Brianna Kelly, Regional Communications Manager
Dr. John Cheng, lifesaving hero from Laguna Woods church shooting tragedy, 100-year-old blood donor Dottie Brown, Newport Beach lifeguard, and OCFA firefighter among OC heroes being honored
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (May 10, 2023) – The American Red Cross of Orange County is honoring nine local heroes for their outstanding acts of heroism. These heroes will be celebrated at the 2023 Orange County Heroes Awards, held on Friday, May 19 at the City National Grove of Anaheim.
“Each of this year’s honorees has an incredible story. From saving lives to helping their communities, this year’s heroes have gone above and beyond making a positive impact across Orange County,” says Becky Firey, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Orange County.
2023 Orange County Heroes Awards Honorees
Click here to view and download hero photos.
Spirit of Hope Award: Dr. John Cheng – Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Last May, tragedy struck at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California. The Orange County church was hosting a congregation of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church for Sunday services. During the service, a gunman attacked parishioners. Dr. John Cheng, who was among those seated in the congregation, immediately jumped into action. He tackled the gunman and attempted to disarm him, which allowed parishioners to step in and help to subdue the gunman. During the struggle, Dr. Cheng was shot multiple times, and perished at the scene. A beloved and respected member of the community, Dr. Cheng is hailed as a true hero, whose selfless actions undoubtedly saved many lives that day. The American Red Cross of Orange County is honored to present Dr. Cheng with the Spirit of Hope Award, which is presented posthumously to someone who made a significant contribution to the community through acts of courage or selflessness, or to someone who demonstrated heroism in an attempt to save lives.
Gift of Life Hero Award: Dorothy “Dottie” Brown – Santa Ana, Calif.
At 100-years-young, Dottie doesn’t have any plans to stop donating blood. She is a whole blood donor at the Red Cross Santa Ana Blood Donation Center, where the staff know her for her warm smile and generous spirit. Brown started donating blood at least 70 years ago. She remains committed to giving blood and makes it a point to donate every 56 days, scheduling her next appointment at each visit. She is active in her community and donating blood is part of the routine of helping others. “It’s the one thing that I can do to help other people,” says Brown. She jokes that she is 100-and-three-quarters-old, with her 101st birthday approaching in June, and plans to continue donating. Many of the staff and fellow donors at the Santa Ana Blood Donation Center know her as a superstar and look forward to celebrating this milestone with her.
Good Samaritan Hero Award: Andrew Belden – Costa Mesa, Calif.
In February 2022, a police helicopter from the Huntington Beach Police Department crashed into the water off the coast of Newport Beach. Andrew Belden, a 20-year Newport Beach lifeguard who was off-duty, witnessed the helicopter crash from a nearby boat and immediately sprang into action. He was the first person in the water. Belden jumped off the dock and into the cold water, swimming out to the wreckage of the helicopter. Despite hazardous conditions, Belden was able to pull one of the two officers who had been aboard the helicopter to safety on a nearby dock. His heroism serves as a reminder of the bravery and selflessness of everyday citizens who step up in times of crisis to help those in need.
Animal Welfare Hero Award: Danielle Judd – Trabuco Canyon, Calif.
After fighting and conquering life-threatening illness during her pregnancy, Danielle Judd resolved that she would spend the rest of her life helping others. As the founder of FarmHouse Rescue, Judd now devotes her time and talents to helping people and animals in need. The mission of FarmHouse rescue is to save the lives of animals, as well as provide a sense of purpose and hope to people in need. Today, FarmHouse Rescue provides sanctuary for animals and humans alike and provides life-changing healing and therapeutic opportunities.
Youth Hero Award: Tabitha Finamore – Villa Park, Calif.
Motivated, determined and caring are a few words to describe 17-year-old Tabitha Finamore. After learning that her seven-year-old cousin Quincy was diagnosed with leukemia and needed blood products, Finamore looked for ways to help cancer warriors like her cousin. Cancer patients use nearly one-fourth of the blood supply – more than patients fighting any other disease. Finamore approached local school district officials and received permission to host a blood drive at her former grade school, Villa Park Elementary, in honor of childhood cancer warriors. The blood drive took on additional meaning when Finamore learned there was a young student at the elementary school fighting cancer. Thanks to a great response from the community, the blood drive collected 46 units of blood, achieving 131 percent of the goal. "I am so thankful for the Red Cross for making my dream possible and allowing my community to come together to make a difference," shares Finamore.
Disaster Services Hero: Peter Pham, Viet American Society – Huntington Beach, Calif.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many seniors in the area of Little Saigon, Orange County were unable to leave their homes to access food. To support these seniors, Peter Pham, through his nonprofit organization Viet American Society, began a hot meal delivery program. What started as a few hundred deliveries per week grew to 2,700 deliveries per week, feeding 1,350 people. The popular hot meal delivery program continues to be an essential source of food for many seniors in need. Pham’s nonprofit has also partnered with Abound Food Care to address the increasing need for food assistance and emergency capacity for food and water storage. Thanks to Pham and the Viet American Society's work through Abound Food Care, Orange County will be better prepared to feed people in the early stages of future crises.
Service to the Armed Forces Hero Award: Irvine 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee – Irvine, Calif.
For more than 15 years, the Irvine 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has been providing unwavering support to active-duty Marines and Sailors based at Camp Pendleton. The Irvine 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee is made up entirely by volunteers who have dedicated their time and resources for the sole purpose of providing valuable programs and generous financial and fundraising support to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines with 1st Marine Division. The Committee hosts a series of annual events and programs that include “welcome home” and “deployment” care packages, a bedding drive, baby shower drive, holiday toy drive, Sponsor-A-Marine program, and seasonal and holiday events. Their selfless service and tireless efforts have made a significant impact, ensuring that the service and sacrifices of 2/11 Marines and their families are appreciated and honored.
First Responder Hero Award: Nick Sibayan, Orange County Fire Authority – Irvine, Calif.
After responding to a medical call, Orange County Fire Authority Firefighter/Paramedic Nick Sibayan escorted a patient from the medical call to a local hospital. While waiting for a room to become available for the patient, Sibayan witnessed another patient pushing an emergency room nurse. Sibayan made sure the nurse was okay, and the patient locked himself in a room. The Fountain Valley Police were requested to respond, and soon after a single Fountain Valley Police Officer arrived at the crowded emergency room. When the patient saw the police officer, he rushed out of the room and punched the officer. Sibayan grabbed the assailant and was able to contain him, allowing the officer to go free. The officer was then able to subdue the patient and place the patient in restraints. Due to his quick thinking and selfless actions, Sibayan helped the Fountain Valley Police Officer bring the patient into custody and keep everyone in the emergency room safe.
Corporate Hero Award: Kia America – Irvine, Calif.
Kia America has been a generous partner of the American Red Cross, impacting its mission in numerous ways, including disaster relief, program support and volunteerism. Since 2017, Kia America has donated over $1.25 million in support of the Red Cross mission. Their support has aided those affected by disasters - including Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Ida, Hurricane Harvey and more - helping the Red Cross provide shelter, food and comfort to those affected. Kia America's support of the Red Cross is the latest extension of its “Accelerate the Good” initiative, in which the Red Cross is one of eight charities that dealerships across the nation can choose to support.
Event tickets and sponsorships are available now. This year’s event will raise funds for Red Cross Disaster Relief. A Little Help Foundation and The Caring Path Foundation Fund will match all event donations up to $30,000. Nominations for the annual Orange County Heroes Awards are accepted year-round. For more information please visit redcross.org/ocheroes.
The Orange County Heroes Awards is made possible thanks to the generosity of Regional Sponsor U.S. Bank; Presenting Sponsor Antis Roofing & Waterproofing; Disaster Relief Sponsor SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union; and Community Preparedness Sponsors Accrete Valuations, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, Goldman Sachs Ayco Personal Financial Management, Kia America, Nationwide, Pacific Life Foundation, Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, and other local sponsors.
About the American Red Cross Southern California Region
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 public to perform its mission. The Red Cross Southern California Region proudly serves San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial Counties. In addition to carrying out disaster preparedness and response programs, blood collection, health and safety training, international services programs and supporting the military community, the Southern California Region provides nutritional counseling through its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in San Diego and helps communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. For more information, please visit redcross.org/SoCal or cruzrojaamericana.org, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.