Maryland Business Hall of Fame 

Lawrence E. Kurzius, Executive Chairman of McCormick & Company, was recognized for his exceptional leadership driving global growth and innovation.

Community Impact Award, presented in partnership with Maryland Nonprofits

Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland earned the inaugural Community Impact Award, honoring their outstanding philanthropy, volunteerism and tremendous giving -including more than $1 million annually in nonprofit support and more than $18 million in grant funds given to support county programs, nonprofits and community associations in Anne Arundel County during FY2024.

Rising Stars

  • Jonathan Arons, External Communications & Community Relations Manager at Giant Food. Jonathan’s efforts have helped raise over $282,000 through Giant Food’s “Lend a Hand for Hunger” campaign.
  • Wayne Dorsey, Founder & President of The Safe Ride Foundation. Wayne founded his organization in 2015 with a mission to stop impaired driving through innovative solutions, including The Safe Ride Foundation’s “SOS Safe Ride” program and app.
  • Arion Long, CEO of Femly. Arion is revolutionizing the period care industry with inventions addressing health equity.
  • Emily Tunis, President & COO of Hardwire. Emily leads a team that designs critical armor systems protecting our military and law enforcement while creating 80+ jobs and championing STEM education.
  • Emily Uhlman, Founder of ButterWorks Bakery USA. Emily founded her business at 14 and gives back through her "Cupcakes for Caregivers" program.

"Maryland is fortunate to have so many inspirational visionaries who are driving innovation, creating jobs, strengthening communities and exemplifying service above self," Kane said. "We were honored to recognize these remarkable individuals and organizations while also pausing to reflect on the lives lost and forever changed by the Bridge tragedy."

For more information on the 2024 Inspire MD event and honorees, please visit For media inquires, please contact Vice President of Marketing & Communications Abbi Ludwig at

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About the Maryland Chamber of Commerce

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is the only statewide business advocacy organization and the leading voice for business in the state. Together with their 7,000+ members, they form a statewide coalition that is committed to ensuring that Maryland is attracting and retaining quality jobs, developing vibrant, sustainable communities and staying at the forefront of global competitiveness and economic prosperity.