2013 Heroes

2013 Heroes

For more information on how you can help us honor these Hometown Heroes on Tuesday, October 29, please visit the Hometown Heroes Event page.


Anthony Palermo - age 10

On June 9th, 2012, 9-year-old Anthony Palermo slept over at his grandparents’ house. His grandmother is 81 years old and hearing impaired, and his grandfather is 84 years old and has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Typically Anthony wouldn’t have been staying with them, but his parents needed an overnight babysitter and decided that Anthony was old enough to spend the night. Anthony was very nervous that something would happen to his grandfather during his stay, but his parents reassured him that everything would be fine. Anthony was sleeping on the couch near his grandfather when, at 2:10 am, his grandfather’s breathing took a turn for the worse. He was not able to catch his breath and was in distress. Fortunately, he was able to wake up Anthony, who ran upstairs to wake up his grandmother. After minutes of yelling and pushing Anthony was able to wake her up. She came downstairs and found her husband in distress. Anthony and his grandmother called 9-1-1, the ambulance arrived and transported him to Strong Memorial Hospital in the ICU.

“Our family believes that if Anthony did not spend the night on June 9, 2012 his grandpa would not be here with us today. He would have been in distress until his wife woke up that morning. We are so proud of Anthony for saving our “dad”, “grandfather,” “great-grandfather”.” – Sue Palermo, Anthony’s Mother, from her nomination of Anthony


Bridget Hughes – Medical Student at the University of Rochester, Lindsay Wahl – Medical Student at the University of Rochester, Officer Paul Dondorfer – Rochester Police Department, Officer Adam Alliet – Rochester Police Department

On August 15, 2012, Sam and Selah Clanton fell into the Erie Canal. The children were visiting Rochester from Florida while another sibling was visiting Golisano Children’s Hospital. Sam and Selah’s father Jon lost control of their stroller and the children plunged into eight feet of water. Nearby in a picnic shelter, Lindsay Wahl and Bridget Hughes responded instantly, jumping into the water to help the father get the children out of the Canal. Fortunately, two city police officers– Officer Paul Dondorfer and Officer Adam Alliet–were in the vicinity picking up pizza and wings for a coworkers birthday party, and they immediately began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the children. The four worked together with the father to save the lives of both of these children, who are now safely back at home in Florida.


Captain David Smith – Rochester Police Department

David Smith has organized 47 blood drives at the Public Safety Building for the Rochester Police Department since 2006. He has worked to collect over 1,000 units of blood at these drives in honor of his friend and co-worker, Randy Holmes, who was killed in a one-car motor vehicle accident. David was the point of contact for Randy’s family and provided assistance to help them during this difficult time. Dave and Carolyn (Randy’s sister) decided to start a memorial blood drive for Randy after his death, which led Dave to continue this great working raising awareness for blood collection and getting the Rochester Police Department involved in an activity that continues to save lives.

“Dave is an inspiration to the police department and the community he serves.” – Elena Correia, coworker, from her nomination of Dave


Greg Polisseni - Polisseni Foundation

In the spring of 2012 Greg Polisseni needed a blood transfusion. Describing his experience on Facebook, he said that he was very nervous about receiving someone else’s blood, but was grateful that the blood transfusion saved his life. Greg wanted to educate himself about the safety of our blood supply. He took a tour of the American Red Cross Blood Collection Center in Henrietta and learned about the rules and regulations put in place to keep our blood supply safe. He learned about the need for an additional bloodmobile in the area so that the Red Cross can collect more blood in areas where it may be difficult to set up a collection center. Greg then made a proposal to his family foundation, and the trustees agreed that they wanted to support this cause. The Polisseni Foundation has donated over $250,000 to help American Red Cross Blood Services purchase a new bloodmobile which will be used throughout the Finger Lakes Region.


