The Fourth Annual Heroes Luncheon took place on November 14 at the California Club in Downtown Los Angeles. The sold-out event was emceed by ABC7’s anchor Michelle Tuzee.
Among the many esteemed guests at the lunch were Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former mayor Richard Riordan. Board Chair for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region, Martin Cozyn, attended, along with Board members and many corporate donors.
Bill Ahmanson, representing the generosity of the Ahmanson Foundation, was awarded the Community Impact Hero Award. It has long been the mission of the Ahmanson Foundation to build the community, culture and social fabric of Los Angeles and to build a strong Red Cross in Los Angeles to be of service to this community.
The Ford Motor Company Fund was presented with the Corporate Hero Award for its commitment as an Annual Disaster Giving Partner and supporter of Services to Armed Forces and Nurse Assistance programs. Ford has worked to educate 3,000 children to date on disaster preparedness, as well as donating a new Ford Transit Connect vehicle, used to transport Red Cross staff, volunteers and materials to preparedness presentations. Accepting the award was Pamela Anderson, Director of Community Development and Fund Operations.
Farmers Insurance received the Corporate Hero Award, recognizing its decision to join the Disaster Responder program and for its generous contributions to causes including the Colorado floods and victims of last week’s typhoon in the Philippines. Todd Brooks, Farmers’ Head of Distribution Central Zone, accepted on behalf of Farmers.
The inspirational keynote address was given by Dave Sanderson, a survivor of the “Miracle on the Hudson” – the plane that ditched into the freezing Hudson River on January 15, 2009.
Sanderson’s courage after impact helped Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and crew save the lives of all on board. Sanderson stayed on board the flooding aircraft to help others to safety.
Once Sanderson was pulled from the freezing waters of the river and ferried to safety – the first people who greeted him were EMT workers and a volunteer from the Red Cross who wrapped him immediately in Red Cross blankets. That connection to the Red Cross profoundly changed Sanderson’s life. Suffering from severe hypothermia from his time in the water, the blankets were part of a team effort to save Sanderson’s life.
Sanderson flew home to Charlotte and was united with his loved ones who had been under the protection and care of the Red Cross local chapter’s CEO who was on-hand at the airport to shepherd and help the family through their crisis. The chapter’s CEO was the first person to make contact with Sanderson’s family.
Sanderson says: “My miracle became my mission. The Red Cross provides hope – hope to people in need every day. They help people endure and give them hope to continue. They’ve given me a mission.”
Natalie Wharton, a Bonita High School student, was also recognized. Wharton was in the middle of taking a Red Cross CPR training and at her church retreat was able to jump in and help save the life of a counselor who had a seizure. Wharton also spearheaded an initiative at the school to get an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) for future emergencies.
Finally, the event was capped off with a visit from Philly – a very special and lucky canine. Philly was hit by a car on a street in Los Angeles and lay in pain and suffering for hours until a team of Los Angeles Police Department officers rescued him. Officers Jennifer Cohen, Valerie Lancaster and Cindy Herrera went beyond the call of duty to save Philly. These local heroes recently created the “Rescue Philly Phoundation,” dedicated to finding needy animals their forever homes.