2016 Heroes Biographies

Youth Hero

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Nicholas Gelson

Nicholas Gelson, at age 6, is a brave young hero. On August 7, 2016, Nicholas was home alone with his diabetic father, Stephen Gelson. Nicholas was trying unsuccessfully to wake up his dad who was visibly in distress. Nicholas’s mom was at work at Cape Cod Hospital and he knew she would not be home until nighttime. Nicholas felt alone and scared but then remembered his older sister teaching him how to call 911 in an emergency. He did not want to get in trouble, but decided his dad really needed help, so even though this was the first time he had ever dialed a phone to call anyone, Nicholas dialed 911.

The West Barnstable Fire Department EMS Team responded to the call. They did their job to care, treat and transport Stephen to the hospital; they also rose to the occasion in making Nicolas feel safe and reassuring him that he had done the right thing. At the hospital, Stephen was unresponsive, his blood sugar was below 20 and he had a critically low body temperature, requiring that he spend the night in the ICU. Yet thanks to Nicholas’s bravery and heroic actions, he saved his dad’s life that day.

Community Impact Hero

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Cape Air

Cape Air is led by Founder & CEO Dan Wolf and President Linda Markham, both leaders recognized for their trailblazing in the difficult business of a regional commuter airline. Cape Air was founded in 1989 with one route, eight employees and an annual passenger total of 8,000. Today, Cape Air now employs 1,200 people and serves 43 cities in six regions around the world, carrying more than 685,000 passengers each year.

Cape Air supports many organizations in our community with their time, their treasure and their talent. There are so many we cannot list them here but we count our chapter as a grateful recipient over many years.

Cape Air is a leader in sustainable practices and social responsibility, integrating environmentally and socially regenerative practices into all aspects of the business. "We focus on sustainability projects that can make a difference, by reducing environmental impacts while creating value for employees, customers and host communities,” quotes their website.

Their efforts were recognized in 2012 when Cape Air was awarded the 2011 Environmental Merit Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The award recognizes outstanding environmental advocates who have made significant contributions toward preserving and protecting natural resources.

Cape Air not only supports their community, they also support their employees through thick and thin. Cape Air is employee-owned and a wonderful place to work. In addition to outreach to the local community, they set up an “in-reach” program called CARE (Cape Air Resources for Employees) that works to support their employees when they need help.

Finally, Cape Air cares about their customers, their customer service is outstanding! Using the mantra MOCHA HAGoTDI to guide them…translated it means: Make Our Customers Happy and Have a Good Time Doing It. And it shows.

For these reasons and more, Cape Air is being awarded our Community Impact Award.

Community Service Heroes

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Jeanne D. Flynn

Jeanne Flynn has been an active participant in the war against drug addiction and the opiate epidemic for the last eight years. Sadly she lost her own son in 2015 due to a heroin overdose. This has made her even more committed to the cause.

A member of Parents Supporting Parents for many years, Jeanne has led the charge to bring attention to the opiate epidemic and on life-saving interventions since 2011. She spoke at the first Candlelight vigil to honor those lost to overdoses, at Attorney General Healey’s press conference on Narcan in 2015, at three Massachusetts Organizations for Addiction Recovery events in 2015, at the FED UP Rally for Addiction in Washington D.C. and the at the Unite to Face Addiction gathering in 2015 and 2016. She participated in both Relays for Recovery sponsored by the Open Doorway of Cape Cod in 2015 and 2016 from Bourne to Provincetown. The Sandwich Women’s Club and the Tobey Hospital Guild invited her to participate in panel discussions on the opiate epidemic.

