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Red Cross Honors Real Heroes of Tompkins County

tompkins cortland heroes breakfast
Today we come together to honor our local heroes who have made such a difference in the life of our communities.

The American Red Cross honored several residents of Tompkins and Cortland counties for their heroic actions during the past year at the Third Annual Real Heroes Breakfast April 19 at the Tompkins Cortland Community College Field House in Dryden.

More than 200 people attended the Real Heroes Breakfast, which was hosted by the Tompkins County and Cortland County chapters. The event celebrates the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering by honoring people from throughout the two counties who have performed heroic acts to help others in need.

Barry Stein, Community Chapter Executive of the Tompkins County and Cortland County chapters, included a moment of silence for all of the people affected by this past week's tragedies in Boston and West, Texas.

"But in the face of disaster and suffering, we bear witness to the incredible acts of heroism and resiliency frequently demonstrated by selfless responders," Stein said. "Tompkins and Cortland counties are no exception. Today, we come together to honor our local heroes who have made such a difference in the life of our communities."

The award sponsors for the 2013 Real Heroes Breakfast were CFCU Community Credit Union, Cortland Regional Medical Center, Dryden Mutual Insurance Co., Economy Paving Co., Inc., Maguire Family of Dealerships, Mirabito Energy Products, New York Central Mutual Insurance, Pall Corp., Toyota Motor Co. and Warren Real Estate.

This year’s honorees included members of the Cortlandville, Dryden and Newfield fire departments and ambulance corps who responded heroically to life-threatening situations; an Ithaca woman who saves lives by organizing blood drives; an Ithaca man who helped Rockaway Beach residents after Superstorm Sandy; a Homer woman who has become a dog’s best friend; and a 13-year-old Ithaca boy who helped save a woman from drowning.

Here’s the list of the awards and honorees:

Adult Good Samaritan Award: Mike Ellis. When Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast this past fall, Ellis, of Ithaca, organized a group he called the “Tompkins County Hurricane Sandy Relief Friends” to help people from Rockaway Beach, Queens, who had lost everything because of the storm.

Animal Rescue Award: Susan Hubbard. As founder of Hubbard’s Hounds Dog Rescue in Homer, Hubbard works tirelessly to rescue dogs from shelters and puppy mills and find loving homes for them.

Blood Donor Award: Sis Johnson. Johnson, of Ithaca, is the American Red Cross blood drive coordinator for Tompkins County, and her efforts in reorganizing the volunteer assignments has ensured a long list of volunteers who are willing to work at the drives to collect life-saving blood.

Fire Rescue Award: Newfield Fire Department Chief Matt Watros Sr., Assistant Chief Dylan Watros and fire fighter Chad Willis. The three Newfield fire fighters needed all of their skills, experience and expertise Feb. 5 to rescue an elderly woman from her burning home in Newfield.

Good Neighbor Award: The Cortlandville Fire Department. On Feb. 3, the Cortlandville Fire Department responded to a serious car accident on McLean Road. Using a piece of equipment that the department had recently purchased, three firefighters demonstrated teamwork under pressure as they extricated the young female driver from a precarious position in just 13 minutes – saving valuable time and her life.

Medical Award: Dryden Fire Department and Dryden Ambulance. Volunteer firefighter and Dryden Ambulance EMT Franklin Palmer suffered serious injuries when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle on Route 38 last June. The Dryden Fire Department and Ambulance crews responded quickly and gave their colleague the medical attention that saved his life.

Youth Good Samaritan Award: Chris Merilahti. Merilahti, of Ithaca, is a seventh-grade student at Boynton Middle School who was riding his bike on Nov. 8, when he heard a woman screaming for help. The woman had fallen into the ice-cold creek behind Titus Towers in Ithaca and was struggling to get out. Merilahti wisely went to the nearby BOCES building for help and he and two adults rescued the woman.

Proceeds from the Real Heroes Breakfast benefit the Tompkins and Cortland chapters of the Red Cross, which provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Working families in Tompkins and Cortland counties often require emergency assistance from home fires, severe storms and other disasters.

From July 2012 through February, the Tompkins County and Cortland County chapters provided nearly $11,000 to 45 people from 16 families affected by disasters; provided 11 emergency communications and $2,600 in financial assistance to members of the Armed Forces and their families; and trained thousands of individuals in CPR, First Aid and other health and safety courses.