PORTLAND – 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 Breakfast on Thursday.
“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.”
The 2018 Real Heroes are:
Community Service Award - Andrea Collin Reigosa of Kennebunk
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.”
Blood Services Award - Michael Bourque of Portland
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.
Lifesaver Award - 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.”
Service to the Armed Forces Award - Dan Martins of Readfield
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.”
Community Impact Award - Operation HOPE | Scarborough Police Department
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.”
About the American Red Cross
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 MaineRedCross.org, like the American Red Cross of Maine on Facebook or visit us on Twitter at @ARC_Maine.