Each year, the Red Cross presents the Acts of Courage Awards to those residents of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties who have acted courageously and selflessly in a time of emergency.
This year we are also honored to recognize the late Pam Kanfer, of blessed memory and her husband Joe. They will be the recipients of the 2023 H. Peter Burg Community Leader Award.
Please join us as we celebrate these amazing members of our community!
March 2, 2023
5:30 p.m. - 8:30 pm.
3180 West Market St.
Akron, OH 44333
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Michelle Barlow awoke one morning, her body racked by seizure-like spasms caused by a reaction to a medication she had taken. The episode passed and Michelle insisted her husband Kenny, go to work. Before he left, Kenny showed Easton, their 5-year-old grandchild how to call for help in case of an emergency. Shortly after Kenny left, Michelle had another seizure. Easton, who has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum, called his grandfather and explained what had happened. Kenny called 911 and with his instruction, Easton got the house key and opened the door to watch for help. “He was so brave,” said Michelle
After being a teacher for 26 years, Darby Baumberger began a new role as a vice principal. On the first day in her new job, she was in the cafeteria overseeing the lunch period. Suddenly, a student started coughing and stood up. Darby quickly walked over and saw the child make the universal sign for choking. Darby lifted the student’s arms above his head and smacked him on the back, to no avail. She realized she had to act quickly and began performing stomach thrusts. Finally, a piece of corn dog flew out of the child’s mouth, and he began to breathe. Emergency services arrived and, after checking the child, said he was fine.
While teaching her third-grade class, Jennifer Torres heard a strange sound and saw one of her students stand up. The student put her hands around her neck, making the universal sign for choking. Jennifer shouted to her students to go get another adult while she rushed to the student’s aid. Jennifer gave the student a few quick stomach thrusts, and a piece of candy flew out of her mouth, and she began to breathe again.
James Kuhn was driving the Fixed Route Transit bus in Wadsworth and stopped to pick up one of his regular riders, named Bruce. Bruce was about to step on the bus when he passed out, falling straight back onto the pavement. Concerned Bruce had hit his head, James jumped off the bus to help. After finding no head injury, he saw Bruce turning blue. He began to perform chest compressions. Finally, Bruce let out some weak breaths.
On November 25, Akron police officer Aaron Williams was the first responder on the scene of a house fire. Learning there was someone inside, Williams kicked opened the front door and was unable to see clearly, due to the smoke filling the room but heard someone respond to his voice. Officer Williams ran out to catch his breath as firefighter/paramedics Logan Stinson and Andrew Gauer arrived on scene. The men ran back into the smoke-filled house to rescue a wheelchair-bound woman from the first floor. Firefighters arrived shortly after and rescued another individual from the home.
Lindsey and Nichole Bechter are sisters and part-time volleyball referees at Clutch Lanes in Cuyahoga Falls. During a game last summer, a player collapsed on the court. Hearing people yell for someone to call 911, Nicole ran down to the court with her sister close behind. After assessing the situation, the sisters began administering CPR. They continued until emergency services arrived.
Joe and the late Pam Kanfer have been leaders in the Akron community for nearly four decades. Throughout that time, they have left their mark in numerous ways including their contributions to public health, Akron’s growth and development, dyslexia intervention and research, public education, and the Jewish community, creating a ripple effect that will last well into the future.
Joe currently serves on the GOJO Industries Board of Directors and as Venturer, having been GOJO Chairman and CEO from 1976 to 2018. Under his leadership, GOJO established itself as the world’s leading provider of institutional and commercial hand hygiene with a focus on hospitals, foodservice establishments, offices, and other public settings. Numerous innovations followed, including the 1988 invention of PURELL® Hand Sanitizer, which revolutionized the world of hand hygiene. PURELL® Hand Sanitizer was launched as a consumer product in 1997, soon becoming a household name.
Joe is active in national Jewish affairs and is the past Chair of The Jewish Federations of North America. He served on the Jewish Agency for Israel board and is the past Chair of The Jewish Education Service of North America, the Akron Jewish Federation, and The Lippman School. He is also a Founding Director of Lippman Kanfer Family Philanthropies. He was the founding Chair of Honeymoon Israel, a venture to bring young couples, many interfaith, to Israel and foster community when they return, and Vice Chair of Leading Edge, dedicated to building talent pipelines for leadership in Jewish organizations. Joe is also a venture investor in the United States and Israel, serving as Chairman of Startvest Partners, which develops biotech startups in Israel, and a founding Partner of Walnut Ridge Investments.
Joe was a member of the Executive Committee of the Greater Akron Chamber Board of Directors. He is the past Chair of Akron Tomorrow and past Vice Chair of The University of Akron Board of Trustees.
Joe received the 2011 H. Peter Burg Award from the Greater Akron Chamber and the 2015 Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award from the Akron Community Foundation. He holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.
For more than 40 years, Pam Kanfer held numerous lay and professional positions at The Lippman School, including School Director, general studies and Hebrew teacher, and Board President. Pam was the past Chair of the Akron Hebrew High School. As a Certified Dyslexia Therapist, she also maintained a private practice.
She was a former treasurer of the Northern Ohio Branch of the International Dyslexia Association and served on their Advisory Board. She served on the Ohio Legislative Executive Committee, comprised of members from the three International Dyslexia Ohio chapters, which were instrumental in the passing of two Ohio laws: HB-96 involves screening all incoming Kindergarteners to ensure that at-risk students receive proper instruction, and HB-157, which sets up training programs to educate teachers in the field about dyslexia and how to meet these students’ needs in the classroom. Pam was also instrumental in editing the Ohio Dyslexia Guidebook, which was adopted by the Ohio Board of Education in 2021. The Guidebook contains information regarding the best practices and methods for universal screening, intervention and remediation for children with dyslexia.
Pam was also a member of the Ohio Board of Regents Task Force, which worked with the Ohio Department of Education to introduce new standards for teaching reading. She successfully implemented American Sign Language as an official language credit at Revere High School. She was part of the instructional staff at Neuhaus, a nonprofit organization that trains teachers in structured literacy.
Pam received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Miami University, her M.S. in Elementary Administration from the University of Akron, and her Academic Language Therapy Certification from Southern Methodist University.
Pam, of blessed memory, and Joe have four children and fifteen grandchildren whom they hope will follow in their footsteps of community service.