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Local Red Cross Announces 2013 “Real Heroes” Winners

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 18, 2013– The American Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter is pleased to announce local heroes across ten categories at its 11th Annual Real Heroes Breakfast, a community celebration honoring local individuals and organizations who represent the mission of the Red Cross by creating safer, more prepared and stronger communities.

The local heroes being honored this year include the inspirational stories of a 12-year-old boy battling brain cancer who gave a special gift to his school, a border patrol agent who lost his life trying to save a stranger and an “animalitarian” rescuing geriatric, special needs, and terminally ill cats and dogs.

In addition, the Red Cross will honor Lieutenant General Honoré for his compelling representation of leadership, heroism, resilience, and optimism exhibited during the response to Hurricane Katrina. General Honoré is also being honored for his strong advocacy for emergency preparedness, fitting well into the recently launched Prepare San Diego initiative.

“Each one of our Real Heroes embody the spirit of the Red Cross mission and we are proud to share their stories,” said Tony Young, CEO of the local Red Cross. “Their stories are those of courage, perseverance and emergency preparedness– true heroes that our community needs to know about and learn from.”

The event takes place on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 at 7:30 a.m. aboard the USS Midway Museum. Those interested in purchasing a table to attend 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 2013 Real Heroes Breakfast:

Adult Award: Sheila Riley- Sheila’s motherly instincts kicked into overdrive last July when a powerful rainstorm hit the high desert town of Brawley. Sheila and a co-worker were driving when they noticed a car floating down the Central Main Canal with two girls, Mae Olbyrne and Madelene Galupar screaming for help. Madelene crawled out of the car window into the turbulent water in an attempt to reach land to call for assistance. As she floated down the canal, Sheila and her co-worker noticed the girl didn’t know how to swim. Sheila was worried the girl would float off to the next dangerous section of the canal called “the drop” and without hesitation, jumped into the water to assist. Sheila quickly reached the young woman in distressed, grabbed her and paddled to the side of the canal where they got out and called for help. Highway Patrol officers and Brawley Fire Department personnel arrived and were able to assist Mae safely out of the canal as well.

Animal Welfare Award: Carla Naden- As the founder of Synergy Animal Rescue, Carla is called a true “animalitarian” by many for her great work as a humanitarian who selflessly dedicates her life to rescuing geriatric, special needs, and terminally ill cats and dogs at animal control. Through her work at Synergy Animal Rescue she provides animals with a second chance at a happy, pain-free life or a hospice-like environment where they can pass in peace and dignity, surrounded by love. Carla has amassed a team of support to nurture the animals, including three veterinarians, who provide medical evaluations and rehabilitation plans. The animals live at Carla’s sanctuary in Vista, where they are given unconditional love, respect and the time they need to heal. As the animals heal, Carla and her team determine if they should go to a foster home, be adopted out or remain in the sanctuary until they pass.

Company Award: SERVPRO of Sorrento Valley/University City- SERVPRO is committed to helping San Diegans pick up the pieces following a disaster. Their bright green trucks are often seen providing support services to homes or businesses that have been damaged by fire, smoke or water. SERVPRO serves to help those in need, restore their homes back to proper condition and do it with compassion during what can be a very confusing and scary time. Not only does SERVPRO provide relief and restoration to people impacted by disasters, the company also works with first responders and the community to prepare for future disasters and offers a free mobile app, SERVPRO® Ready Plan as an easy tool for property owners.

Fire & Rescue Award: San Diego Fire-Rescue Engine 201/C - Capt. Mike Pugh, Matt Bruntsch, Kyle Smith, Sean Lubach - On March 11, 2013, San Diego Fire-Rescue Engine 201/C was dispatched from Station 1 in downtown San Diego and headed to the Heritage Hotel. Captain Mike Pugh, Engineer Matt Bruntsch, Firefighter and Paramedic Kyle Smith and Firefighter Sean Lubach arrived at the scene where people were stuck on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the burning structure. As the firefighters began rescue efforts, they realized this situation was offering unique challenges mainly because of a 30-inch gap between the building where people were in need of rescue and where they could use a ladder. The firefighters stood on a wall six to eight inches wide with a drop of 30 feet on either side in order to save the trapped residents. After they were able to successfully secure ladders, the residents were able to climb out of the windows and into the arms or their rescuers. With these unique cir cumstances, the crew was able to successfully remove all the occupants. Five additional SDFD crews involved demonstrated teamwork and expert firefighting tactics and strategy in the overall success of this fire.

