Open Road Foundation names first Hero of the Highway

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The Open Road Foundation on Monday, Feb. 16, announced that it has presented its first Hero of the Highway Award to husband and wife driver team Steve and Kim Cooper of Park Hill, Okla., in recognition of their heroic actions to save the life of a fellow motorist who was trapped inside a burning vehicle.

The Open Road Foundation — launched in August 2008 by Fenway Partners, a middle-market private equity firm with more than two dozen investments in transportation and logistics companies — is a nonprofit organization that provides victim assistance and supports educational and career development programs for the employees and professional independent contractor drivers of the transportation and logistics companies within the Fenway portfolio, as well as their dependents.

The Coopers are professional independent contractor drivers for Panther Expedited Services, a Fenway Partners portfolio company. On the evening of Nov. 25, 2008, they were traveling along Interstate 75 in Florence, Ky., when they spotted a vehicle engulfed in flames. When Steve Cooper approached the burning vehicle and found that the driver was still inside, he and another motorist rescued the driver by pulling him out safely just before the vehicle exploded.

“What Steve and Kim did was a true act of courage and valor,” says Andrew Clarke, president and chief executive officer of Panther. “We are extremely proud that such an act of heroism came from members of the Panther family.”

The Hero of the Highway Award is being presented to the Coopers today, Feb. 17, by Fenway Partners executives and Open Road Foundation Board members Marc Kramer and Bill Webb during a ceremony at Panther’s corporate headquarters in Seville, Ohio. In addition to a $1,000 cash award, Steve Cooper is being presented with a custom leather jacket, and Kim Cooper is receiving a custom watch from The Open Road Foundation.

“The Coopers’ act of bravery and self-sacrifice captures the essence of the Hero of the Highway Award,” says Webb, president of The Open Road Foundation and an operating executive at Fenway Partners. “We could think of no better recipients for the first presentation of this very important award.”