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Central Coast Red Cross announces 2017 Heroes Breakfast honorees

Media Contact: Cynthia Shaw

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12th Annual Heroes Breakfast to be held on Friday, June 16

APTOS, CA (May 12, 2017) – The American Red Cross of the Central Coast will be honoring 11 inspirational community members for their acts of courage or compassion at the 12th Annual Heroes Breakfast on Friday, June 16, in Aptos.

After careful consideration, a committee of local community leaders selected the 2017 Central Coast Hero Award recipients based on the degree to which their acts of heroism or compassion uphold the values of the American Red Cross and leave a lasting and positive impact on the residents of the Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties. The following is a list of the heroes who will be honored at this year’s breakfast; descriptions of each honoree's actions follow.

• Animal Rescue Hero: Rosanna Leighton – Seaside
• Disaster Services Hero: Sarah Blackstone – Monterey
• Education Hero: Willie Stokes – San Juan Bautista
• Environmental Heroes: Alex Weber and Jack Johnston – Carmel
• First Responder Hero: Kraig Evans – Santa Cruz
• Good Samaritan Hero - Adult: Michael Dremel – Seaside
• Good Samaritan Hero - Youth: Reese Selck – Watsonville
• International Services Hero: Jon Winston – Santa Cruz
• Medical Hero: Larry deGhetaldi – Soquel
• Service to the Armed Forces Hero: Lisa Tkoch-McFarland – Felton

The event will take place at Twin Lakes Church, located at 2701 Cabrillo College Drive. Registration will open at 8 a.m., and the program will run from 8:30 until 10 a.m. Table sponsorships and individual tickets are still available for the event.

The Heroes Breakfast is a community event that supports the lifesaving programs and emergency services the local chapter provides for the nearly 750,000 residents of Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties. To purchase tickets to the breakfast, please go to: To help with sponsorships or if you have other questions about the event, please call 831-624-6921.

About American Red Cross of the Central Coast:
With offices in Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties, the American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. 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, visit our web site at or call us at 1-831-624-6921. You may also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Animal Rescue Hero: Rosanna Leighton
During the destructive Soberanes Fire last fall, the SPCA for Monterey County rescued hundreds of animals in need — and Rosanna Leighton led these rescue efforts. It takes a special person to support hundreds of animals and even reptiles, all of which have different needs. During the months-long fire, the SPCA took in 232 pets displaced by the blaze, including 57 cats, 45 dogs, 88 chickens, 6 goats, 6 ducks, 5 turkeys, 5 horses, 4 guinea hens, 3 donkeys, 3 parakeets, 3 fish, 1 parrot, 1 rabbit, 1 lamb, 1 turtle, 1 tarantula, 1 king snake, and 1 leopard gecko. Remarkably, after weeks or even months in the care of the SPCA, every single rescued pet was returned safe and sound to its owners.

Disaster Services Hero: Sarah Blackstone
In 2015, Sarah Blackstone became a founding board member of Community Emergency Response Volunteers (CERV) of the Monterey Peninsula. The nonprofit's mission is to support local Community Emergency Response Teams programs, build public awareness about emergency preparedness, and promote the community's capacity to respond to natural and man-made emergencies. CERV has no paid staff, and as a grassroots, volunteer-based organization, it is dependent on Blackstone's leadership — and that leadership was in evidence during the Soberanes Fire last year. Because of the fire, affected individuals and families had an abundance of needs, many of which were filled within hours because of the efforts of Blackstone and the volunteers she managed.

Education Hero: Willie Stokes
Willie Stokes grew up in Salinas, raised by an aunt and uncle in a house filled with children. His life was not easy, and he often found himself in trouble; before long, he found himself in prison. Behind bars, Stokes connected with the violent prison gang life, becoming a high-ranking member. But while serving time in Pelican Bay, Stokes began to reconsider his affiliation with gangs, eventually writing his book, The Testimony of a Black Sheep, which exposed the way gangs persuade youth through fear and a false sense of love to embrace a life of drugs, robbery, extortion, and even murder. Once Stokes was paroled, his sole mission was to steer as many youth as possible away from the influence of gangs. In Santa Cruz County, he does just that, working with youth and young adults in the schools, at Juvenile Hall, in County Jail, and even at a Sports Summer Camp for at-risk youth.

Environmental Heroes: Alex Weber and Jack Johnston
While ocean freediving, two young outdoor enthusiasts discovered thousands of golf balls polluting the Monterey Bay. The discovery prompted Alex Weber and Jack Johnston, beginning in May 2016, to get to work removing more than 12,000 balls from a single cove below the Pebble Beach Golf Links course. "The entire sea floor was just white golf balls rolling around," says Alex, who was a junior at Carmel High School at the time. The golf balls were in various states of deterioration, and Alex has been researching micro plastics and their effects on marine life. One golf ball’s rubber band core can stretch up to 270 feet and create potential for wildlife entanglement, consumption, and choking. The balls also pollute the ocean waters, as the outer layer of plastic is being literally sanded off and is unrecoverable in the water. After completing multiple dives and collecting hundreds of pounds of golf balls, the teens and their parents contacted the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Pebble Beach Company, which have now developed an annual clean-up program offshore at Pebble Beach.