While continuing to work to support these causes related to drug addiction, she recently started up her own monthly local support group for families affected by this crisis. Jeanne has turned personal tragedy into a mission to help others.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Joel Crowell

Joel Crowell has had a huge impact on the Cape Cod community. As President and CEO of The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod for more than 33 years, Joel has revealed himself as a silent leader and philanthropist who acts with humility and kindness. Over the years, he has provided guidance and support to numerous local institutions and non-profit organizations in various capacities as a board member, trustee, chairman, director and volunteer. Joel was appointed a Call Firefighter to the Dennis Fire Department in 1971 and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. For approximately ten years he was also a Call EMT and answered rescue calls as well. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Cod Needy Fund, the Board of Trustees of Cape Cod Academy, and serves as the Director and past Chair of Cape Cod Healthcare. He is a trustee and the President of the Kelley Foundation.

Joel has been recognized for his contributions and compassion, yet remains approachable and generous with his time. Wherever his name is mentioned, it is followed with praise and admiration. He is a true community hero.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Nanette Davidson

Nanette Davidson is a respected member of the community and involved in many events and causes through her position as Vice President of Business Banking at Rockland Trust. Learning to understand and cope with all the facets of a loved one's drug addiction, she set up a Facebook page called “Loved Ones Against Drugs-Cape Cod Support Group." It now has more than 500 members. Nanette is also co-founder and board member of a new charitable foundation called ‘WellStrong” a wellness recovery community that enables people of all ages to find the motivations they need to battle addiction and create a new lifestyle. Her hope is to open a wellness center for people in recovery this year in Falmouth. She has taken her pain and turned it into action to help and support others suffering, not just the addict but those who love and care for them.

Armed Forces Heroes

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Captain Elise Ellsworth

On the morning of Friday, November 4th, 2016, while driving to Hanscom Air Force Base, Captain Elise Ellsworth happened upon a car accident on Route 24. She saw a car up against the guardrail, smoke billowing from the engine, shattered windows and the roof caved in. Captain Ellsworth noticed one of the passengers open his door, get out and start walking towards the road. Suddenly he fell to the ground. Captain Ellsworth sprang into action, realizing the man could be seriously hurt. She began assessing the injured man, who, with her encouragement, was able to say his name and give a very brief report of the accident. He recalled that the car had hit the guardrail then rolled over; it was then that he had hit his head and sustained a small laceration. Captain Ellsworth could not rule out injuries to his neck or back, so she stabilized his spine by using an unbroken window from the mangled car. While she was doing this, the car caught on fire so she moved the man quickly and carefully to safety. Captain Ellsworth then assisted another victim still in the driver’s seat of the burning car. Thankfully, the injuries of both were minimized thanks to the fast action of Captain Ellsworth and others who stopped to help that day.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Petty Officer Scott Hunter

Petty Officer Hunter was cited for superior performance of duty by the United States Coast Guard while responding to a medical emergency on August 13, 2016. In mid-afternoon, the Near Shore Lifeboat responded to a distress call of a woman who suffered severe leg trauma to both legs caused by a propeller in the vicinity of Stage Harbor. The victim had severed her right leg near the knee. Despite never having dealt with an amputation before, Petty Officer Hunter’s immediate actions saved the victim’s life. After quickly removing his belt to use as a tourniquet and gathering sterile bandages, Petty Officer Hunter tightened his belt above her right knee. He then continued to assist on-scene rescuers with additional bandaging, and positioned the victim securely onto the backboard and into the Harbor Master’s boat. Petty Officer Hunter continued to care for the victim until she was safely transferred to the ambulance crew. His swift efforts, judgment and training that day saved the woman's life. His actions exemplify the humanitarian spirit of the United States Coast Guard.

Life Saving Heroes

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Robin Ireland

A July afternoon was a day when Robin Ireland came to the aid of a stranger, saving her life. On Thursday afternoon on July 14, 2016, a woman jogging in Morton Park in Plymouth was being brutally attacked and sexually assaulted. The woman had been approached from behind by a male who wrapped his arm around her neck and dragged her off to a secluded wooded area, attacking her with gardening shears and causing significant bodily injury. Robin Ireland was also jogging in the park that afternoon, on a break from his summer employment with the Plymouth Parks and Recreation Department. Robin heard the screams of the victim and ran to her aid. Armed with only a stick he was able to fend off the attacker long enough for them both to escape. Robin was later able to direct the police to the area the assailant was last seen and he was apprehended by police. Mr. Ireland most certainly saved a life that day.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Clifton Robinson

