Brianna Kelly, Regional Communications Manager
Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, CALIF. — March 6, 2023 — The American Red Cross is celebrating individuals from Riverside and San Bernardino Counties for outstanding acts of courage and community service at the 2023 Inland Empire Heroes Awards. This event will be held on Wednesday, March 8 at The Ontario Convention Center.
“It’s an honor to recognize local Inland Empire heroes that are making our communities a better place to live, work and play,” says Lois Beckman, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Riverside County. “Each of this year’s honorees has an inspiring story and has made a lasting impact in our region.”
2023 Inland Empire Heroes Awards Honorees
***Click here to download hero photos***
Animal Welfare Hero Award: Lindi Biggi – Coachella and Palm Desert, Calif.
Lindi Biggi is the founder of Loving All Animals, an organization dedicated to bringing together local, regional and national animal welfare organizations to maximize programs intended to stop the killing of animals. Loving All Animals was incorporated at the end of 2008 to fill a void in the animal welfare community within the Coachella Valley. Biggi and her team at Loving All Animals provide vital services for animals within the Coachella Valley, including animal sheltering, adoption, training, support, humane education programs in the community, and more.
First Responder Hero Award: Heather Robertson and Kristina Sanchez – Riverside, Calif.
In June 2022, Park and Neighborhood Specialists Kristina Sanchez and Heather Robertson were patrolling Fairmount Park in Riverside when they noticed a man hanging from a picnic bench shelter in an apparent suicide attempt. Specialists Sanchez and Robertson requested medical aid and moved the man down to the ground to begin life-saving measures. Thanks to their quick-thinking actions, the man started to breathe just as additional support arrived. He was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, expected to live thanks to the heroic lifesaving efforts of Specialists Sanchez and Robertson.
First Responder Hero Award: Todd Seckrater – Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
In December 2022, Deputy Todd Seckrater with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was providing traffic control for the Thoroughbred Holiday Lights event when he was flagged down by a family who had just called 911 because their one-year-old baby had stopped breathing. Deputy Seckrater, a father himself, quickly assessed that the baby had a pulse, but was not breathing. Deputy Seckrater quickly delivered three back blows to the baby’s upper back, which cleared the airway, and the baby began to breathe again. The child was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and later released. The family credits Deputy Seckrater for helping to save their young son’s life.
Gift of Life Hero Award: Donna Piantoni – Corona, Calif.
Donna Piantoni has been donating blood for over three decades. Piantoni began donating blood in 1988. In 1990, she exclusively began donating platelets, donating blood on her days off. Over the course of 208 visits, Piantoni has donated 415 units of platelets. A platelet donation can take from 2.5 - 3 hours a visit, meaning she has approximately spent over 600 hours donating blood with the Red Cross. Piantoni has experienced many people in her life being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, so donating platelets is personal to her. Now that she’s retired, Piantoni has her appointments booked for every two weeks to the maximum of 24 times per year. Piantoni is also involved with the American Legion Post in Santa Ana, where she has helped organize and recruit others to donate blood.
Good Samaritan Hero Award: Maria Garcia and Allisen Stephens – San Bernardino, Calif.
Allisen Stephens and her mother Maria Garcia, a San Bernardino City Unified School District employee and mother of three, were volunteering at a first aid station during one of Orange County's toughest trail running races. During their off-road patrol of the trail, they came upon a trail runner who was unconscious, having succumbed to symptoms of heat stroke and rhabdomyolysis, which occurs when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood. Stephens and Garcia jumped into action. Garcia used a ham radio to call first responders to the scene. They moved the runner into the shade and cooled him down with ice and water until first responders arrived. Before the runner was airlifted out, Garcia told the helicopter captain that the man may have been suffering from rhabdomyolysis and that he should mention it to the emergency room staff at the hospital. Garcia’s diagnosis proved to be accurate and shaped how the hospital staff treated and ultimately saved the runner's life without significant or long-term adverse impacts to his health. Thankfully, due to their efforts, it was later learned that the individual survived the life-threatening event. The grateful individual even made contact following his recovery to offer his gratitude to this lifesaving mother-daughter duo.
Service to the Armed Forces Hero Award: Michelle Martinez – Redlands, Calif.
Michelle Martinez is a crucial partner not just to the American Red Cross Southern California Region, but to all members of the military community. Martinez works as a Certified Peer Support Specialist for the VA Loma Linda Healthcare System as the VISN 22 Lead for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. Martinez has organized an extensive roster of community partners – currently numbering over 250 partners – who meet monthly though the Veterans Community Outreach Team (VCOT). This monthly meeting provides members of the community with the opportunity to communicate and learn about each other’s organizations and services, while attending to specific needs of local veterans. Martinez knows firsthand the struggles many veterans are going through. Her heart to serve local veterans has taken her to the outermost parts of San Bernardino and Riverside County, through alleys and more – she’s even crawled under bridges to reach those who need it most.
Youth Hero Award: Samantha Moreno – Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Samantha Moreno is a high school senior and the CEO & Founder of Thundar Lightning & Peace, a nonprofit organization geared towards helping veterans with trauma – including amputees and those experiencing PTSD and depression. Moreno established Thundar Lightning & Peace at the age of 16 to serve and advocate for veterans who feel they no longer have a purpose or voice. Moreno enjoys bringing people together through events organized by her nonprofit to support the local military community. Some of Moreno’s recently funded projects and events include Blankets for Vets, Medic Bags for Vets and Veterans Day “TopGolf for Vets,” as well as frequent visits to Veterans Row to provide veterans with toiletries, blankets, gloves, beanies and more. In December, Moreno co-hosted a Christmas party for homeless veterans and continues to support the local military community and serve those who have served.
Corporate Hero Award: Bighorn Golf Club Charities – Palm Desert, Calif.
Bighorn Golf Club Charities supports philanthropic efforts throughout the Coachella Valley area, helping local non-profits and charitable programs in the community. Each year, Bighorn Golf Club Charities donates thousands of dollars to numerous charities operating in the Coachella Valley. A long-time supporter of the local American Red Cross, Bighorn Golf Club Charities donates generously each year to support the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which aims to reduce home fire deaths and injuries by providing free smoke alarm installations and fire safety information for residents in local communities.
The Inland Empire Heroes Awards is made possible thanks to the generosity of Regional Sponsor U.S.Bank, Presenting Sponsors Sysco Riverside and Altura Credit Union; Disaster Relief Sponsors Bernard and Joan Herman, Ed Monie, and J.J. Roofing; Community Preparedness Sponsors IAPMO, Inland Empire Business Journal, Ontario Convention Center, Linda Pelegrino, Modern Woodmen, San Antonio Regional Hospital, and other local sponsors.
“Thanks to the support of our sponsors, we are able to celebrate local heroes across the Inland Empire, as well as raise funds for vital Red Cross services,” says Yevette Baysinger, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of San Bernardino County.
Nominations for the Inland Empire Heroes Awards are accepted year-round. Individual event tickets and sponsorships are available now. For more information about the Inland Empire Heroes Awards visit redcross.org/ieheroes.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/SoCal or cruzrojaamericana.org, or connect with the Southern California Region on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Facebook.