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American Red Cross to Honor Local Heroes


Joy Squier | Chief Communications and Marketing Officer

312.729.6204 (w) | 312.384.0454 (c) | 312.907.0520 (24/7 Media Line)

American Red Cross to Honor Local Heroes

The 15th Annual Heroes Breakfast is Thursday, April 27 at 7:30 a.m. at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave in Downtown Chicago

CHICAGO, IL (March 6, 2017) —The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 15th Annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 27 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. To purchase tickets or for more information call 312.729.6178 or go to


“The American Red Cross is proud to honor extraordinary people in our community who have made a difference in the lives of others at home and around the world,” said Celena Roldán, Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “From the marathon runner who’s been leading blood drives for two decades, the high school student who is addressing a need for homeless women, to the 82-year old volunteer who has comforted hundreds of families after home fires – we are reminded that any person can be a hero at any time, any age, or any place.” 


The Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute will be honored with the philanthropic Heritage Award for the organization’s long history of enhancing the Chicago community through research and programs that address the prevention and relief of human suffering, particularly through support of advancement in the biomedical field.


Additional honorees were selected in 11 community service categories. They were chosen by a committee of leaders in the business and civic community. The 2017 American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast honorees include the following group of local standouts.


Mark Buciak of Chicago is the Blood Services Hero. A parishioner of the famed Old St. Patrick’s Church in the West Loop, Buciak started an annual blood drive in 1996 in honor of his father. It’s now one of the largest in the city, collecting more than 1,500 life-saving units of blood over the past two decades. The elite distance runner - who has participated in more than 60 marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2013 when bombs killed three people and injured hundreds of others – was deeply affected by the tragedy and continues to collect blood as a celebration of life.  


Brian Floriani of Lake Forest is the Community Impact Hero. After the sudden death of his father, Bernie, he realized his career as a high end golf instructor no longer fulfilled his deep need to create change within his community. Honoring his father's legacy and love of reading, he started Bernie's Book Bank in 2009. The organization has since collected, processed and distributed more than seven million books to children throughout Chicagoland, unlocking their potential by enhancing their reading skills.


Ray Carter of Chicago is the Disaster Services Hero. At 82-years-old, the Vietnam veteran spends his retirement responding to disasters and serving as a mentor to up-and-coming volunteers. A member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team for almost 10 years, Carter is on-call several times a week to respond to home fires and provide comfort and relief to families. Carter has responded to more than 500 home fires, the majority of which are on Chicago’s South and West Sides. He has also deployed to aid relief efforts for several national disasters, most recently for Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.


Chicago Firefighter Rylenski Strong and Chicago Police Detective Donovan Jackson of Chicago are the Emergency Medical Assistance Heroes. The duo were enjoying an evening on Lake Michigan after work on June 10, 2016, when the two friends rescued five people from a capsized boat. The pair put their lifesaving skills to use and pulled four stranded boaters out of the chilly waters, located and saved a missing passenger caught under the boat, and brought them all to shore.


Firefighter and Paramedic Chris Tierney of Streamwood is the Firefighter Hero. On March 25, 2016, Tierney, who was off-duty at the time, witnessed a devastating limousine accident on the Jane Addams Tollway in Elgin. One of the first people on scene, Tierney pulled several trapped passengers out of the burning vehicle and performed emergency care without hesitation while waiting for first responders to arrive.


Dr. Michael Millis, M.D., of Chicago is the Global Citizenship Hero. A surgeon at the University of Chicago Medicine, Dr. Millis travels to China where he not only performs lifesaving medical procedures on underserved patients, but his advocacy has resulted in a ban on unethical organ transplant procedures, which formerly allowed for the use of organs from executed prisoners. Much thanks to Dr. Millis, China now has a burgeoning volunteer organ donor system.


Steven and Diane Spurling of St. Charles are the Good Samaritan Heroes. The couple was walking in their neighborhood on the evening of May 3, 2016 when they encountered a female neighbor covered in blood attempting to escape from her husband in a domestic dispute. As the Spurlings tried to separate the couple and call 911, the man pulled a gun and starting shooting. Steven knocked the gun out of the man’s reach and pinned him to the ground, while Diane consoled the woman until police arrived.


Lieutenant Eve Gushes, Sergeant Nichelle Fraction, Sergeant Charles Artz, Officer Michael Cleary, Officer Myrian Bugarin, and Officer Janice Wilson of the Chicago Police Department are the Law Enforcement Heroes. The officers responded to a children left alone call in Englewood on November 6, 2016 and discovered three young girls - ages 7 years, 2 years, and 11 months - alone in an abandoned apartment. Police located their grandmother who agreed to take full custody and arrested the father for child abuse. The officers noticed the grandmother was in desperate need of items for the girls, so they started a Go-Fund Me page raising more than $125,000, in a matter of days, to help care for the family. In addition, the group started an Amazon Wish List, located a new apartment, helped place the oldest child in school and held birthday parties for the girls – all on their own time and out of their own pockets.


Pat Gleason and Don Jackson, USN, Retired, of Chicago are the Military Heroes. The two staff members at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago filled a need for hungry veterans when they opened the center’s first food pantry on Veteran’s Day in 2013. Since then, the pantry has provided more than 14,000 veterans and their families with free groceries on a weekly basis. A first of its kind in the country, the pantry allows veterans to shop for goods based on their preference instead of handing out pre-filled grocery bags. The center has served as a catalyst for similar pantries around the nation.


Tobin Mathew, RN, of Chicago is the Nurse Hero. On his first day in the surgical ward at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Mathew wore a superhero t-shirt over his scrubs. Twelve years later, the pediatric nurse continues to wear a superhero shirt or costume to the hospital every day to make kids smile. With more than 70 outfits in his closet, young patients see Mathew as a hero who not only dresses the part, but wears compassion on his sleeve. 


Lily Alter of Oak Park is the Youth Hero. A class project during her freshman year at Oak Park River Forest High School, turned into a mission for Alter to address a basic but unmet need for homeless females. The 15-year-old created “flow kits” for women containing menstrual hygiene supplies and handed them out at a shelter where she volunteers through her local church. Through social media, Alter has raised more than $10,000 and distributed more than 400 free kits, helping women fill an otherwise costly basic need.


CBS 2 brings its prime time anchor team to host the Heroes Breakfast: Rob Johnson and Irika Sargent, co-anchors of the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. Johnson is celebrating his tenth anniversary as the emcee of the Heroes Breakfast. Sargent joins us for her second year.


The 2017 Heroes Breakfast is made possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors: United Airlines, Northern Trust, Anixter, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Aon, CDW, Fresenius Kabi, Grainger, ITW, Nicor Gas, PwC, USG, Walgreens, Stephen & Cindy Cruise, The Edwardson Family Foundation, KPMG, Abbott, Baxter, William Blair, BMO Harris Bank, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Navistar and UL.


About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois:


The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. 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, please visit us at or visit us on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross.