The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award, which recognizes individual or group leadership as well as acts of good Samaritans, was awarded on Saturday, July 10, in Dickinson to a 17-year-old high school student for her bravery and selflessness. Among the presentation attendees and video messages were notable guests U.S. Congressman Kelly Armstrong; North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum; North Dakota Highway Patrol representatives, Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee, university presidents, family, friends and a host of other notables.

The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award recognizes an individual or group that makes a valuable contribution to Stark County and their residents through leadership, innovation, stewardship or heroic acts.

The award was created this year by Julie Obrigewitsch, who recognized the need for positive recognition for members of the community who have and are making an impact in their community. The countywide award has been bestowed twice to date, with one presented in February and another in April. For Obrigewitsch, it's the community members who exemplify what it means to give back to their community and help others in a selfless manner that resonates with her.

Anika Sayler, of Dickinson, is the third recipient and first minor to receive the award. According to Obrigewitsch, the heroic action Sayler took to save a man’s life in the immediate aftermath of a rollover accident in April of this year led to the honor.

Anika Sayler, recipient of the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award, and the Sattler family reunite to standing ovation at the awards ceremony in Dickinson on Saturday, July 10. (Photo by Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press)
Anika Sayler, recipient of the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award, and the Sattler family reunite to standing ovation at the awards ceremony in Dickinson on Saturday, July 10. (Photo by Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press)

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The ceremony began with the reading of her nominations, which highlighted her actions.

On April 19, Sayler was driving home in blizzard-like conditions on Interstate 94 when she noticed a truck on the side of the road that had rolled over onto its roof. Three people were inside the truck, Duane Sattler, his wife, Kimberly, and son Shawn.

Sayler noticed a man, Duane, lying in the snow, when she stopped and got out of her car. It was at this point she saw that another motorist had also stopped and was performing CPR on Duane.

From Sayler’s previous certifications in CPR, she could tell the man was not performing the lifesaving measures correctly — so she stepped in.

She continued to work on Duane as emergency services arrived at the scene, not leaving his side until more help was there.

All three of the Sattlers were transported to the hospital, while Duane and Shawn were airlifted to Bismarck for emergency care — both in critical condition.

Her actions exemplified selflessness and a willingness to help others in a time of need — earning her the nod by all the voting members — the mayors of the Stark County communities of Belfield, Dickinson, Gladstone, Richardton, South Heart and Taylor.

The Sattlers were in attendance for the ceremony as Sayler accepted the award, and in speaking to the crowd did their very best to hold back their emotions as they expressed their gratitude.

Despite a long road ahead in healing, Duane said were it not for the actions of a stranger and teenager, he wouldn't be alive.

“She has to be very courageous to get out in those conditions and help a stranger,” Duane Sattler said. “And to know what she was doing, she didn’t give up. She told me she did a number of compressions and got no results. When she did get results she stayed with me until I got to the ambulance. She took a big step out of her life (to save me).”

Shawn Sattler embraces Anika Sayler for saving his father's life. (Race Archibald/The Dickinson Press)
Shawn Sattler embraces Anika Sayler for saving his father's life. (Race Archibald/The Dickinson Press)
(From left to right) Kimberly, Shawn, and Duane Sattler give an emotional thanks to Anika Sayler for saving Duane's life. (Race Archibald/The Dickinson Press)
(From left to right) Kimberly, Shawn, and Duane Sattler give an emotional thanks to Anika Sayler for saving Duane's life. (Race Archibald/The Dickinson Press)

Rep. Armstrong, a Dickinson native, was among the notable presenters, which also included Richardton Mayor Tom Roll, Dickinson City Administrator Brian Winningham and more.

“This was a kid in a high-stress situation and she performed as well as she possibly could have in that scenario,” Armstrong said. “She has a big heart and clear mind, and it’s something people want to be a part of. We’re all proud of her and should be. It’s a fantastic story that could’ve had terrible consequences.”

In a surprise kept even from others in attendance, a video message from North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum congratulated and applauded Sayler for her "North Dakota strength" in her willingness to take immediate action in saving Duane’s life.

Dickinson High School CPR instructor Tina Pavlicek also appeared via video recording and thanked Sayler for putting her lessons to use, saying that it is rarely the case when a teacher can see their impact on a student.

It was the instructions from teachers like Pavlicek that gave Sayler the confidence and knowledge to step into the situation she encountered on that fateful day in April.

“I remember taking that freshman year CPR class and how boring I thought it was and how I would never use it,” Sayler said after the occasion in April. “I was wrong.”

Sgt. Travis Skar of the North Dakota Highway Patrol congratulates and gives Anika Sayler a ceremonial award for her actions. It was just one of the few tokens of gratitude Sayler received on Saturday. (Race Archibald/The Dickinson Press)
Sgt. Travis Skar of the North Dakota Highway Patrol congratulates and gives Anika Sayler a ceremonial award for her actions. It was just one of the few tokens of gratitude Sayler received on Saturday. (Race Archibald/The Dickinson Press)

Sayler said it was more than just the CPR lessons, but also the lessons learned from her father and mother, Frank Sayler and Sylvia Miller, about doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.

“It has something to do with how my parents brought me up,” Sayler said. “They’re good people and they’ve taught me to be a good person, so I think they would expect me to do the right thing. They’ve had a big impact on me.”

Sayler was presented with a number of awards and donations from area businesses totaling more than $500 in gift cards and merchandise.

Bismarck State College President Doug Jensen presented Sayler with a scholarship to attend the college when she graduates high school, and remarked at the need for people with her instincts and dedication in the medical field.

Sayler, who will be a senior at Dickinson High School this fall, has been working with the Benedictine Living Community and St Benedict’s Health Center and is working toward receiving her CNA certifications this month. Her goal, she said, is to become an intensive care unit nurse.

To submit nominations for the next Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award, visit https://www.starkcountysheriffnd.com/spirit-of-excellence-award