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Honoring individuals or organizations for going above and beyond in service to others
The American Red Cross of Maine recognizes individuals and groups who have made a difference in the lives of our neighbors with the Real Heroes Award. These people — teachers, military personnel, first responders, everyday citizens — demonstrated acts of heroism, courage, kindness, and unselfish character in service to others.
The Southern Maine Chapter of the American Red Cross honors individuals and organizations for going above and beyond in service to others at its Real Heroes Awards Breakfasts. Our Real Heroes are everyday people from all walks of life who perform extraordinary acts of kindness, compassion and selflessness. What they have in common is that they embody the spirit at the heart of the American Red Cross.
Youth Hero Award
Tyler Brackett was driving in downtown Westbrook when he saw ominous smoke in the sky. He went to investigate its source and saw a deep red glow in the window of an apartment building. As he approached the building, the window shattered and fire erupted out of it. Tyler, then 16, called 911 and banged on doors and windows and honked his horn to alert residents. A couple of people got out immediately but some were still inside when firefighters arrived. All made it out safely.
Janelle Alpizar, Nicole Hall, Brittany Waterhouse
Good Samaritan Award
Last August, a little boy at Outlet Beach on Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester went into medical distress. After jumping into the water from the swim float, he started having respiratory issues. Alpizar and the boy’s mother were on the float and started yelling for help. Hall and Waterhouse, both certified nursing assistants, started performing CPR. Alpizar swam to shore to call 911 and then swam back with her phone, relaying information about what was happening to the dispatcher. The boy was breathing again when first responders arrived to take him to the hospital.
Tara Artinyan and Roger Guay
Blood Services Award
Guay and Artinyan are the father and stepmother of Jacob Thompson - the 9-year-old boy who inspired thousands of strangers to send him cards for Christmas, a holiday he loved but didn’t live to see in 2017. Jacob had been diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma four years earlier and had more than 100 transfusions. Not long after his death, Guay and Artinyan approached the Red Cross and have held drives in Jacob’s memory to help others who need blood or platelets.
South Portland firefighters
First Responder Award
It was the call of a lifetime. From the start of their careers, these South Portland Fire Department members have been training for the possibility that they will have to rescue someone from a burning room.
Over the course of just a few minutes, the firefighters saved a woman who was unconscious in an upstairs bedroom.
Almost simultaneously, firefighters were going into the house, muscling open a door, carrying her down the stairs and getting her medical care as other team members were hooking a hose into a hydrant, bringing it upstairs, readying the truck to pump the hose, extinguishing the fire and conducting a secondary search for anyone else who might still be inside.
Every link in the chain held and the timing was right -- the difference of another minute or two could have changed the outcome.
Service to the Armed Forces Award
Ege, an Air Force veteran, has dedicated himself to helping veterans make the transition to civilian life, especially in the area of higher education. In his current job, he works to ensure the integrity of the GI Bill as director at Maine State Approving Agency for Veterans’ Education Programs. He is also co-chair of the Portland Military Community Network, engagement director of Team Red, White & Blue, has orchestrated a statewide convention for over 600 to share ideas to foster better care and services and has been the veterans liaison at the University of Southern Maine.
Mira Kuni, Christopher Lessard, Marcio Munch, Hannah Niles, Tucker Weeks
Niles and Kuni were stationed at Fortunes Rocks Beach in Biddeford when they spotted people in the water struggling in a rip current. They ran down the beach -- taking off their clothes as they went, with Kuni radioing lifeguards at other beaches that they were needed -- and swam out. Niles got to them first and got ahold of a little girl and Kuni assisted a woman. Lessard and Munch arrived from Biddeford Pool and Weeks from Middle Beach. With lifeguards, using a surfboard, rescue board and rescue buoys were able to get all of the vacationers safely back to shore.
Channel 8 WMTW
Corporate Partner Award
WMTW is a true partner that has helped the American Red Cross advance its humanitarian mission by generously giving their time, talent and resources. They help raise funds for victims of disasters through telethons and other on-air events, increase awareness about the urgent need for blood donation, play an integral role in awards and fundraising events, spread the lifesaving message of home fire preparedness and more.
Meet Our 2018 Real Heroes
The Southern Maine Chapter of the American Red Cross honored six individuals and one organization for going above and beyond in service to others at its 21st Annual Real Heroes Awards.
“Each one of these Real Heroes has gone above and beyond in service to others. It might have been in the context of their job. They may have recognized a problem that needed to be addressed. Or perhaps they were the right people in the right place at the right time,” said Patricia Murtagh, CEO of the Maine Region of the American Red Cross. “What they have in common is that they are everyday people who performed extraordinary acts of kindness, compassion and selflessness. They embody the spirit at the heart of the American Red Cross.”