Medical Award: Dr. Kenneth Greenberg and Dr. Martin Greenberg- Dr. Kenneth Greenberg and his father, Dr. Martin Greenberg live by the Hippocratic Oath, they are advocates for patients in need. The two doctors are driven by their compassion for their patients and being able to make people better. Dr. Martin Greenberg, a retired OB-GYN and his son Kenneth, a chiropractor, volunteer their medical skills to provide healthcare for those who cannot afford it at Volunteers in Medicine, a nonprofit medical clinic serving low-income, uninsured families in San Diego. With the support of volunteer medical professionals including Drs. Kenneth and Martin Greenberg, Volunteers in Medicine is able to ensure residents of San Diego can access healthcare services and support.

Media Award: Michael Chen, 10 News- For more than a decade, KGTV Channel 10 News reporter, Michael Chen has been reporting in San Diego seeking out local stories to empower San Diegans. Michael has covered a variety of difficult issues including stories of families recovering from the 2007 wildfires and the needs of the diverse homeless community. Michael’s passion for the homeless community began six years ago when he met David Ross using his own money to provide water and food to homeless men, women and children. Michael credits David’s contagious passion for his desire to seek stories that he might not have pushed so hard for before. He believes by bringing these stories to viewers, he can inspire them to reach out and help people in the community.

Military Award: Cryptologic Technician 3rd Class Arturo Guerra and Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Sean Kelley- A road trip home to Moore, Okla. last May landed sailors Sean Kelley and Arturo Guerra directly in line with a deadly tornado. Sean and Arturo locked themselves in a tornado shelter with 12 others when the storm cut a devastating path through the community. The group huddled around an emergency radio and heard reports of the elementary school less than a mile away being destroyed. Sean, his father and Arturo jumped into action, grabbed gloves and drove down to the school to see if they could help. The group was among the first to arrive at the Plaza Towers Elementary School to attempt to recover children buried among the rubble. When they came upon the gymnasium, they found a wall had fallen over pinning a teacher and children to the ground. Arturo will never forget as they began pulling the class out of the rubble in an assembly line formation, a father&rsqu o;s eyes lit up as he recognized his daughter being passed to him from down the line. Sean and Arturo’s quick-thinking and military training helped them save four students and their teacher.

Youth Award: Jose Montano- For more than two years, Jose has been battling an aggressive and rare form of brain cancer. During this time, the Make-A-Wish Foundation reached out to Jose with an opportunity to make a dream come true. Jose gave it some thought and ideas like a trip to Disneyland or getting a pet came to mind, but after coming back from treatment one day he told his father he wanted a new playground for his school, one that his siblings and fellow students could enjoy. On March 1, 2012 (Jose’s 11th birthday), Make-A-Wish unveiled the new playground at Berry Elementary School in Nestor. This playground, which bears a plaque in his honor to Jose’s surprise, was hailed as a gift the community will be able to cherish for years to come.

Wendell Cutting Humanitarian Award: Kristen Paruginog - On December 3, 2011, Kristen Paruginog stepped forward on social media to express her feelings publicly of being a survivor of domestic violence after getting a restraining order on her ex-boyfriend. Her experiences of being verbally, mentally and physically abused during a three-year relationship empowered her to start a charity called “Breaking the Silence Against Domestic Violence,” dedicated to shedding light on domestic violence through education, leadership and discussion. Since starting her charity, many have reached out the Kristen via social media channels and she discovered an instant connection with thousands of people who also shared their stories of abuse.

About the American Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter

The American Red Cross 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. 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 vis it or connect with us on Facebook and YouTube and Twitter.