On Saturday, March 15, the San Luis Obispo chapter of the American Red Cross recognized its Heroes of the Red Cross for 2014. Kathy Kuretich, KSBY news anchor, emceed the awards dinner held at Camp San Luis Obispo. Representing seven categories of local heroism, the award winners are individuals and organizations from throughout San Luis Obispo County showing extraordinary acts of courage, compassion and community service.
Education Hero: Mary Winokur. Mary was inspired to teach CPR and AED use to high school students after the death of her son, Ryan in 2011. Ryan, trained as a Fire Fighter and EMT, was 30 when he succumbed to sudden cardiac arrest. Soon after his passing, Mary and her husband, Jerry, founded the Ryan J Clarke CPR Fund for Schools teaching lifesaving CPR and AED skills to students throughout the county at no cost.
Medical Professional Hero: Beth Johnson. Beth is a full-time nursing faculty in her second year at Cuesta College and long-time staff nurse at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center. She gave of her nursing expertise and personal time to assist and guide three friends and SLO county residents diagnosed with cancer through treatments and the all-too-often complicated healthcare system.
First Responder Heroes: Randy Harris, John Prickett and Jason Cox, Paso Robles Fire Department. A vehicle crashed into power poles and caught fire, trapping the driver. Fire Captain Randy Harris, Fire-Paramedic John Prickett and Firefighter Jason Cox responded to the call. The power company was en route to de-energize the live wires that covered the wrecked car; however, immediate action was required due to the degree of fire involvement. In the brief power interruption due to the impact, the Paso Robles firefighting team extracted the victim, risking their own lives.
Military Hero: Jim Pickens. Jim is a retired Marine veteran who served during multiple conflicts. He currently serves as president of two organizations: Veterans Helping Veterans In Need, Inc. and Marine Corps League-Central Coast Detachment #680. Jim started Veterans Helping Veterans in Need due to concerns about returning Iraq/Afghanistan veterans’ long wait times for benefits.
Corporate Hero: Liberty Tattoo Removal. The Liberty Tattoo Removal Program was conceived and implemented in 2000 by a group of committed individuals and organizations to increase positive lifestyle choices, improve opportunities for employment, education and quality of life for individuals with a history of gang or prison involvement and/or substance abuse. The Liberty Tattoo Removal Clinic offers free, laser tattoo removal by a qualified, volunteer physician.
Youth Hero: Alexander McGee. Alexander is a senior at Morro Bay High School, past 4H president and MVP/Captain of the water polo team. Having already proven his bravery by saving three boys from drowning in past incidents, Alexander interceded in a case of bullying as a circle of boys surrounded and pushed around a lone boy on the football field. Alexander pressed into the throng, put his arm around the victim saying “you’re with me,” and led him to safety. Alexander’s deed only became known to others when the boy’s mother called Alexander’s mother to express gratitude.
Good Samaritan Hero: Nate Otter. A paramedic for San Luis Ambulance, Nate was off-duty, enjoying a bike ride along Highway 41, when he came upon a car that had just crashed into a ditch. He saw the driver slumped over the wheel, unresponsive. Nate pried open the door and extracted the driver with the help of a bystander. Determining that the driver had gone into cardiac arrest, Nate administered CPR and was joined in resuscitation efforts by a police officer who deployed AED. The driver revived, was taken to a local hospital, and made a full recovery.
“We are proud to honor these local Heroes of the Red Cross,” said Loren Leidinger Avila, executive director of San Luis Obispo’s Red Cross chapter. “They are our neighbors here in San Luis Obispo County, symbolizing the Red Cross’ spirit of Everyday Heroes.”