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Local Red Cross Announces 2017 Real Heroes Award Recipients

Since the inception of the Real Heroes Breakfast, the Red Cross has celebrated more than 100 individuals and numerous organizations in several categories. Each hero has their own unique story of helping others in need.

SAN DIEGO – September 14, 2017 – The American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties is pleased to announce the 20 local heroes that will be honored at its 15th Annual Real Heroes Breakfast on Sept. 29 aboard the USS Midway Museum. The popular event recognizes individuals and organizations that embody the mission and spirit of the Red Cross by saving lives and creating safer, stronger and more resilient communities.

Since the inception of the Real Heroes Breakfast, the Red Cross has celebrated more than 100 individuals and numerous organizations in several categories. Each hero has their own unique story of helping others in need.

“We look forward to hosting this event every year as an opportunity to recognize many of the brave, heroic and caring individuals and organizations in our community,” said Charlene Zettel, interim Regional CEO of the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties. “The selflessness and courageous actions told throughout their stories provide inspiration for all of us to be ready and willing to help those in need.”

This year’s Real Heroes Breakfast is generously sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric (Hometown Hero), Ford Motor Company (Community Champion), co-presenting sponsors Sycuan, US Bank and Wawanesa General Insurance along with numerous other sponsors at the regional, community and neighborhood levels.

The Real Heroes Breakfast takes place on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 at 7:30 a.m. aboard the USS Midway Museum. For more information, or to purchase individual tickets or sponsorships, please visit or call (858) 309-1267.

2017 Real Heroes honorees:

Bill Trumpfheller – Bill Trumpfheller Community Leadership Award

This year, we’re proud to introduce a new award category: the Bill Trumpfheller Community Leadership Award, created in honor of Bill Trumpfheller, who tragically passed away in December 2016. Trumpfheller was a loving family man with a larger-than-life personality, visionary business man, humanitarian, community leader, proud Aztec and long-time local Red Cross Board Member. A civic leader with a heart for service, Trumpfheller served on the boards of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Senior Community Centers, LEAD San Diego and the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. Trumpfheller had an unmatched passion, love of life, and commitment to his community. This year, Trumpfheller is the first individual to be honored with the prestigious Bill Trumpfheller Community Leadership Award. The award is given to an individual or organization that has demonstrated excellence in community leadership and whose exceptional contributions have improved the safety, development or well-being of others and positively impacted the lives of those in the region.

Derek Moses, Bob Surratt, Magdalena Armendariz, Luis Coucino, Melinda Neal, Linda Britton, and Anthony Martinez, San Diego Central Library Staff and Patrons – Adult Honorees

On April 12, 2017, San Diego Central Library staff and patrons worked together to prevent a suicide on the 9th floor terrace of the Central Library. A distraught woman was about to jump when library staff quickly moved into action. While staff pleaded with the woman not to jump, they grabbed her and held onto her as they tried to reason with her. Eventually, the brave and heroic staff and patrons were able to pull her back over the railing. Library staff and patrons reacted quickly and without hesitation to help each other and to stop the woman from jumping from the building, even resorting to hanging onto her legs and pulling her back over the railing to save her life.

Graham Bloem, Shelter to Soldier – Animal Welfare Honoree

Through his extensive dog training career, Graham Bloem encountered many military service members with combat duty experience who needed a dog service-trained for physiological support, such as post-traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other psychological disabilities due to traumatic combat experiences. Simultaneously, the number of animals euthanized in shelters on a daily basis devastated Bloem and moved him into action. By bringing his goals together, the idea for Shelter to Soldier came to life. Through Shelter to Soldier, Bloem adopts dogs from local shelters and trains them to be service dogs for post-9/11 combat veterans. Shelter to Soldier helps to alleviate the veteran suicide rate while also creating a forever home for dogs that may not have survived in a shelter. Graham spends countless hours raising funds, rescuing and training dogs, and pairing them with the appropriate veteran.

Sea World San Diego – Community Partner Honoree

SeaWorld’s in-house CPR and First Aid program educates SeaWorld ambassadors from all departments, from ride operators to the zoological team. Unannounced CPR/AED simulations are conducted monthly and involve various departments handling real-life scenario issues like crowd control and quick access for emergency responders to simulate a real cardiac arrest in the park. On June 28, 2017, practice became reality when a park guest went into sudden cardiac arrest. Approximately 40 SeaWorld Ambassadors had some type of involvement in the call, launching a swift response and helping first responders to the scene quickly and efficiently. SeaWorld has 20 public access automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and three first-aid stations throughout the park. SeaWorld San Diego’s ongoing training programs enable park staff to be better equipped to prepare for and respond to emergencies both in and outside of the park.

