The American Red Cross of Central New York honored more than 30 Central New Yorkers for their heroic actions during the past year at its 15th annual Real Heroes Breakfast Dec. 4, at the Oncenter in Syracuse.
The Real Heroes Breakfast celebrates the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering by recognizing people from throughout Central New York who have performed heroic acts in life-threatening situations. Among this year’s honorees are a 14-year-old boy who saved four people from drowning; a 17-year-old boy who rescued a 93-year-old man who had plunged his car into a reservoir; and several neighbors, co-workers and first responders who performed CPR or rescued people from burning buildings.
About 850 people attended the event. Proceeds from the Real Heroes Breakfast benefit the Red Cross, which provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.
Working families in Central New York require almost daily emergency assistance because of home fires and other disasters, and in the fiscal year that ended June 30 the Red Cross provided more than $180,000 to 803 people from 283 families impacted by fires and floods in Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, Madison and Oswego counties.
Here’s the list of this year’s Real Heroes Breakfast awards and honorees:
• Adult Good Samaritan Award: Michael Vaughn, Kelly Vaughn, Debra Dromms, Kevin McLaughlin. In August, Michael Vaughn was alerted to trouble at the neighbors’ house by his mother, Kelly. Michael used a stool to jump a six-foot fence and, with McLaughlin’s help, pulled a drowning man out of a pool in Clay. Michael, who had been certified in CPR by the Red Cross in July, and Dromms, a nurse, performed CPR on the man until he started breathing.
• Animal Rescue Award: Francis Geremia. Geremia, of Syracuse, is a wildlife photographer who one day last winter came across a red-tailed hawk that was snared by a discarded fishing line in a tree along Onondaga Creek. The hawk was being attacked by crows, but Geremia distracted the crows by tossing snowballs at them and the hawk escaped when the branch gave way.
• Blood Donor Award: John “Jack” Miller. Miller, of Auburn, has donated blood since 1950 and has been a blood services coordinator for the American Red Cross of Cayuga County since 1989. Miller organizes a monthly drive – known as “Jack’s Drive” – at United Methodist Church in Auburn that attracts an average of 100 donors each month and saves 3,600 lives per year.
• Education Award: Onondaga Community College Campus Safety & Security employees Dan Aldrich, Mary Buchal, Josh Cantello and Jeff Draper. When an elderly man collapsed in March at SRC Arena, Fire Marshall Cantello responded immediately to provide care, Campus Peace Officers Aldrich and Draper joined him one minute later, and Information Aide Buchal handled the emergency communications. Cantello, Aldrich and Draper performed CPR and used an AED, saving the man’s life.
• Fire Rescue Award: Judy and Ron Lafaver, Don Miller, Eric Ungleich, Cicero Fire Chief Jon Barrett, Cicero Police Sgt. John Baldini and Cicero Police officer Jim Snell. When a fire broke out in October 2012 in Cicero, next-door neighbor Ron Lafaver called 9-1-1 and his wife, Judy, dashed to the house and yelled to the occupants to get out. While Ron Lafaver fought the flames with a garden hose, Miller and Ungleich ran to the house, where they, along with Barrett and Baldini, pulled a young man out of the burning home and Snell gave him medical attention until the ambulance arrived.
• Good Neighbor Award: Alex Travis. Travis, of Kirkville, saved the life of an elderly man in August after pulling the man from his car that was submerged in Bradley Brook Reservoir in Eaton. Through the darkness and haze of the water, 17-year-old Travis managed to break into the car, free the man and keep the man’s head above water for the 15 yards back to the shore.
• Industrial Safety Award: HP Hood employees Bill Brockway, William Godaire, Dan Hatch, Dave Holeck, Mary Martinek, Andrew Pozniak, Dawn Strong, Will Storey and Jason Vanderhoof. When an HP Hood employee passed out in May after vomiting and complaining of dizziness, Martinek called for help, Pozniak and Brockway provided assistance and Hatch called 9-1-1. Storey noticed the man had no pulse and applied the AED pads and chest compressions along with Godaire until EMTs arrived.
• Law Enforcement Award: Fulton Police Officer Gary Percival and Kiernan O’Neil. When Jen O’Neil, of Fulton, lost consciousness in July, her 9-year-old son Kiernan told his neighbor to call 9-1-1. Officer Percival was nearby and performed CPR for the first time in his career to save Jen’s life.
• Medical Award: Rosamond Gifford Zoo employees Sarah Kohler, John Moakler and Liz Schmidt. While at the zoo on a field trip last December, Burma native and Syracuse resident Oo Meh went into labor near the duck pond. Kohler, Moakler and Schmidt received calls on their zoo radios alerting them to the impending birth and rushed to the scene, where they delivered the baby (named December Paw).
• Military Award: Brian Matthews. Tech Sgt. Brian Matthews, of Clay, is a member of the 174th Attack Wing’s Communication Squadron Quality Assurance team. Walking with his wife and dog in March, Matthews noticed a house with nine residents was on fire and he and his son, Nicolas, used a ladder to rescue a mother and her two children from the second floor of the burning home.
• Youth Good Samaritan Award: Marshall Winn. Winn, 14, of Camillus, was on the shore of Lake Ontario near the mouth of South Sandy Creek in August when he heard screams for help. Winn grabbed life jackets and used his Wave Runner watercraft to rescue four people.
• 9-1-1 Dispatch Award: Tiffany Hotaling. Hotaling, a public safety dispatcher from Syracuse, received a frantic call in July from a man who said his co-worker had been electrocuted and wasn’t breathing. Hotaling calmed the caller and provided CPR instructions, while also updating the emergency responders who arrived 7 ½ minutes later. The hospital staff re-established a pulse and the man survived.
Next year's Real Heroes Breakfast will be held on Dec. 3 at the Oncenter in Syracuse. Want to get involved? Visit our Real Heroes Breakfast page.