CHICAGO, IL (March 7, 2019) —The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring exceptional individuals from the Chicago and Northern Illinois area for their outstanding acts of heroism, dedication and service at the organization’s 17th Annual Heroes Breakfast. The event will be held on Wednesday, May 1 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. To purchase tickets or for more information please call 312.729.6178 or go to website: redcross.org/heroes .
“It is an honor and privilege for the American Red Cross to recognize the selfless acts of these heroes and their significant contributions,” said Celena Roldán, Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “Attendees at the Chicago & Northern IL Heroes Breakfast will understand what it means to “Be Human. Be Kind. Be Inspired.” They will be introduced to the heroes among us, such as the doctor who risks his life to provide medical care to children in Syria, the teenager fighting cancer who advocates on behalf of other children, to the daughter of immigrants who puts her retirement plans on hold to provide services to veterans,” added Roldán.
In addition to everyday heroes being honored in eleven categories, Mr. Frederick H. Waddell, retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Northern Trust will be honored with the prestigious Heritage Award for his commitment to philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, volunteerism, and his dedication to improving the quality of life in Chicago.
Additional honorees were selected in eleven community service categories. Heroes were chosen by an independent committee of leaders in the business and civic community. The 2019 American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast honorees include the following class of local standouts.
Marqus and Ashley Valentine of Lisle are the Blood Services Heroes. Marqus was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when he was just six months old. Although Marqus was given a short-life expectancy by doctors, he beat the odds and credits his family’s support. Two years ago, Marqus, now 35, and his younger sister Ashley, founded the non-profit organization Sick Cells to promote awareness of and advocacy for the sickle cell community. Ashley, who holds a master’s degree in research methods advocates to government officials locally and in Washington, D.C. for improved health care coverage and treatment for sickle cell patients across the country.
Raydell Lacey of Chicago is the Community Impact Hero. After losing her daughter to gun violence in 1994 in front of her two young children, Raydell gathered the strength to tell her story in order to help other parents who had lost children to violence. Her organization Not Before my Parents, began as a t-shirts and hats campaign against violence in the Englewood community. The funds from the sale of the t-shirts and hats were used to help parents pay for funeral arrangements for their kids. Three years ago, Raydell’s strength was again tested when she lost her grandson to violence. This made her even more determined to reduce violence in her community. After seeing how focused her son was while playing chess, she had the idea of starting a chess club to use the game as a tool to fight violence. She thought the strategic thinking needed to play chess could help kids think before reacting. Two years later, the chess club is meeting regularly, and has monthly matches with the 7th District Chicago Police Department, creating a stronger relationship with police and youth in Chicago.
Dr. John Kahler, M.D., F.A.A.P. of Palos Park is the Disaster Services Hero. Dr. Kahler, a retired pediatrician, spent more than 40 years as a physician. For most of his career, he worked as a pediatrician at John H. Stroger Hospital. For over 20 years, he has been dedicated to treating children in areas of the world affected by war, natural disasters and disease outbreaks. Dr. Kahler has participated in medical missions in countries in Africa and Central America, as well as in Yemen and Syria. In 201,6 after learning about the death of the last pediatrician in Aleppo during an airstrike, Dr. Kahler volunteered to travel to the city to care for Syrian children. Two years ago, he co-founded MedGlobal, an organization committed to providing health care to vulnerable communities and training local healthcare workers, in an effort to build sustainable health solutions. At 72 years of age, Dr. Kahler shows no sign of slowing down and has dedicated his golden years to continuing to care for underserved communities.
Detective Sergeant Paul Clampitt of Morris is the Emergency Medical Assistance Hero. When Detective Sgt. Clampitt, who was off duty at the time, heard a radio call for emergency assistance for an unresponsive person, he rushed to the location. Upon arrival at a local Morris, restaurant, he grabbed the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) from his vehicle and administered one shock to the man’s heart, which revived the victim. To his surprise, the man he revived was his former teacher and childhood basketball coach. Due to Paul’s quick thinking, response time and use of the AED, he not only saved the man’s life but also prevented any lasting side effects.
Firefighter/ E.M.T Dan Ramos of Chicago is the Firefighter Hero. On a December morning in 2018, he responded to a fire with reports of trapped individuals. As soon as he arrived, the firefighter took to his duty of search and rescue in the rear of the building. Dan attempted to open the back door but was met by resistance, with several locks and objects obstructing the door. Finally, Dan got the door open enough to see inside and observed a woman lying on the ground and having difficulty breathing. Seeing the victim had no time to spare, Ramos made the decision to carefully maneuver past the door into the smoke-filled room with nearly zero visibility and intense heat to reach the victim and pull her to safety. Thanks to Ramos’ courage and quick actions, the woman was treated by paramedics and recovered.
