Brianna Kelly, Regional Communications Manager
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (May 20, 2022) – The American Red Cross of Orange County held its 2022 Orange County Heroes Awards on Friday, May 20 at The City National Grove of Anaheim. The event recognized 10 local heroes from throughout Orange County for their acts of courage, compassion, and community impact.
The event was attended by more than 200 guests and raised over $100,000 for the American Red Cross. Orange County Heroes Awards Match Partner A Little Help Foundation matched all event donations up to $25,000 in support of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, which provides assistance for military service members, veterans and their families.
Click here to watch inspiring videos highlighting each honoree’s story and click here to view photos from the event, including photos of this year’s honorees.
2022 Orange County Heroes Awards Honorees
- Gift of Life Hero Award: Heidi Miller – Laguna Beach
For decades, Heidi Miller has been giving others the gift of life. Heidi began donating blood in college, and in 1991 became a bone marrow transplant donor. In 2017, she donated a kidney to a recipient who had mere months to live. Like her earlier bone marrow donation, Heidi’s kidney donation made a lifesaving impact. Since then, Heidi has mentored over 120 people in need of kidney transplants and has helped match more than 40 individuals, including over 30 people who have now received their transplants. Heidi also continues donating platelets and blood. Knowing that the need is constant, she encourages others to donate as well. Heidi’s motto is “Share Your Spare!” whether this means blood, platelets, bone marrow or kidney donation.
- Animal Welfare Hero Award: Ally Carrier – Garden Grove
Ally Carrier is the Founder of Ally’s Animal Assistance Network. Ally works tirelessly rescuing animals from throughout Southern California and Tijuana, Mexico. Often, these animals are very sick or abused. Ally ensures they receive the care they need and networks to find homes and fosters for rescued animals. Ally has saved thousands of animal’s lives, and is dedicated to keeping animals off the streets and out of shelters.
- Disaster Services Hero: Operation Independence – Santa Ana
Operation Independence was a collaboration of the County of Orange, Orange County Fire Authority, local agencies and city departments, public/private partners and volunteers to deliver vaccines to all 3.2 million Orange County residents by July 4, 2021. This collaborative program helped over 70 percent of Orange County residents age 18 and older to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The County continues to focus on delivering vaccines to the most vulnerable populations and hard-to-reach communities in Orange County.
- First Responder Hero Award: Sergeant Joe Garcia – Seal Beach
In May 2021, six-year-old Aiden Leos was shot in a road rage incident on the 55 Freeway. Sergeant Garcia with the Seal Beach Police Department was off duty when he noticed a silver sedan on the shoulder of the roadway and a woman, Aiden’s mother Joanna, holding her son. He immediately stopped his car, rendered medical aid, and stayed with Joanna and Aiden until paramedics arrived and rushed the child to a local hospital, where he later died. Since the incident, Sergeant Garcia – who has a six-year-old son himself– has remained in close contact with Joanna and has provided support and compassion in the midst of unimaginable tragedy.
- Good Samaritan Hero Award: Mackenzie Penrose, Mariel Casilan and Lilly Aguilar – Irvine, Anaheim and Yorba Linda
In November 2021, Mackenzie Penrose was teaching a PE class to first graders when one of her students fell to the ground, unresponsive. Mackenzie quickly realized he had no pulse and was not breathing. She jumped into action and with the support of fellow school staff members Mariel Casilan and Lilly Aguilar, administered CPR and remained with the student until first responders arrived on scene. Doctors and first responders reported to the student’s family and school staff that the child would not have survived if not for the immediate actions of Mackenzie, Mariel and Lilly.
- Service to the Armed Forces Hero Award: Step Up – Santa Ana
Step Up's mission is to deliver compassionate support to people experiencing serious mental health issues, and persons who are experiencing chronic homelessness, to help them recover, stabilize, and integrate into the community. In Orange County, Step Up is exemplifying this mission as the main service provider at Heroes Landing, a permanent supportive housing location in Santa Ana. Not only do veterans receive quality housing at Heroes Landing, Step Up ensures that veterans also receive comprehensive wrap-around services, including legal assistance, employment and VA support, social work and counseling, and more.
- Youth Hero Award: Hannah Karanick – Anaheim
When Hannah Karanick witnessed a young student being teased because he lacked access to hygiene items and basic necessities, she knew she wanted to help him and other students experiencing a similar situation. Hannah’s Helpful Hands was founded to provide basic necessities for students in need. Hannah developed a closet at her alma mater elementary school where school staff could discretely provide students with what they need, including hygiene supplies, clothing and more. Since its founding four years ago, Hannah’s Helpful Hands has expanded to multiple schools. Hannah continues to conduct fundraising activities to ensure closets stay supplied and that students have access to the items they need to feel confident at home and at school.
- Corporate Hero Award: Pacific Life Foundation – Newport Beach
Pacific Life has been a generous partner of the American Red Cross, providing mission support through financial grants, employee giving campaigns, blood drives, and volunteerism. In January 2022, the Pacific Life Foundation became an official member of the American Red Cross Disaster Responder Program by giving a gift of $250,000.
Nominations for the Orange County Heroes Awards are accepted year-round. For more information about the Orange County Heroes Awards, or to nominate a hero, please visit redcross.org/ocheroes.
The Orange County Heroes Awards was made possible thanks to the generosity of Disaster Relief Sponsors Antis Roofing & Waterproofing and Deepa Gupta; Community Preparedness Sponsors Nationwide Insurance, Pacific Life Foundation, Rick and Shannon Lowe and the 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 through its Prepare SoCal and Prepare San Diego initiatives. For more information, please visit redcross.org/SoCal or cruzrojaamericana.org, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.