First Responder Hero: Kraig Evans
Capitola Police Officer Kraig Evans was on patrol in February 2016 when he observed a person in distress inside a vehicle. Quickly responding, Officer Evans discovered an elderly male in the vehicle showing no signs of life. Suspecting that the man had suffered a heart attack, Officer Evans immediately began CPR inside the vehicle. Due to the man’s large stature, Evans was unable to remove him from the vehicle until a Good Samaritan citizen, Tristan Grell, arrived to provide assistance. Outside the car now, Officer Evans and Grell continued to administer CPR, and Officer Jackie Yeung arrived and also assisted in CPR efforts. By the time the ambulance arrived, the victim had regained a pulse and began to show other signs of life. The victim was transported to the hospital but survived the heart attack, in large part because Officer Evans recognized that a driver needed assistance, quickly responded, and made significant contributions to the team effort to revive him.

Good Samaritan Hero – Adult: Michael Dremel
Michael Dremel, a chemistry teacher, was instructing one of his Marina High School classes on February 7 when he noticed a student starting to slump in his chair. Dremel verbally tried to engage Kyle Larson, but the student was unresponsive. With assistance from students and staff, Dremel calmly sprung into action, administering CPR. When it was determined that Kyle's current health state needed more support than CPR, the school's Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was retrieved from the main office. Dremel and another staff member followed the AED's directions while waiting for emergency services help. After the paramedics arrived, Kyle was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered a cardiac arrest. Though he was treated there for more than a week before being released, Kyle Larson had survived — and Dremel's swift actions were credited with saving his life.

Good Samaritan Hero – Youth: Reese Selck
This past January, 15-year-old Reese Selck and his 11-year-old brother Charlie were walking together alongside a rain-swollen drainage canal in Watsonville. Suddenly, Charlie's footing gave way, and he fell into the fast-moving waters, which flowed into a large underground culvert before feeding the Pajaro River. Charlie's fate would have been certain death if he had become sucked into the culvert. But, heroically, Reese was able to grab Charlie and hold onto him just enough to keep his brother's head above water. Somehow, he also managed to dial 9-1-1 on his cellphone. About that time, Amber Koenig, who lived nearby, jumped into the water to assist the brothers; the trio was soon joined by Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department Deputy Brian Erbe. With both adults struggling to keep themselves, Reese, and Charlie from being pulled under, Watsonville Fire Department firefighters John Stone and Ben Avis arrived on the scene. With extra help, everyone was safely extracted from the water. But without Reese Selck’s initial response, a young life would surely have been lost.

International Services Hero: Jon Winston
Most successful clubs and organizations have an indispensable backbone, and the Sunrise Rotary Club's is Jon Winston. Having served on the club's Board of Directors for over 15 years, Winston is also an acting and ex-officio member of virtually every committee — and his fellow members marvel that he manages to “never have a bad day” despite the myriad challenges these many roles pose. Winston has spearheaded and been instrumental in many philanthropic efforts both locally and internationally, and his energy is especially helpful in the club's international efforts. He has traveled to Guatemala three times, participating in the construction of a maternity-care unit in two different hospitals and helping create a temporary health clinic of dentists, eye doctors, and a surgeon. Winston's commitment doesn't end there, as he assisted in delivering over 30 Chapina Stoves to the women there, reducing the amount of smoke that contaminates their homes — and the women's lungs — while they are preparing meals for their families.

Medical Hero: Larry deGhetaldi, M.D.
Dr. Larry deGhetaldi has helped bring about tremendous improvements in the availability and quality of medical care in Santa Cruz County. Having served the county in the field of medicine since 1984, he became the 33rd doctor assigned to the Santa Cruz Medical Clinic. In 2001, he became CEO of the clinic, which has since been renamed Palo Alto Medical Foundation of Santa Cruz (PAMF). As a leader of PAMF, Dr. deGhetaldi has succeeded in improving the healthcare agreements that provide the county’s MediCruz patients free and/or reduced healthcare costs. In addition, Dr. deGhetaldi’s efforts through PAMF and Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center have resulted in an increase of nearly $2 million in support of the Healthy Kids Program. Seniors and their providers have also greatly benefited from Dr. deGhetaldi's local presence; through his efforts, Congress has corrected the federal error that resulted in Santa Cruz County receiving lower Medicare reimbursements.

Service to the Armed Forces Hero: Lisa Tkoch-McFarland
Lisa Tkoch-McFarland in 2009 founded Operation Love Our Vets, enabling her to positively impact the lives of combat and women veterans. Through her many acts of kindness, Tkoch-McFarland has gained the trust of donors, veterans, and their caregivers. In short, she seeks to make the world a better place — one veteran at a time. Tkoch-McFarland’s initial effort was the development of the “Because We Care” project, in which packages were sent to soldiers in Iraq who were not receiving mail from other sources. This very caring first effort has blossomed into a long list of projects that brighten the lives of veterans, giving injured vets the confidence and camaraderie to help them face their challenging lives. The services under Tkoch-McFarland at Operation Love Our Vets are all delivered at no charge and are simply intended to show appreciation, love, respect, and support.