On Thursday, May 16, 2013, the Bucks County Leadership Council of the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) hosted the Real Heroes of Bucks County Breakfast. The annual event recognizes and celebrates heroes in Bucks County who have saved lives, committed selfless acts of courage or compassion and exemplified the mission and qualities of the Red Cross.
Boy Scout Troop #400 from Ivyland began the ceremony with a Presentment of Colors and the Pledge of Allegiance. Opening remarks by SEPA Red Cross Chief Development Officer Erik Michael recognized the contribution of volunteers to Red Cross efforts, not only in Bucks County, but communities worldwide. “This morning you will meet some extraordinary people who embody the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate suffering in the face of emergencies,” He said, “all these honorees are making the community in which we live a better place.” Michael’s remarks were followed by an Invocation by Co-Chair Christina DelVecchio-Tuller and breakfast. The award distribution began with Congratulatory Remarks by Bucks County Commissioners Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Charles Martin.
This year’s honorees were as follows:
Tom Toccanelli and Conor Derolf both received Good Samaritan Hero Awards. On Christmas morning of 2012, Tom Toccanelli smelled smoke and realized it was coming from the house across the street. After telling his children to call 911, he ran to help his neighbors escape their burning home. He then attempted to put out the flames while waiting for the arrival of the first responders. According to Sam Pezzuolo, who nominated him, Tom told Fire Marshal Bill Ottenger that he did not want to be recognized by the township. He said, “I just did what any neighbor would do.” Connor Derolf showed courage and level- headedness when his mother, Brenda Derolf, became gravely ill with a diabetic seizure. Although only six years old, Connor called 911. His actions demonstrated his love and care for his mother and saved her from serious injury.
First Responder Hero Awards were given to Officers Albert Constantini and Fred Williamson. On the evening of December 23, 2012, Officer Albert Constantini responded to a report of a house fire on the 1300 block of HiView Drive. Officer Constantini climbed into the house through a broken window and, with the help of Officer Fred Williamson, rescued resident Andrew Reilly. Both officers suffered burns on their hands and scalps and were just seconds away from being severely burned by the fire. In a letter about the incident, Andrew Reilly states, “These men exemplified the true meaning of what it takes to be a hero and I will be forever grateful for the way they saved my life.”
The breakfast honored Todd Buch and Fred Vielhauer with Super Storm Sandy Hero Awards. Todd Buch exemplified what it means to be a responsible and caring business owner. As Hurricane Sandy approached, he cut short a trip to Florida in order to meet the needs of his employees during the storm. His employee, Suzy Buehler, wrote in her nomination, “The employees of McCafferty could not be prouder to work for such a compassionate and caring person.” Fred Vielhauer was honored as an essential member of the SEPA Red Cross logistics team. His essential contributions to the needs of Bucks County shelters during Hurricane Sandy were recognized and celebrated.
Richard Newbert was recognized for his heroic commitment to blood donation with a Give Life Hero Award. He has donated blood platelets 304 times throughout his life and yielded 492 platelet products, helping hundreds of critically ill hospital patients.
Finally, a Community Partner Award was given to Dr. Bridgett O’Connell, Superintendent of the Pallisades School District. Red Cross efforts depend on the generosity of volunteers in our communities. Dr. Bridgett O’Connell opened the doors of Palisades High School to the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 28th in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Speaking briefly after the presentation of her award, Dr. O’Connell thanked several people who helped with the Palisades Shelter. She said, “The display of collaboration and the sense of camaraderie demonstrated at Palisades High School this fall . . .made me extremely proud to be a part of the team.”
In her congratulatory remarks, County Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia pointed out that the honorees had served their community in more ways than one. She said, “You have given us a teachable moment for ourselves, for our children and for our neighbors. You are paying it forward.”