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Meet Our 2017 Heroes

  • Red Cross of Connecticut 2017 Heroes
Community Hero Award

Community Hero Award

Larry and Evelyn Pontbriant

The Pontbriant Family is being honored as the Red Cross Community Hero for providing nearly 100 Automatic Defibrillator Devices (AEDs) to community organizations to help save lives in an emergency.

Larry and Evelyn formed the Larry Pontbriant Athletic Safety Fund in honor of their late son Larry Pontbriant. A three-sport high school athlete, Larry Pontbriant’s life was cut tragically short when he experienced a sudden cardiac arrest.

On August 16, 2007, Larry was participating in a 5k fun run when he collapsed. Unfortunately, there were no AEDs on site to help revive Larry, and he died three days later.

“Had an AED been present on-site, Larry’s outcome may have been different,” said Evelyn Pontbriant.

In the midst of their heartache, the Pontbriants knew they had to do something. With the help of family, friends and their community, the Pontbriants formed the Larry Pontbriant Athletic Safety Fund. The fund donates AEDs, raises awareness about Sudden Cardiac Arrest, and provides grants to groups with AED programs that need monetary assistance. All are non-profits.

When asked what their definition of the word hero is, the Pontbriants replied, “A hero can be larger than life or just the guy next door that no one will know about except you. We run into them every day without realizing it.”

The ongoing efforts of the Pontbriant family certainly makes them a Red Cross Community Hero.


Emergency Services Hero Award

Emergency Services Hero Award

Eric Roode

Eric Roode has been a security guard at Connecticut College for 11 years, but on January 17, 2017, he had no idea he would become a hero.

Eric was on duty when he was notified of a medical emergency on campus. It was a colleague showing symptoms of a heart attack. Thinking quickly, Eric grabbed an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on his way to the building where the emergency was taking place. It was a decision that ultimately helped to save a man’s life.

When Eric saw his colleague, he could tell immediately things didn’t look good. Relying on his training, Eric knew to begin using the AED right away. He followed the instructions from the AED and gave compressions in between the recommended shocks from the machine. Thanks to Eric’s quick thinking and training, the victim began breathing and regained a pulse after medical crews transported him to the hospital. He is alive and well today.

When asked how he was feeling in the middle of the crisis, Eric was just as calm as he was on that day. “I don’t recall any feelings. I was just focused on the task at hand.”

Eric says he is surrounded by people he considers to be heroes each and every day, like firefighters, police officers and members of the military. When asked how he felt to be considered among the ranks of these types of heroes he was humbled. “I’m surprised. There are so many people who do this type of work daily. I only did it once.”


Lifesaving Hero Award

Lifesaving Hero Award

Thomas Brown and Patrick Mainolfi

On April 20, 2017, Thomas Brown and Patrick Mainolfi were just doing their jobs at New Canaan High School when they became heroes.

That day, Patrick, a campus monitor, saw a student running down the hall, he heard him saying, "I’m choking." Patrick’s instincts and training kicked in and he turned around and began giving the student abdominal thrusts.

Meanwhile, Tom, a supervisory aide to the physical education department, saw what was happening through the glass wall of the fitness center and came to help. Realizing that the obstruction was not coming loose, Tom helped to reposition the student and began to perform back blows and on the second or third attempt, a bottle cap emerged from the student.

Not only were Patrick and Tom at the right place at the right time, but they also had the proper training. Both men are former state employees: Patrick was a former corrections officer and Tom was an officer with the Connecticut State Police and also an EMT. Patrick and Tom became lifesaving heroes because they knew what to do in an emergency and acted without hesitation.

Both Patrick and Tom are humbled to be chosen as Connecticut Heroes. “I was surprised and shocked to be chosen as a hero. I don’t consider myself a hero. Anyone with my training and experience would have done the exact same thing,” Tom said.

When asked what his definition of a hero was, Patrick replied, “A hero is anyone who's willing to help out someone and have no thoughts for themselves, just to be of help to another.” We couldn’t agree more.


Service to the Armed Forces Hero Award

Service to the Armed Forces Hero Award

Robert Estrada

Robert Estrada founded Endurance for Veterans as a way to help veterans who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A veteran himself, Robert served eight years in the Marines, rising to a Marine Security Guard, tasked with protecting U.S. embassies overseas. While deployed to East Timor, Robert and his fellow Marines saw first-hand the atrocities of war. While able to stay the course and serve his country, those images of war would come back to haunt Robert.

Robert’s PTSD began to manifest itself when he was discharged from the Marines in 2006, he was depressed and isolating himself. As his children grew, he realized he needed help and began to see a therapist and working out with CrossFit. He then realized the power that exercise can have on the mind. In addition to knowing how PTSD impacted him, Robert saw the power it held over his fellow veterans, watching friends and fellow veterans succumb to suicide or drug overdoses. He knew he needed to do something, and thus founded Endurance for Veterans in 2015 to provide veterans the opportunity to improve their state of mind through physical fitness.

Today, Endurance for Veterans partners with 130 CrossFit gyms in the U.S. In addition to partnering with CrossFit gyms, the organization also works to raise awareness about PTSD and suicide among veterans. The long-term goal of Endurance for Veterans is to establish a permanent facility that would offer services free of charge to veterans along with giving those who have PTSD another way to relax and reduce symptoms.

When asked if he would do it all again, Robert didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely. Never leave anyone behind. As long as there is a need, we will continue to provide support.”

Spoken like a true hero.


Spirit of the Red Cross Hero Award

Spirit of the Red Cross Hero Award

Ken Boudreau

Ken Boudreau of Simsbury is receiving the Spirit of the Red Cross Award for his commitment to the organization as a platelet donor, his advocacy for the Red Cross in his community, and for his volunteer spirit.

Ken began donating blood when a friend’s daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia and the family coordinated a blood drive in her honor. After his first donation, he was hooked and began donating every 56 days at Red Cross blood drives. Soon, Ken learned about platelet donations. A platelet donation is different from a regular whole blood donation in that the platelets and plasma are removed from the blood and the red blood cells are returned back to the donor. Platelets must be transfused into patients within five days of donation, so regular donations are critical. Since then, Ken has donated more than 300 units of platelets, helping to save countless lives.

In addition to donating platelets, Ken is an advocate for the Red Cross at work, at home, and in the greater community. Ken encourages others to give blood, supports his employer's engagement with the Red Cross, and donates his time and talents to the organization.

Ken also gives back to the community as a member of the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company and supports other nonprofit organizations in addition to the Red Cross by volunteering, donating or helping to raise funds. When Ken enters retirement, he hopes to become a Red Cross Volunteer.

When asked how he felt about being recognized as a hero, Ken said, “I am humbled by the recognition. I don’t do these volunteer activities but for those that benefit from the activity.”


Workplace Hero Award

Workplace Hero Award

Charter Communications

Charter Communications is committed to connecting with communities through their primary philanthropic initiative, Spectrum Housing Assist. They partner with nonprofit organizations and engage employees and community volunteers to provide critical home repairs across the United States. Part of these home repairs include new smoke alarm installations.

Spectrum Housing Assist and the American Red Cross are partnering to improve 400 homes in eight cities nationwide through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. The Campaign educates families about fire safety and installs free smoke alarms in homes. Already, hundreds of homeowners and community members have been helped in cities across the country including Columbia, SC; Lexington, KY and three towns in Michigan.

To date, 268 lives have been saved thanks to smoke alarm installations and education by the Red Cross and our partners across the United States.

Thank you, Charter Communications, for being a hero in our eyes, and a hero in the lives of families in the U.S.