You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Local Red Cross Announces 2012 “Real Heroes” Winners

SAN DIEGO, September 5, 2012 – The American Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter is pleased to announce local heroes across ten categories at its 10th Anniversary of the Real Heroes Awards Breakfast, a community celebration honoring local individuals and organizations who’ve made a commitment to creating safer, stronger communities and providing help when disaster strikes.

The event takes place on Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 7:30 a.m. aboard the USS Midway Museum. This year the American Red Cross is honored to welcome keynote speaker, Jerry DeFrancisco, President of Humanitarian Services for the American Red Cross nationally. In addition, this year the local Red Cross honors one its own heroes, CEO Joe W. Craver, for all he has done to make this organization, community and country a better place.

“Each one of our Real Heroes embody the spirit of the Red Cross mission and we are proud to share their stories – stories that will rekindle your belief in the human spirit and the notion that we are capable of sacrificing everything for someone we’ve never met,” said Andrea Waldron, Chief Development Officer of the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Those interested in attending the event are encouraged to visit or call (858) 309-1278. The Red Cross also encourages virtual participation via Twitter by using the hashtag #SDICRealHeroes to give kudos to the recipients.

The following local heroes will be honored during the 2012 Real Heroes Breakfast:

Adult Award: Jason Muchmore ─ Last November, Muchmore was driving his car when suddenly, a small sport utility vehicle (SUV) passed in front of him and rolled over several times, finally coming to rest in a flood control channel. The channel was moving at a rapid pace and the now upside down vehicle was quickly filling with water. Mr. Muchmore immediately pulled over, ran down the embankment, jumped into the channel and began cutting through the seatbelts of the mother and children. After rescuing the passengers, he went back to help keep the father’s head out of the water until professional rescuers arrived on scene.

Animal Rescue Award: Niki Burgan and Rummy the Canine Lifeguard ─ When members of Burgan’s family died in a small-plane crash off the Carlsbad coast in 2007, she became convinced that training dogs for search and rescue missions could make both the Coast Guard and lifeguard agencies more successful in bringing people home. Fueled by personal tragedy, Burgan founded the SoCal H20 Rescue Team, the nation’s first K-9 lifeguard team to provide support to search, rescue and recovery missions. To date, Burgan and Rummy have rescued 47 people. When Burgan and Rummy are not rescuing, they work to educate the public about aquatic safety on our beaches.

Company Award: Ford Motor Company Fund and San Diego County Ford Dealers ─ Ford is committed to community safety and disaster preparedness. In 2011, the Ford Motor Company Fund partnered with the local Red Cross to provide disaster readiness presentations at local elementary and middle schools where pre-packed disaster response backpacks were distributed to students. In addition, the Ford Motor Company Fund donated a new Ford Transit Connect to be used as a disaster response vehicle. The San Diego County Ford Dealers also got directly involved by distributing disaster response car kits in all new cars that were sold and assembled a local volunteer group to train as Red Cross disaster volunteers.

Fire & Rescue Award: Firefighters Daniel McNamara, Robert Hartman, Jeff Oliver and Chris Sovay ─ Last July, Captain Robert Hartman and Firefighters Jeff Oliver, Daniel McNamara, and Chris Sovay arrived on scene to a structure fire. After the initial interior attack, Oliver searched the building with Captain Harman closely behind. Oliver found a man sitting in a room with a knife in his hand. Unaware of the victim’s intentions and being faithful to his duties, Oliver reached for the man to remove him from the dangerous environment just as the man lunged at him with the knife, which Oliver was able to avoid. Firefighters Sovay and McNamara became aware that something wasn’t right and went to the assistance of their team members. After a brief exchange, the firefighters were able to notify police officers to assist. Despite this encounter, the firefighters quickly returned to their duties and successfully put out the fire.

Law Enforcement Award: Officer Dionisio “Danny” Medina In February, Officer Medina was passing by in his patrol car and witnessed an accident at Balboa Avenue and Clairemont Drive. A 26-year-old man's stalled Chevrolet Impala was rear-ended by sport utility vehicle. Police say the SUV driver did not notice the Impala and smashed into it while going about 50 mph. The crash ruptured the Impala's gas tank and caused it to burst into flames on impact. Medina was unable to open the driver’s door and without hesitating, smashed in a window on the burning Impala and pulled out the unconscious driver to safety.

Medical Award: Dr. Bruce Michael Potenza ─ Dr. Potenza, Medical Director of the Regional Burn Center at University of California San Diego is described by his colleagues and patients as a person of character who stands tall regardless of height, and is deeply committed to do what is right for the patient, their family and community. Dr. Potenza currently serves as a Captain in the United States Naval Reserve where his skill and expertise were used during Desert Storm and at Balboa he is educating young naval physicians to become expert practitioners through education and mentoring. When Dr. Potenza was notified that a new team was being deployed to Iraq for critical burn care, he immediately rallied his UCSD team to provide an Advanced Burn Life Support class to provide basic skills to the military members on how to respond to medical emergencies.

Media Award: NBC 7 San Diego ─ NBC 7 San Diego is dedicated to many organizations in the community, supporting dozens of programs, events and causes, year-round through their news, as well as in promotional efforts through innovative campaigns. For the past year, NBC 7 San Diego News at 4pm has partnered with the American Red Cross and dedicated regular segments to help educate the community on a range of safety topics that are pertinent to San Diego residents including emergency preparedness, life-saving classes, community events, disaster news, information about our local military support and more.

Military Award: Construction Mechanic First Class Ronald White ─ In June, Construction Mechanic First Class Ronald White was aboard the USS Pelileu in the ship’s galley eating dinner when he noticed a Staff Sergeant at his table was showing signs of choking. White asked him if he was okay and the gentlemen responded, "I am ok." White continued to monitor the situation and within a couple minutes the gentleman was unable to cough and gave the international sign of choking with both hands across his neck. White quickly sprang into action using the Heimlich maneuver to assist the Staff Sergeant and was able to successfully dislodge the obstruction.

Youth Award: Connor Stotts ─ Last July, Connor was swimming with five friends near the Oceanside Pier when they began to be pulled out to sea by a riptide current. Within moments, the water was over their heads and the young swimmers began fighting to stay afloat. As a trained junior lifeguard, Connor understood the grave implications of the situation and began instructing his friends on how to safely return to shore. Unfortunately, fatigue began to set in and a few of the swimmers started to panic as they were pulled further under water. Realizing his friends were now in serious danger, Connor leaped into action and began to rescue one of his friends. Once safely ashore, Connor turned and saw that two of his other friends were still struggling to stay afloat in the riptide. Connor was able to fight his way back out through the current and bring his other two friends to shore.

Wendell Cutting Humanitarian Award: Stephen J. Wampler ─ Many years ago, Wampler made the commitment that he would find a way to enable children with disabilities to not only take advantage of the great outdoors, but to embrace them. In 2002, Wampler created the Stephen J. Wampler Foundation to provide a one-of-a-kind wilderness experience to physically disabled children nationwide, with the belief nature teaches everyone that challenges can be overcome and we need only look beyond our own physical limitations in life to succeed. Born with a severe form of cerebral palsy, Stephen Wampler has lived his life with the mentality that nothing can stop him. Driven by this, Wampler became the first man with cerebral palsy to climb the largest rock face in the world; El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

About the American Red Cross, San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter

The American Red Cross is not a government agency and relies on the generosity of the American people to provide our programs and services. The San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter 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; 24-hour emergency services to deployed military personnel and their families; and nutritional counseling through our Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. For more information about or to support the chapter please contact (858) 309-1200 or visit Please also connect with us on Facebook and YouTube.