Last January, a woman was seriously burned in a kitchen fire that started around 1 a.m. in an Oak Bluffs home. But it could have been much worse if not for Cliff Robinson. Cliff, a neighbor, woke from his sleep to the sound of someone yelling. He went across the street to find the home burning. He went back into the house with the woman’s husband and dragged her to safety where first responders performed CPR, got her into the ambulance and then to the hospital. Cliff Robinson helped his neighbors in need without regard for his own safety, confronting a terrifying and potentially tragic event that thanks to him, had a happy ending.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

James Creed

On the evening of May 10, 2016, Sheriff's Deputy James Creed saved countless lives by stopping a deranged individual who had gone on a stabbing rampage in the city of Taunton. After fatally wounding an elderly woman mortally and critically injuring her daughter, the assailant fled to a nearby shopping mall and began assaulting customers and clerks. He then ran to a nearby restaurant crowded with patrons, including Sheriff's Deputy James Creed and his wife, celebrating Creed's birthday. The assailant grabbed a pregnant waitress and began stabbing her repeatedly. A nearby teacher and his wife, George and Rosemary Heath, attempted to intervene. Sadly, George was immediately stabbed and received a mortal wound. Creed announced he was a Deputy Officer and ordered the man to drop his knife. When he failed to comply, Creed fired a single round, striking the perpetrator in the abdomen, ending the threat. Creed and his wife Laura, a registered nurse, attempted lifesaving measures on the victims as well as the assailant. Creed's swift, controlled actions in crowded and chaotic conditions undoubtedly saved the lives of others in the restaurant that day.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Jorge Arias

Jorge Arias, a 36 years old man from Ecuador employed by the Cape Codder Resort and Alberto’s Ristorante, was swimming in Joshua Pond in Osterville on the evening of August 16, 2016, with his four year old daughter. She swam out too far and Jorge went to rescue her, enabling her to get back to shore. Jorge’s six year old son, now joined by his sister, realized their father was now missing. There was no lifeguard on duty so they found a person on the beach to call 911. Hyannis and COMM fire departments came to their aid and dive teams started searching the area. Jorge’s body was found in 10-12 feet of water at the bottom of the pond. He was unconscious and not breathing, and later died at Cape Cod Hospital. Jorge is recognized for his heroic efforts that saved the life of his daughter.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Kimberlee Range

Kimberlee Range has been a registered nurse at Cape Cod Hospital for many years and a school nurse at Trinity Christian Academy in Hyannis. In July she and her family were celebrating the Fourth of July weekend with neighbors. Several hours after Kim went to sleep that night she was awakened by her husband telling her that her friend had suddenly collapsed. Kim ran from her bed to her friend’s house and promptly determined that her friend was in cardiac arrest. Kim started CPR until paramedics arrived. Unfortunately her friend was not able to recover completely and died several days later. But because of Kim’s quick thinking and action Joanne’s family was given the precious gift of time to say good-bye.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Kristin Stewart

Irasema Mendoza and Kristin Stewart have a life-long bond. Irasema had been living with the disease IgA Nephropathy for over 13 years, knowing that one day her kidneys would fail, when Kristin entered her life. At the beginning of 2016, she had reached a point where she was put on the waiting list for a non-living donor kidney. Normal waiting time for such a kidney is five to seven years in the Northeast. There are over 100,000 people on the list; 13 people die each year waiting for one. A kidney from a living donor is ideal for many reasons as it lasts longer, is an easier transition for the recipient and the chances of the kidney being rejected are reduced. Kristin Stewart is Irasema’s hero as she stepped up and bravely said “you can have my kidney.” This was a truly life-saving action and Irasema feels like she has her life back and has the chance to fulfill her dreams, all because Kristin Stewart helped save her life by risking hers.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Michael A. Forte

Brad Whalon and Michael Forte came together in 2015 with the solution to saving Brad's life. Brad, who suffered from kidney failure, had been on dialysis and slowly deteriorating for four years while awaiting a transplant. Brad, who is married with three children and one grandchild, was at the mercy of a slow and steady reduction in quality of life and time was running out. Meanwhile, Master Sergeant Michael A. Forte, a longstanding member of the 212 Engineering Installation Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard, had begun researching the process to donate one of his kidneys without hesitation when he learned of Brad’s condition. The seven month process was an arduous one filled with blood tests, extensive travel, fasting and dietary constraints, surgery and a lengthy recovery. But on March 29, 2016, he assumed the life-long health risks associated with kidney donation and saved Brad’s life.

In addition to this heroic deed, MSgt Forte volunteers his time to numerous organizations, is a Big Brother and has been a volunteer with Special Olympics for the past seven years. He also dedicates his time to Habitat for Humanity and has recently become a Red Cross volunteer. He is constantly seeking opportunities to help and committing himself to making life better for those around him.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Olivia Underwood

On a July morning, Olivia Underwood was at her job at Nauset Marine in Orleans. While cleaning a boat, she witnessed a sudden flash of fire in an adjacent vessel and quickly realized one of her co-workers’ clothing was on fire and he was being severely burned. Without hesitation and at risk of sustaining personal injury, Olivia doused him with water, extinguishing the burning clothing. After putting the fire out, she escorted the victim to the office to ensure EMS was called and stayed by his side until they arrived. Joe Pires, the victim, sustained second degree burns to over 35% of his body.

There is no doubt that Olivia Underwood’s quick and heroic actions helped save Joe's life.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Lt. Ross Klun

Lieutenant Ross Klun demonstrated quick thinking and dedication to others on a late afternoon last October. Lt. Klun a veteran telecommunicator at the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office, EMT and former firefighter was on his daily commute home when he noticed a crowd of people looking over the railing to the Charles River below. He rushed to see what was happening and saw a man floating on his back in the river with his face underwater. Without hesitation Klun jumped twenty feet into the water below without knowing the depth or danger this might present. He quickly rolled the victim over and got him breathing again. Shortly after, a state police boat reached the site of the accident and pulled Klun and the victim to safety. By the time they got off the boat the victim was able to stand with assistance. Lt Klun’s brave actions helped save a life that day.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

MSgt. Victoria A. Kenny

A desperate plea brought Michael Robbins and Victoria Kenny together in 2016. Michael Robbins was hospitalized with kidney failure in 2013 and was receiving arduous dialysis treatment three days a week for four-hour periods. After years waiting on the transplant list, with no matching donor, Mr. Robbins’ health began to severely decline under the statistical shadow that sees twenty-two people dying each day waiting for a transplant. With hope dwindling, he decided to place a sign in front of his house asking for a kidney. As fate would have it, one June morning, MSgt Victoria Kenny noticed the sign on the side of the road with the words, “Needed: kidney donor, give Michael the gift of life.” MSgt Kenny, a wife and mother of three who works as a military technician assigned to Joint Base Cape Cod, immediately called the number and began her journey to save Michael’s life. She endured a rigorous and time-consuming testing process and was found to be a perfect match for Michael. The transplant complete, MSgt Kenny and Michael now also share an undeniable bond of friendship. She saved his life and gave him the opportunity to live his life to the fullest.

Professional Heroes

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Cape Cod Hospital Maternity & Pediatric Departments

Sharon Daley, MD, Chief of Pediatrics, Dian Birch, Director of Woman's and Children Services at Cape Cod Hospital, Rosanna Burke RN, Supervisor and Educator, Nursing staff, and Daniel Rodrigues, the Maternity Department social worker.

Like many communities across the United States, Barnstable County is struggling with the impact of the opioid epidemic and substance use on the entire community, especially newborns, and the need to develop new models of care has been recognized. Cape Cod Healthcare's maternity and pediatric departments at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital have begun a new technique of mother and infant skin-to-skin contact with soft lighting, which has shown extraordinary results with treating substance exposed newborns and infants withdrawing from addictive substances (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome).

Babies who experience withdrawal from substances at birth often experience a much longer hospital stay and potential ongoing medical issues. The hospital works with Cape Cod Child Development through a new “Hospital to Home” program to ensure that babies receive in-home development services once discharged from the hospital. The hospital also offers the “Moms Do Care” program, which provides integrated prenatal care and substance use treatment for women while they are pregnant, as well as peer recovery coaching.

Cape Cod Healthcare is acknowledged as a leader by Vermont Oxford Network, a collaboration of healthcare providers in 49 states and five countries seeking to implement guidelines recommended by the Academy of Pediatrics, and as a Center of Excellence for Education and Training for Infants and Families impacted by Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. This honor recognizes the impacts of knowledge sharing of this issue with other health care professionals worldwide.

Red Cross of Massachusetts Heroes

Fairhaven Police Department

Sgt. Michael Botelho, Det. Sgt. Matthew Botelho, Det. Jerald Bettencourt III, Det. Scott R. Gordon, Officer Kevin W. Chasse, Officer Alexander J. Kisla and Officer Scott D. Coelho, Dispatcher Marie Burgess

Sometimes the success of an emergency operation is based on valiant and cooperative efforts of a team. Such was the case when the Fairhaven Police Department responded to an emergency call for a vehicle that had driven off a major roadway and landed upside down in seven feet of very cold water.

Officer Scott Coelho, upon arriving at the scene, immediately waded out to the vehicle 15 feet from shore and determined the driver was still inside the cab of the pickup truck. His fellow officers, Kevin Chasse and Alexander Kisla, rushed in to the water to help. They managed to free the operator by cutting his seatbelt and one officer swam to the other side of the vehicle to insure that no other passengers were involved.

As the first round of officers exited the 39-degree waters, Detectives Jerald Bettencourt and Scott Gordon made a final check on the vehicle by diving underwater to look for additional victims. They were joined by Sergeant Michael Botelho who also helped search for victims by wading into the frigid water to aid rescuers. With the help of a professional diver it was determined that no one else had been in the vehicle.

Throughout the rescue the communications staff handled an enormous number of calls within a small time frame. Specifically, Dispatcher Marie Burgess managed emergency calls and ensured continuity of coverage of patrol staff throughout. Her diligence enabled the Fairhaven Police Department to continue to function at an optimal level.

Red Cross Heroes

American Red Cross

Red Cross Chapter Volunteers Who Deployed to National Disasters in 2016

Local volunteers from our chapter deployed to disaster hit areas across the country for up to two weeks each this past year to help the people affected by floods or tornadoes or other disasters. Two of these volunteers deployed four times to areas from Iowa and Texas to Louisiana and Georgia, and five of them deployed more than once. Volunteers sometimes stay in the same shelter as the victims, sleeping on a cot for up to two weeks while all work long hours doing whatever is needed to help people traumatized by losing everything in a flash. From caseworkers to response vehicle drivers to disaster IT folks, these volunteers made a difference in people’s lives when they were needed most. Leaving their own friends and family to go somewhere on 24 hours’ notice, these people exemplify the Red Cross mission statement: mobilizing the power of volunteers to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. These volunteers were deployed to their locations with the help of Paul & Carol Neuger, longtime Red Cross volunteers.

More than 90% of the Red Cross workforce is made up of volunteers and these are just a few local examples of the many Red Cross heroes right here in your community. Today we honor some of these dedicated volunteers: Anne Katz-Jacobson, Bonnie Norton, Janette Beal, Mark Cook, Betty Hartman, Bob Hartman, Melissa Sieminski, Sharon Friedman, Fred Meade, Richard Bedgio, Kevin Ham, John Lawson, Jean Marsilli, Robert Brady, Shirley Jackson and Judy Walden Scarafile.