Chris Ingalls, John Bahl, James Lockwood and Ryan Dammann, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department – Fire and Rescue Honorees

Lifeguards John Bahl and Chris Ingalls were among the first on a chaotic scene of a capsized vessel near the surf at Windansea Beach in La Jolla. The boat was taking on water and the occupants were screaming for help in the darkness. Bahl was able to locate one of the victims, get him to the beach where citizens could help pull him out and swim back out for a second victim. Ingalls also braved the heavy surf and harrowing conditions to save two more of the boaters. Tragically, the fifth boater went missing and ultimately perished. Lifeguards Lockwood and Dammann, assisting in a rescue boat, displayed a high level of skill and executed exceptional judgement during rescue operations in difficult conditions. Undoubtedly, the heroic actions of Chris Ingalls, John Bahl, James Lockwood and Ryan Dammann saved the lives of the four boaters in distress.

Officers Curtis Chancellor and Casey Rose, Chula Vista Police Department – Law Enforcement Honorees

Officer Curtis Chancellor was the first officer to arrive on scene of a call to assist a female pinned between two vehicles in Chula Vista. The victim was standing at the trunk of her parked vehicle when she was struck and pinned. A family member moved one vehicle, which freed her, but in doing so, released the pressure on her legs. Her legs suffered severe trauma and were partially severed. Officer Chancellor immediately placed a tourniquet on her left leg. Officer Casey Rose arrived and placed a tourniquet on her right leg. Officer Rose noticed that she was still bleeding and requested two more tourniquets, applying a second tourniquet to her right leg while a firefighter applied a second tourniquet to her left leg. Officer Chancellor and Officer Rose exhibited quick-thinking actions during a chaotic and stressful situation. UCSD Trauma Surgeon Dr. Laura Godat credited the application of the tourniquets with helping to save the victim’s life.

Lance Corporal Tyler Robinson, United States Marine Corps – Military Honoree

Lance Corporal (then Private First Class) Tyler Robinson was serving as a military police officer at MCRD San Diego when he observed a subject carrying a duffel bag attempting to gain access to the depot, bypassing Robinson’s post. Robinson immediately challenged the subject, who repeatedly ignored his commands, until suddenly, the subject stopped, turned and moved directly toward Lance Corporal Robinson, exclaiming “it was time to die.” Robinson began giving commands to the subject, using the appropriate amount of force to quickly and decisively gain control of the subject and contain the threat. Lance Corporal Robinson’s decisive actions facilitated the rapid response of follow-on officers, who set a cordon, closed the gate and conducted an explosive sweep of the subject's bag by military working dogs. Lance Corporal Robinson’s actions while under attack successfully repelled a security breach and brought what could have been a deadly and dangerous situation to a safe conclusion.

Paul Gonzalez and Trevor Hidalgo – Youth Honorees

On July 8, 2017, Paul Gonzalez’s father had taken Paul and a few of his friends to La Jolla Cove for a day of snorkeling. In the afternoon, Paul was taking a break when out of nowhere a strong surge came in, knocking down some of those in the water. Lifeguards directed everyone off the shore. Paul’s friend Trevor was at the shoreline when he spotted something in the water. They looked on, initially thinking it was another snorkeler and waiting for a snorkel to pop-up. When none did, Paul and Trevor yelled for help and swam out to the individual in distress. When they got to him, the swimmer was lifeless and foaming at the mouth. When they got to shore, onlookers helped pull the man onto the beach and lifeguards began administering first aid. The brave and quick-thinking actions of Paul Gonzales and Trevor Hidalgo gave the drowning man his best chance of survival.

Phil Landis, Veterans Village of San Diego – Humanitarian Award Honoree

Phil Landis began his service to our country during the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1969 at the rank of Captain and was awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge. His involvement with Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) began in 1996 when he volunteered to work at the Veterans Stand Down. He became committed to VVSD mission, initially serving on the VVSD Board and becoming CEO in 2007. Under Landis’ supervision, VVSD became a nationally-recognized leader in providing a full-range of innovative services including prevention, intervention, treatment, rapid re-housing, and employment services to all generations of military veterans. As CEO, Landis managed the expansion of VVSD to a modern, state-licensed alcohol and drug treatment center. He continued to grow VVSD’s services by building new facilities for veterans and their families. In 2017, Landis retired at the 30th anniversary of Stand Down, the event that inspired him to become involved with the organization so many years before.

About the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties

The American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties is the most trusted community service organization in education, preparation and response to natural disasters and human emergencies. With the public’s ongoing support, we provide lifesaving preparedness training; disaster relief services; services to deployed military personnel and their families, and nutritional counseling through our Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Through Prepare San Diego, a four-year regional resiliency initiative, the Red Cross brings together key community and business leaders from the region to create a sustainable network that encourages preparedness, carries out response and recovery plans, and strives for resiliency in the face of disaster, meeting all aspects of the disaster lifecycle. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or connect with us on Facebook and YouTube and Twitter.