Andrea Collin Reigosa of Kennebunk
Community Service Award
Born in Puerto Rico, Andrea decided to collect toys for the children on the island for a school project after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit. Determined to bring some happiness at Christmas to children who had lost everything, Andrea, an eighth-grader at Middle School of the Kennebunks, arranged to have collection boxes placed around the community. Through a friend in Puerto Rico, she made a contact with FedEx. The company had already completed its humanitarian flights but was so impressed with the project that it added one more dubbed “Andrea’s Flight.” In all, Andrea’s efforts provided 808 toys to Puerto Rican children.
Andrea was able to go to Puerto Rico to help distribute the toys and see the fruits of her labor. “It was a really, really good feeling,” she said. “It was so stressful and I was so afraid this whole project was going to crumble and fall. It was difficult at times. We had several setbacks and rough times. But it was a very amazing and proud moment to see all of my hard work had gone well.”
Michael Bourque of Portland
Blood Services Award
Michael Bourque is a true advocate for blood donation. When his wife, Melissa, was diagnosed with cancer, their friends asked how they could help. Melissa, who had needed platelets as well as transfusions during her treatment, had a simple answer: a blood drive. Drives in her honor were held before she passed away in 2014, and drives in her memory are now held every year. Bourque has also connected numerous families who want to host drives in memory of their own loved ones with the Red Cross.
“I’m proud to have put him in touch and help them,” Bourque said of one father. “One, [because it would] provide probably what would be a great drive but also give the family an outlet for some of their grief. I think it’s an interesting element of being able to donate for people, do a drive, being able to feel at a time when you may feel helpless in any number of ways that you can do some good in a small way. And you can bring others along with you to do some good.”
In his role of president at CEO of MEMIC, Bourque continues the company’s long tradition of inviting the Red Cross in to hold drives in the workplace and of promoting a culture that encourages community involvement.
Over the past two decades, the drives of MEMIC and of Bourque outside of the organization have collected more than 1,000 units of blood that have helped save more than 3,000 lives.
Stewart Graham of Portland, Larissa Montminy of Auburn and Paige Roberts of Portland
This trio helped a stranger, Tom Bradley, who went into cardiac arrest while working out at the YMCA of Southern Maine in Portland. Graham saw Bradley collapse and performed chest compressions on him. When she saw the commotion, Roberts, a lifeguard, shut down the pool and performed rescue breaths on Bradley. Montminy, who was working at the front desk, called 911, controlled the area and kept the other two on task until first responders arrived. While Bradley’s heart had stopped beating for about 12 minutes, he is alive and well today.
“They volunteered without notice and they volunteered without any hesitation – and they gave a full commitment. All those things were required,” Bradley said. “Their sense of volunteering and stepping forward, their lack of hesitation and their commitment is a pure reflection of character – a pure reflection of heroic character.”
Dan Martins of Readfield
Service to the Armed Forces Award
Martins is a peer support specialist with the VA Maine Homeless Program at the Portland VA Clinic. A colleague describes Martins this way: “a quiet hero who never hesitates to intervene. He expects no accolades or applause, he just simply serves with pride.”
A Navy veteran himself, Martins is a tireless advocate for his clients, frequently going above and beyond for them. He has earned his clients’ trust through his honesty and his relentless drive to locate resources for them and to find better solutions.
“Being in the military really changes you. It changes who you are. It changes where you want to go. It’s a huge shift to try to come back into the civilian world. It’s very jarring,” Martins said. “I sought support from the VA, which quite honestly saved my life a number of times. So, it’s very much a privilege for me to be here and to pay it back and pay it forward.”
Operation HOPE | Scarborough Police Department
Community Impact Award
In 2015, opioid overdoses were surging throughout Maine. The town of Scarborough experienced nine overdoses and one fatality that year. Addiction-related thefts were also on the rise.
The opioid epidemic was ruining lives, tearing families apart and killing people in the community. The Scarborough Police Department recognized that a new approach was needed. It launched Operation HOPE on Oct. 1, 2015, based on a program in Gloucester, Mass. Since then, Operation HOPE in Scarborough has helped more than 315 Mainers suffering from addiction to access treatment.
“I get to see these people both at the worst and then probably the best of times. They come to us when they’re completely broken and caught in this horrific disease,” said Chief Robert Moulton, who accepted the award on behalf of Operation HOPE and his department. “Many of those folks, months later, after they’ve had treatment and so forth, they stop back at the station to talk with us, let us know how they’re doing. We’ve had family members come in – brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. They show us the other side of that. It’s extremely rewarding.”