LEWISTON [March 13, 2018] — The Central and Mid Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross on Tuesday recognized nine individuals and one organization for going above and beyond in service to others at its 15th Annual Real Heroes Breakfast.
“We’re celebrating the Real Heroes of the community – everyday people who perform extraordinary acts of courage, kindness and unselfish character to help people in need,” said Nicole Lajoie, a Chapter board member and co-chair of the Real Heroes Committee.
“They exemplify the spirt that is at the heart of the American Red Cross mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering,” said Johanna Lloyd, another Chapter board member and co-chair of the Real Heroes Committee.
The 2018 Central and Mid Coast Maine Real Heroes are:
Officer Phil DiLuca, Clinton Police Department (Public Service Real Heroes Award)
In July, Officer Phil DiLuca had just finished his shift and was heading home when he heard about a nearby fully involved structure fire. He headed to it and was the first first responder on the scene. Flames were in the roof and going up the side. Neighbors were pounding on the mobile home with shovels. The resident, Shawn Skehan, was inside. DiLuca kicked in the back door, entered and was brought to his knees by the smoke. He looked for Skehan room by room without any success, but then saw light coming out from under a door. The resident was asleep. DiLuca shook him awake and pulled him outside to safety. Soon after, the home was engulfed in flames. Reflecting on the incident, DiLuca says, “This is my job and I’m going in to help this person. I knew it then, I know it now and I’ll probably know it in the future.”
Joe Maher of Turner (Gift of Life Real Heroes Award)
After Joe Maher moved to Maine in 1978, he got into the habit of donating platelets. He and his wife had five kids and at the time and he wasn’t in a position to donate money to help others. But he could donate platelets and he has a high count. Back then, Maher thought he might end up donating 25 times in all. That number became 50 and then 100. At some point, he stopped having a goal and simply kept donating regularly. Now, 40 years later, he has given this gift of life more than 500 times. Nearly 7,000 units of platelets are needed every day in the United States. Those who benefit from platelet donation include cancer patients; people who’ve been seriously injured or who need major surgery; people with blood disorders; and people undergoing organ transplants. “People need them and I have them,” Maher says.
Brayden Bashaw of Auburn (Community Service Real Heroes Award)
For a few years now, 12-year-old Brayden has been fundraising for sick children around Christmas. “I wanted to help kids have a better Christmas,” he says. Last year, he set a goal of $5,000 to benefit kids at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. He dubbed the project “Ornaments of Hope” and raised some of the money by selling pine cone ornaments he made. He also solicited donations from local businesses. Brayden surpassed his goal and raising $7,000. In addition to toys, Brayden used some of the money for Brady Buggies – handmade animal-shaped wagons that provide a ride to pediatric patients with their IV poles in tow. Because of his success, Brayden was also able to provide Brady Buggies to Central Maine Medical Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center.
Marcia Scott of Scarborough, (CPR Saves Lives Real Heroes Award)
On Sept. 17, Marcia Scott and a friend were headed to camp in Rangeley. They were almost in Mexico when she spotted a truck ahead them. It was turned into the opposite lane, with the passenger door open. Scott sensed something was not right. She pulled up next to the truck and asked the woman in the passenger seat, Betty Poulin, if everything was OK. Then she saw a man, Betty’s husband, Richard, slumped over the wheel. Marcia ran over to him, checked his neck and wrist and found no pulse. She yelled to her friend to call 911, unbuckled him and pulled him across the seat and performed CPR until the EMTs arrived and took him away. Scott assumed the worst, but two days later, the phone rang. “It was Betty, she said – I’ll just never forget the words – ‘Richard opened his eyes today,’” she said. Since then, Richard Poulin has referred to Scott as his “Road Angel.”
Assistant Chief Michael LaPlante and Farmingdale Fire Department (Workplace Safety Real Heroes Award)
Farmingdale firefighters were called to a home early last year because of the smell of smoke. The smell subsided and no fire was present. But Assistant Chief Mike LaPlante noted that the home lacked smoke alarms. The residents said they couldn’t afford them. The Farmingdale Fire Department had partnered earlier with the Red Cross on the Home Fire Campaign, which provides free smoke alarms and home fire safety education. The Fire Department still had some smoke alarms from an installation day. LaPlante got three smoke alarms and returned to install them in the home. Months later, a fire broke out at the same home, destroying it and killing the residents’ pets. All the people made it out safely, including one resident who relies on a wheelchair and needed help getting out of his bed. The homeowner later thanked LaPlante and said that without the smoke alarms they had installed, they may not have been alerted to the fire in time. “You do the best you can for your town and you try to be pro-active on stuff where you can,” LaPlante says. “We don’t think of ourselves as heroes and I don’t think any of us does. The call comes in, you do what you’re trained to do.”
Lincoln and Stacey Wheeler of Bowdoin (Good Samaritan Real Heroes Award)
In March, Lincoln and Stacey Wheeler were driving back to their home in Bowdoin when they saw what they took to be a brush fire in front of them. But as they got closer they saw that a vehicle had hit a tree and was on fire. People were trying to put out the flames with buckets of water. A woman, Veronica Dumais, was trapped inside. The driver’s door had been hit and Lincoln bent the doorframe to get access to her. He tried to pull her out but she was pinned in. Stacey crawled into the passenger side and tried to keep the smoke out of Veronica’s face and keep her conscious by talking to her until emergency responders arrived on the scene. “I was thinking at the time, I don’t know this woman from anyone,” Stacey Wheeler says. “But she’s somebody’s daughter. She’s somebody’s mom, likely. She’s got people who love her and we’ve got to get her out of this.”
Thomas Freitas and Ryan O’Sullivan, Lewiston Public Works
On Nov. 14, Thomas Freitas and Ryan O’Sullivan were on a hydrant run, taking precautions to make sure the hydrants wouldn’t freeze. They drove by a man, his hood on and his head down, walking into the woods with a rope. It was hunting season and maybe he was going to bring a deer out of the woods. “It didn’t seem right to us,” Freitas says. They returned to the area and followed footsteps in the fresh snow. The found the young man in a tree, a noose around his neck. Freitas yelled at the man to come down and talk to him as O’Sullivan called 911. The man did come out of the tree and talked with Freitas until help arrived. “We were just glad we were there to save the kid,” O’Sullivan says.