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American Red Cross to Honor 13 Local Heroes

The American Red Cross will honor 13 local individuals who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s annual Heroes Breakfast event April 30.

This year’s honorees will be recognized for saving lives by pulling survivors from a fiery highway car crash to matching blood donors with patients who have rare blood types. They fought to change military medical laws and rescued a woman who nearly drowned in a drain pipe. They continue efforts to battle human trafficking and also bring holiday cheer to children in Chicago Public Schools.

All honorees will be recognized at the American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast next month at the Fairmont Chicago, located at 200 N. Columbus Drive. To purchase tickets or for more information contact 312.729.6388 or visit

The 2014 Heroes Breakfast honorees are:

David B. Speer of ITW will be honored posthumously with the Heritage Award, which recognizes corporate responsibility to employees, consumers and the public. A charismatic leader with a philanthropic spirit, Speer supported many organizations, including the American Red Cross, through the ITW Foundation’s charitable programs. Those contributions continue to make an impact around the community. Equally generous with his own time, Speer was just as comfortable rolling up his sleeves at a youth bowl-a-thon as he was at a black-tie fundraiser. He passed away in 2012.

Kenneth Hechtman of Buffalo Grove will be honored as the Adult Good Samaritan Hero. Hechtman saved a mother and daughter from an explosive car wreck on a busy highway. Complete strangers before the night of the accident, the families remained connected and Hechtman has since raised $15,000 to help the mother and daughter with their medical and living expenses.

Rosie Colucci of Palatine will be honored as the Youth Good Samaritan Hero. Nine-year-old Rosie was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 3. She’s had 13 surgeries and more than 140 rounds of chemotherapy, but from her winning smile, upbeat attitude and desire to help others most can’t tell she’s been ill for most of her young life. Rosie’s Toy Box was created by the nine-year-old to bring joy and hope to children one toy at a time. Additionally in the past six years, Rosie has become a young philanthropist raising more than $325,000 towards research for pediatric illnesses.

Dr. A. Kyle Mack of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago will be honored as the Blood Services Hero. Dr. Mack and his colleagues started the Blue Tie Tag Program which treats predominately African American patients with sickle cell disease who are in need of constant blood transfusions. With high demand and limited sources for these rare blood types, Mack reached out to local businesses, faith-based institutions and schools to host blood drives in ethnic and minority communities to match donors with the same blood type as his patients.

Kristen Hendricks of Elburn will be honored as the Citizenship Hero. Hendricks watched a documentary of young girls sold into slavery in Uganda and it broke her heart. She decided to take action and founded the Kwagala Project, a non-profit that provides survivors with housing, education, vocational training and therapy. Hendricks has helped hundreds of girls start a new life.

Beth Conlon of Glenview will be honored as the Community Impact Hero. Conlon founded a “Secret Santa” program for Chicago Public Schools elementary students because she believed every child should experience the joy of unwrapping a present during the holidays. Conlon turns her home into a Santa’s workshop five months of the year, with clothes and toys taking over the rooms and the hallways. Over the past 13 years, Conlon has made it possible to bring gifts and smiles to more than 20,000 children.

Nancy Brooks Edison, R.N., B.S.N. of Chicago will be honored as the Disaster Relief Hero. Edison has devoted 50 years of her life as a volunteer for the American Red Cross. She has provided front line support during countless disasters, helping families cope with loss after a home fire, flood or tornado. Her skills and calm demeanor have brought comfort to hundreds of families for five decades and helped put them back on the road to recovery.

Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Koeppen of the Arlington Heights Fire Department will be honored as the Emergency Medical Assistance Hero. A 34-year veteran of the fire department, Koeppen was off-duty when he saw the commotion outside a nearby home. A gunman was holding a person hostage inside and a police officer was shot responding to the domestic disturbance. Trained in first aid, Koeppen applied pressure to the officer’s wounds and stabilized him until paramedics arrived.

Firefighter Dan Schiradelly of the Oswego Fire Protection District in Kendall County will be honored as the Firefighter Hero. Schiradelly is the Battalion Chief and a member of the department’s swift water rescue team. During the height of the April floods last year, he jumped into frigid waters and saved a woman who was caught in a drain pipe and nearly drowned.

Sergeant James Cascone and Sergeant Dawn Love of Chicago will be honored as the Law Enforcement Heroes. The two sergeants represent a total of 17 officers from the Chicago Police Department 5th District who responded to reports of a knife-wielding man at a home on the city’s South Side. The suspect lunged at Sgt. Cascone with two large butcher knives. Sgt. Love came to his immediate aid to treat his wounds, while the other officers on scene managed the rest of the incident.

Alderman James Balcer of Chicago will be honored as the Military Hero. A United States Marine Corp veteran, Alderman Balcer served in Vietnam where he was honored with three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, Combat "V", before he was elected to serve the 11th Ward in the City of Chicago. He is a staunch advocate for service members, veterans and their families, not only in his ward, but throughout the state of Illinois. Balcer fought for legislation that would allow fire departments in the city of Chicago to transport veterans to VA hospitals.

Stephanie Krienitz, R.N., B.S.N., of Plainfield will be honored as the Nurse Hero. For more than two decades, Krienitz has focused her nursing practice on caring for women, children and the elderly at Rush University Medical Center, in addition to those in vulnerable parts of the world. At the heart of Krienitz’s work abroad are people in the Philippines where she completed three missions. Her passion is to provide quality healthcare with compassion to everyone.

Presenting Sponsors for the American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast are Allstate, Aon and ITW. Breakfast Sponsors are BMO Harris, Grainger, JP Morgan Chase, Motorola Solutions Foundation, and Walgreens. Hero Award Sponsors are CDW, ComEd, Fortune Brands Home & Security, NES Rentals, Northern Trust, PwC and USG. Ambassador Sponsors are Abbott, Anixter International Inc., Deloitte, Kirkland & Ellis, McDonald’s Corporation, and Navistar International Corporation.

Honorees were selected from more than 170 nominations in 12 categories throughout the greater Chicago region by a committee of Red Cross board members and leaders in the business and civic community.

About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago leads a regional grouping in Illinois and Northwest Indiana that serves more than 9.6 million people. Follow us on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross. For more information: