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Red Cross to Honor Local Heroes of San Joaquin, Calaveras, and Amador Counties

SACRAMENTO, CA., Tuesday, February 23, 2016 – On Wednesday, March 16, the American Red Cross will honor community members from San Joaquin, Calaveras, and Amador Counties who have performed extraordinary acts of courage. These outstanding individuals and businesses will be recognized at the annual Heroes Breakfast at Wine & Roses in Lodi, beginning at 7:30 am.

This annual event pays tribute to local everyday heroes who have performed heroic acts. Honorees were nominated by members of the community for such selfless deeds as saving lives, helping victims of the Butte Fire, and providing support to military veterans.

As a community leader in emergency preparedness, prevention, and response, the Red Cross Gold Country Region is proud to honor the following heroes who have taken action in a time of crisis to help others and show extraordinary human compassion:

Animal Rescue Hero – Laughton Ranch Feed and Supply (Jackson)

Jim and Bobbi Laughton, owners of Laughton Ranch Feed and Supply, opened their facilities to Butte Fire’s evacuated pets and livestock that had no place to go as the blaze threatened their homes. Beyond providing a place for hundreds of animals to stay, the staff, volunteers and donors working with Laughton Ranch ensured that animals had attention, water, food, and veterinary care.

Good Samaritan Hero – Adult – Humberto Sanchez (Stockton)

In the summer of 2015, Humberto Sanchez responded with extraordinary courage to save a mother and her two small children from their burning car. Mr. Sanchez was working when he witnessed a car crash. He ran to the scene and pulled a woman, a three-year-old, and a four-month-old baby from a vehicle that was starting to catch fire. Just minutes after the rescue, the vehicle became fully engulfed in flames.

Good Samaritan Hero – Youth – Brayan Arellanes (Lodi)

On New Year’s Eve 2015 Brayan suffered second-degree burns over much of his body while rescuing his 14-year-old brother and nine-year-old sister from a home fire that destroyed their home and all of their belongings. The fire was sparked by their Christmas tree. Brayan found his siblings in the fire and pushed them through windows to safety before their home was totally destroyed by the fire.

First Responder Hero – Eric Edwards (Stockton)

Eric Edwards, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and EMT Firefighter for Woodbridge Fire Department, was on a camping trip in Santa Cruz close to the beach. One day, while he was relaxing at Manresa State Beach he heard someone yelling for help from the water. Mr. Edwards ran toward the sound and saw a man being pulled farther from shore. He called for his friends to call 911, then grabbed a boogie board and splashed into the water. After some searching and exertion, Mr. Edwards located the drowning man and was able to get him to safety. Mr. Edwards rescued Orlando Villalobos a resident of Santa Cruz who is happy to be alive, thanks to Eric.

Military Hero (Veteran) – Al Gilbert (Angels Camp)

Like many military members, Al Gilbert wears his military service with pride. A Vietnam Veteran Navy Seabee, Mr. Gilbert took on the role of Commander of the fledgling VFW Post 12118 in Copperopolis in 2012 and built it into one of the top VFW posts in California, known for its community service and outreach. In 2013 Hospice of Amador and Calaveras began the new program, Vet-to-Vet. Part of the national ‘We Honor Veterans’ program, Vet-to-Vet matches’ veterans in hospice care with an era-appropriate vet. Mr. Gilbert volunteered and was paired with a fellow veteran. Gilbert not only gave care and comradeship to the veteran, but helped his family as well. Mr. Gilbert works tirelessly and continues to help dozens of clients.

Workplace Hero – Colleen McCarthy (Jackson)

During the Butte Fire of 2015, Jackson Rancheria generously made its staff and facilities available for fire evacuees, assisting hundreds affected by the fire by establishing a shelter at the hotel. Colleen McCarthy, head of security for Jackson Rancheria in Amador County was on hand when a woman in the shelter became distraught, ran from the shelter and disappeared from the area. She had recently lost her husband and her home had just been destroyed by the fire. Ms. McCarthy initiated a search and the client was found, unharmed. Later, in a letter, the woman told Ms. McCarthy that she saved her life.

Spirit of the Red Cross – Bennet Omalu (Lodi)

Nigerian-American physician, forensic pathologist, and neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu was the first to publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players while working at the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office in Pittsburgh, PA. He later became chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County Hospital in French Camp. Dr. Omalu’s autopsy of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster in 2002 led to his discovery of CTE. Mr. Webster had died suddenly and unexpectedly, following years of struggling with cognitive and intellectual impairment. Dr. Omalu suspected Mr. Webster suffered from dementia pugilistica, a form of dementia induced by repeated blows to the head, a condition found previously in boxers. Today, Dr. Omalu is a professor at the University of California, Davis, Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Red Cross Hero – Carl Vigneau (Tracy)

American Medical Response implemented an annual National CPR Day Challenge and 2014 Carl Vigneau, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for AMR, stepped up and asked to take the lead on the project. In their first year, Mr. Vigneau and his team taught Hands-Only CPR to about 500 people in Stockton. As the 2015 event approached, Mr. Vigneau again wanted to take on the project and aimed to double the number. Consequently, he spent many hours in the community at local businesses and schools, talking and working on securing locations to set up and teach CPR. When the day arrived, Mr. Vigneau and his team hit the streets of Stockton and were able to surpass their goal… teaching Hands-Only CPR to 1,014 people.

Volunteer Heroes – Paul Keaton (Pioneer) and Dennis Lewis (West Point)

When a former Red Cross Volunteer Leader in Amador County retired, Mr. Keaton stepped up and took on the job to keep the team of volunteer community responders active. The day the Butte Fire broke out he immediately began making calls in case shelters were needed. When the offer came from Jackson Rancheria, he was ready to respond. The call to open came at 11:00 pm and Mr. Keaton and his team opened the shelter doors at 11:45 pm. Together they maintained the night shift throughout the few weeks the shelter was open.

Dennis Lewis has been a devoted Red Cross volunteer for many years. Dennis became more than a leader during the Butte Fire response. He was the chief of operations for this wildfire which became the seventh most destructive wildfire in California’s history. Mr. Lewis continues to help with the recovery process.

Tickets to this inspiring event are available and may be purchased online at

Proceeds from the breakfast will support the critical disaster relief services provided by the American Red Cross Gold Country Region as well as critical Red Cross training programs which help prepare community members to respond in times of emergency.

WHAT:      Annual Red Cross Heroes Breakfast

WHERE:    Wine & Roses

                 2505 West Turner Road

                 Lodi, CA 95242

WHEN:      Wednesday, March 16, 2016

                 7:30 am – 9:00 am

The Heroes Breakfast is presented by Chase Chevrolet.