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Red Cross to Honor Southern Maine Heroes

The event, hosted by Maine’s first lady Ann LePage, recognizes these people for going above and beyond in service to others.

The American Red Cross will honor six individuals and one organization from Southern Maine at its Real Heroes Breakfast, May 7 in Portland.  The event, hosted by Maine’s first lady Ann LePage, recognizes these people for going above and beyond in service to others.

Recipients include a man who rescued a choking woman — and weeks later performed CPR to save another person. You’ll also meet a young man who saved his dog from being swept into the ocean, and a Red Cross volunteer who has traveled to numerous disasters around the country, providing support to victims.

The 2015 Real Heroes Recipients Are:

Mitchell Bechard, Animal Rescue Hero, Saco

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  • Bechard braved bitterly cold water to save the family dog, Molly, preventing her from being swept into the ocean. Bechard, then 16 years old, had taken Molly to the beach for exercise. While running around the inlet to a marsh, Molly found herself in deep water, struggling against a strong current. With no other choice, Bechard jumped in. He reached Molly, but was unable to keep both of them afloat, so he pushed the dog to the edge of the water, and then swam to shore.

    Melissa Bourque (posthumously), Blood Services Hero, Portland

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  • Melissa Bourque and her husband, Mike, became advocates for blood donations while she was being treated for cancer. Melissa, diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012, received many units of blood and platelets during her treatment. The couple teamed with the Red Cross and Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce on a blood drive that used Melissa’s story to highlight the need for blood. The event, combined with others that were dedicated to her, collected more than 200 units of much-needed blood. Her nominator said, “Even in her last days, Melissa was thinking about others and orchestrating ways to benefit her community. If more people lived like Melissa, the world would be a much better place.”

    Ryan Chessie, Life Saving Hero, Saco

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  • Chessie has a knack of being in the right place at the right time. While attending his son’s soccer match, Chessie responded when his mother-in-law began choking from an obstruction in her airway. He performed several abdominal thrusts, and was able to dislodge the item. Emergency Department staff said he saved her life. Less than two months later, he performed CPR on an elderly man who became unresponsive during a meeting. Paramedics arrived and used a defibrillator to revive the man, and Chessie is credited with another life-saving maneuver.

    Ellin Ruffner, Red Cross Volunteer Award

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  • Ruffner, a long-time Red Cross volunteer, is a leader in Maine’s Disaster Mental Health effort. In this role, she provides emotional support for those affected by disasters, and also trains volunteers in psychological first aid and other disciplines. Ruffner has also deployed to nearly two dozen national efforts, including the Boston Marathon Bombing, Oklahoma tornados, Superstorm Sandy, and most recently, has led the Red Cross’ ongoing support for survivors of the Oso, Washington, mudslides.

    Officers Michael Tucci & Matthew Harrington, Kennebunk Police Department, Public Safety Award

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  • A routine traffic stop turned into a life-saving situation when the driver went into cardiac arrest. Officer Harrington had returned to his patrol car when he heard screams from the man’s wife and rushed back to the stopped vehicle. Finding the driver unresponsive, he began called for backup and began CPR. Officer Tucci arrived seconds later, and used a defibrillator to revive the man.

    Unum, Corporate Partner Award, Portland

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  • In addition to hosting Red Cross blood drives for more than a decade, Unum became Maine’s first “Ready When the Time Comes” partner last year.  In this role, a team of 17 volunteers have been trained to respond if a disaster strikes the region. For example, if flooding drives three blocks of residents from their homes, the Unum team might be called to work in a Red Cross shelter. Having a Ready When The Time Comes team gives the Red Cross access to trained volunteers who can be deployed quickly in a disaster with a single phone call.

    Event Details - American Red Cross Real Heroes Breakfast

  • Thursday, May 7
  • 7:30 – 9:30 a.m.
  • Italian Heritage Center, 40 Westland Ave, Portland