Maria Woltjen, J.D. of Oak Park is the Global Citizenship Hero. For the last 15 years, Maria has dedicated her life to advocate on behalf of unaccompanied, immigrant children. She is an attorney and the executive director of the Chicago-based Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. The center’s mission is to ensure that law enforcement and immigration judges consider the best interest of the children when making decisions. Under Maria’s leadership, the center has expanded from three employees in Chicago to multiple cities, including San Antonio, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. The Young Center currently has a staff of 65 including attorneys and social work professionals, all working on behalf of immigrant children’s rights.
Sebastian Duncan of Glenview will be honored posthumously as the Good Samaritan Hero. On a sunny August day, 20-year-old Sebastian and his friend went kayaking in Lake Michigan. When water conditions turned rough, Sebastian’s friend’s kayak overturned. After seeing his friend struggle to remain afloat, Sebastian went to help him, losing his kayak to the strong current in the process. Both men were left holding on to one paddle. Being the stronger swimmer, Sebastian made the decision to let go of the paddle to give his friend the chance to make it to shore, while he swam behind. However, once the friend reached shore with the paddle, he noticed that Sebastian was no longer behind him. Sebastian had made the ultimate sacrifice to save his friend’s life.
Officer Mark Dallas of the Dixon Police Department is the Law Enforcement Hero. When a gunman opened fire at Dixon High School, Officer Dallas quickly confronted and apprehended the gunman, potentially saving countless young lives. The perpetrator had been just a few feet away from the gym entrance, where nearly 200 senior students were attending graduation practice. Officer Dallas was alerted of the danger when the gunman fired a shot at the school’s physical education teacher. Within seconds of hearing the shots, Officer Dallas apprehended the shooter and ended the situation, keeping everyone safe. Those he saved included his son, who was one of the graduating seniors in the gym.
Mary Carmody of North Chicago is the Military Hero. After witnessing many veterans fall on hard times, Mary knew she wanted to do something to help them. With the support of friends, she started the Midwest Veterans Closet, an organization that provides veterans with food, clothing, housing and other types of support needed. Veterans and active duty service members travel from all over the Chicagoland area to visit Midwest Veteran’s Closet in Lake County. For Mary, a daughter of an immigrant who came to this country to escape WWII, helping those in need, who have served our country, has become her life’s mission.
Nancy Romanchek, R.N., B.S.N., C.H.P.N. of Lincolnshire is the Nurse Hero. For more than a decade, Nancy has been providing health care, social services, and support to the Muslim community; particularly those with limited or no access to health insurance. As the volunteer RN Coordinator and Manager of the Islamic Foundation North Health Clinic, Nancy integrates the cultural and religious beliefs of Islam when caring for Muslim patients. Nancy is also committed to bringing a better understanding of Islam to the community at large through educational sessions, like the collaborative, two-day workshop for Christian and Jewish Chaplains on the spiritual needs of the Muslim patient that she initiated. In addition, she has promoted the creation of Art Expression for Muslim children, which is a program that will be geared towards Muslim youth utilizing art as a form of self-expression to deal with Islamophobia and to help young people by building a positive Muslim-American identity.
Megan Bugg of Coal City is the Youth Hero. At 13 years-old, Megan was diagnosed with stage four Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of cancer that grows in soft tissue. Despite enduring debilitating chemotherapy, radiation and three surgeries, Megan used her difficult situation to bring awareness to childhood cancer. Megan has raised over $150,000 to fund childhood cancer research with the support of her parents and community. Megan recently graduated from high school and her goal is to attend college in California and work in the entertainment industry. The once shy 13-year-old has found her voice, and has become fervent in her goal to bring awareness to childhood cancer. Megan has spoken to members of her state government about the issue, and was also a featured speaker in Washington D.C. at 2018’s Curefest.
CBS 2 Chicago brings its prime-time anchor team to host the 2019 Chicago & Northern IL Red Cross Heroes Breakfast: Rob Johnson and Irika Sargent, co-anchors of the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts will lead the Heroes Breakfast as emcees. Johnson is celebrating his twelfth anniversary as the emcee of the Heroes Breakfast. Sargent joins us for her fourth year.
The 2019 Heroes Breakfast is made possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors including: Walgreens, ITW, Kirkland & Ellis, Northern Trust and United Airlines.
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 redcross.org/il/chicago or visit us on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross.