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Red Cross to honor local heroes at annual fundraiser

SML Real Heroes 2013
10th Anniversary breakfast takes place on Thursday, April 18

(Photo: 2013 Real Heroes From Left to Right - Top Row: Officer Adam Garcia, Austin Morris, Dr. Elaine Leeder, Dr. Paula Dhanda, Trevor Kasimoff, Mary Munat; Bottom Row: Mark Anello, Matthew Nalywaiko, Officer Tim Murphy, Specialist Stefan LeRoy, Volunteers Fran Condon, June Albor and Jim Plank)

Photos: 2013, Star Dewar (except where noted); Photos of volunteers: 2013, Roaring Mouse Productions; Specialist Stefan LeRoy: uncredited.

A young man risks his own life to save residents of a local apartment fire, a member of our armed forces inspires his community despite his injuries, and a social justice advocate’s passion for education has made a great impact on prison inmates. These are just a few of the powerful stories that will be presented at the 10th Annual Real Heroes Breakfast. The American Red Cross, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties, is presenting this invitation-only event on Thursday, April 18. Registration begins at 7:00 a.m., and the program runs 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. The breakfast benefits the local Red Cross chapter and supports essential Red Cross services in three counties. It will be held at the Doubletree Hotel in Rohnert Park. More than 60 individuals from the three counties were nominated as heroes this year.

More than 350 business and community members are expected to attend to honor the heroes. Those wishing to attend the fundraiser may call the Red Cross at (707) 577-7627. Guests are encouraged to contribute the suggested minimum donation of $132, which represents $1 for every year the American Red Cross has been serving the American people.

Honorary Chair is Steve Freitas, Sonoma County Sheriff.Emcee for the Real Heroes Breakfast is Debbie Abrams, radio personality and producer at KZST 100.1.

Platinum Sponsor for the Real Heroes Breakfast is Pacific Gas and Electric. Gold Sponsors are Jackson Family Wines, St. Joseph Health, and Wells Fargo. Silver Sponsors are American AgCredit and Amy’s Kitchen. Bronze Sponsors are Eileen Adams, Kaiser Permanente, Medtronic, Merrill Lynch, Sonoma Raceway, and Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa.

Media Sponsors are KZST Radio, The North Bay Business Journal, The Press Democrat and The Ukiah Daily Journal.

A committee of community leaders chose the winners. Selection Committee members were:

  • Frank Chong, PhD., President, Santa Rosa Junior College, Selection Committee Chair
  • Vince Albano, Chief Executive Officer, Mary’s Pizza Shack
  • Travis Collier, Lieutenant Commander, United States Coast Guard
  • Tom Eakin, General Manager, Peter Michael Winery
  • Jitu Ishwar, Owner, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott (Ukiah, Mendocino County)
  • Siri Nelson, Chief Administrative Officer, Sutter Lakeside Hospital (Lakeport, Lake County)
  • Chris Smith, Columnist/Reporter, The Press Democrat
  • Maria Sundeen, Marketing & Communications Manager, American AgCredit
  • Significant in-kind donations have been contributed by graphic designer Pat Delaplane, Firefly Creative, Star Shots Photography and Roaring Mouse Productions.


    Animal: Mark Anello, Bodega Bay

    Sponsor: Medtronic

    Bodega Bay Fisherman Mark Anello and his two-man crew rescued a gray whale from life-threatening entanglement in fishing lines. Previous rescue attempts had been made from Laguna Beach, and up the coast for over two weeks. The risky rescue took 90 minutes before the whale was able to take a deep dive to freedom.

    Education: Dr. Elaine Leeder, Sebastopol

    Sponsor: Amy’s Kitchen

    Early on in her life Dr. Elaine Leeder, Dean of the School of Social Sciences at Sonoma State University, committed her life to social justice and championing the underdog. For the past several years she has been providing classes to inmates who are serving 15 years to life at San Quentin prison, enabling them to understand themselves and how social class and upbringing contribute to criminality.

    Environment: Mary Munat, Windsor

    Sponsor: Sonoma Raceway

    Helping to build a cleaner and healthier planet has been a lifetime passion for Mary Munat, also known as Green Mary. She has dedicated her life to educating and encouraging people about the importance of preserving our environment by promoting “non-garbage” wherever she goes. She has turned her passion into a business, Green Mary Zero Waste Events, to lessen the trash buried in landfills.

    Heroic Deed: Trevor Kasimoff, Rohnert Park

    Sponsor: American AgCredit

    Twenty-three year old Trevor Kasimoff spotted flames coming from a neighboring apartment and ran to the scene. There he found people trapped on the second story of the blazing building. He encouraged a mother who was dangling a small child out the window to drop her two children into his arms below. Then the mother and another woman dropped from the window as well. He saved the lives of several grateful residents.

    Humanitarian Adult: Matthew Nalywaiko, Santa Rosa

    Sponsor: Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa

    Helping others has been a lifetime passion for Matthew Nalywaiko. After volunteering for service in various countries, he was compelled to help those in need locally. He enlisted many volunteer repair people and founded “Serve a Little,” a service providing repairs and handyman services to single mothers and military wives needing help for the safety and well-being of their families.

    Humanitarian Youth: Austin Morris, Ukiah (Mendocino County)

    Sponsor: Wells Fargo

    Then 17-year-old Austin Morris joined an environmental study with Project Kaisei on the 151-foot brigantine Kaisei. Standing night watch, he risked his own life to save the life of another student crew-member who had fallen overboard into the icy waters. The vessel was moving along in more than 30 knots of wind, and in heavy seas with 10-12 foot swells, and both could have been swept overboard to their deaths.

    Law Enforcement: CHP Officer Adam Garcia, Lake County

    Sponsor: Eileen Adams

    CHP Officer Adam Garcia was the first to respond to a collision between Lower Lake and Hidden Valley. Upon arrival, he found one passenger outside of the smoldering car with two others trapped inside. He approached the vehicle as it became engulfed in flames, and proceeded to risk his own safety as he pulled each of the two victims to safety.

    Medical: Dr. Paula Dhanda, Kelseyville, Lake County

    Sponsor: St. Joseph Health

    As a young girl in Bombay, Dr. Paula Dhanda watched her father, a surgeon, serve the city’s large indigent population, providing free medical care to those who could not pay. She now follows in his footsteps by providing women’s health services to women in impoverished countries, and also trains and educates their local health providers to be able to serve their own communities better.

    Military: Army Specialist Stefan LeRoy, Santa Rosa

    Sponsor: Merrill Lynch

    While in Afghanistan, Pfc. Stefan LeRoy risked his life while running to the aid of a wounded soldier. As he approached, he stepped on an improvised explosive device, which resulted in partial loss of both legs, and multiple other injuries. After the incident, his enthusiasm for life have led him to ski, compete in marathons, and swim with sea turtles in the Virgin Islands. His positive attitude is a true inspiration to others.

    Rescue Professional: California Peace Officer/Lifeguard Tim Murphy, Bodega Bay

    Sponsor: Kaiser Permanente

    Lifeguard Tim Murphy saved the lives of three people struggling in rough surf at Wright’s Beach. He first swam to a female having difficulty staying afloat, and secured her to a life tube. He then swam to a man and a young boy, secured them to the tube, and then while encouraging the three victims to stay alert, he towed them about 200 yards out to calmer waters until a Coast Guard boat arrived.

    The heart of the Red Cross: Volunteers down the block, across the country

    Sponsor: Jackson Family Wines

    Three local Red Cross volunteers, June Albor, Fran Condon (both of Santa Rosa) and Jim Plank (Kelseyville, Lake County) have hearts as big as any hero’s. Their generosity, kindness and dedication, as well as images of Hurricane Sandy and other disasters, will be featured in the Real Heroes Breakfast’s final video.