Kara Calabro – Midtown Athletic Club Employee, Dina Smock – Midtown Athletic Club Employee

On February 19th, 2013, a man fell off his treadmill at the Midtown Athletic Club and went into cardiac arrest. Employees and club members immediately sprang into action. Fortunately, the Midtown Athletic Club had an Automatic External Defibrillator, also known as an AED, on hand and Kara Calabro and Dina Smock had been trained to use it. Though fitness clubs are required to have AEDs on site, they are not required to train their staff to use them. Having this device on site and employees who were trained to use it helped save a life that day.

“I think it’s a great example, and it’s motivation for us to want to continue to help people.” – Bob McKernan, Midtown Athletic Club Manager

“It makes all the difference in the world and in this case it did make a difference.” – Dr. Joan Thomas, Midtown Athletic Club Member


Erik Smegelsky – Monroe County 9-1-1 dispatcher

When a couple’s 10 month old son was unresponsive after being found underwater in the bathtub, his family was desperate for help. Luckily, neighbor Eric Smegelsky was home. He immediately jumped the fence separating their homes to resuscitate their infant. Erik’s caring didn’t stop there. When an ambulance transported the boy to the hospital, the parents of course went, too. Erik stayed and babysat the couple’s two year old daughter while they were at the hospital. 9-1-1 dispatchers and TCCs deal with this type of situation all the time over the phone, but rarely in person.

“Erik not only didn’t hesitate to jump in, he immediately took control of the situation, calmed the parents and ultimately returned breath, and possibly life, to the infant.” – Tina Carson, co-worker, from her nomination of Erik


Jennifer Lloyd, Connie Gates, Barbara Hollands, Howard Merimsky, Pam Merimsky, Kathryn Rivers

On, July 1st 2012, while her owners, Jennie Lloyd and Connie Gates, were away on a trip to London, Meggie the sheltie escaped from the dogsitter and was on the run for over nine months. During this time, Meggie’s owners tried everything to get back their beloved dog, posting flyers and on Craigslist, contacting animal shelters, veterinarian offices, police departments, mail carriers and delivery truck drivers, even contacting pet detectives and psychics. Everyone on the east side of Rochester was keeping their eyes open for Meggie. Soon there were sightings, and her owners kept an updated list of her whereabouts, setting up feeding stations where they would leave her familiar dog toys and clothes in an attempt to get Meggie to stay in one place long enough to rescue her. One day, Meggie started showing up on Howard and Pam Merimsky’s porch. They installed a surveillance camera that would beep when activated so the couple would know when she was there. Electrical engineer Kathryn Rivers then devised a remote switch that would drop a gate made of chicken wire to enclose her on the porch. With the help of wildlife expert Barbara Holland, who interpreted Meggie’s body language so that they would know the exact moment she was comfortable enough to drop the gate, the Merimsky’s were able to capture Meggie at 3am on March 22, 2013, and Jennie and Connie were able to rescue their beloved sheltie.


Earl O’Keefe – Retired Canine United States Marine, Lance Corporal Brad O’Keefe – Retired United States Marine

Brad O’Keefe joined the United States Marines at the age of 18. He was in the Third Battalion Six Marines, and they needed a dog handler for IED detection. O’Keefe stepped up and was paired with Earl, a black Lab who became much more than just a dog. In 2010, at the age of 20, O’Keefe went on a mission that changed his life. Brad and Earl were crossing a footbridge with 13 of their fellow troops when Earl started acting like something was going on. Brad had everyone stop and once he and Earl were close enough, there was a resurgent that pushed a button to set off an IED. Though many were injured, Earl saved the lives of the 14 men he was protecting. The injuries that Brad suffered were enough to send him to retirement, and unfortunately he was sent home without Earl. After three years of uncertainty and waiting, Earl and Brad have been reunited.

“He’s my brother’s friend and you know, they saved lives out there, and he became family.” –Rachel Lawson, Brad O’Keefe’s Sister, commenting on the family’s relationship with Earl