Inland Empire Heroes Recognizes Local Heroes

The American Red Cross held the Inland Empire Heroes Luncheon on Thursday, Jan 19, honoring local heroes and organizations who embody the spirit of the Red Cross. We are honored to present the 2017 award winners.

First Responder Honoree

Detective David Padilla – Rialto Police Department

david-padillaLast November, officers were called to a home in Rialto by someone stating that a loved one had threatened to harm himself with a knife and had made comments that he wanted the police to shoot him.

Detective David Padilla, a crisis negotiator with the Inland Valley SWAT team, tried to speak to the distraught man. Detective Padilla requested the triage engagement Support team—known as TEST—come to the location. The TEST team is made up of Rialto police officers and two behavioral health specialists who assist with crisis situations.

Detective Padilla convinced the man to come outside of his home, where he was given the chance to speak to a TEST specialist. after some time, the man reportedly agreed to get professional help and was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center Behavioral Health department. Detective Padilla’s ability to calm the man down brought a positive outcome to a very dangerous situation.

The American Red Cross is proud to honor detective Padilla with the First Responder Award for his heroic actions in the line of duty.

First Responder Honoree

Hector Barragan – Riverside County/CAL FIRE

hector-barriganOn Friday, November 18, 2016, off-duty Riverside County/CAL FIRE Firefighter Hector Barragan was getting on the Riverside Freeway when he noticed some shoes and a red jacket lying on the ground next to the wall. He looked up and saw a man with a rope tied around his neck, attached to a wire railing.

Hector called 911, walked up the embankment and engaged with the suicidal man. Over the
next 30 minutes, Barragan talked to the man, gained his trust and caused the man to rethink his decision. the man took the rope off from around his neck and backed away from the edge into Hector’s arms. the man was transported to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. Hector was the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

The American Red Cross is proud to honor Hector Barragan with the First Responder Award for his quick-thinking actions, which ultimately helped save a life of someone in need.

Animal Welfare Honoree

Karolyn Verville – Sunshine Haven Animal Rescue & Wildlife Rehabilitation

karolyn-vervilleSunshine Haven is a non-profit wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center run by Karolyn Verville. Their mission is to conduct wildlife research, provide temporary sanctuary and ultimately to rehabilitate orphaned or injured wildlife for later proper wild release. Police, animal control, state fish and wildlife officers, firefighters and the general public bring animal patients to the facility.

From March through October of 2016, Karolyn has taken in 700 animals, ranging from snakes to opossum, from raccoons to birds, to foxes, doves and rodents. Karolyn has earned 55 certifications pertaining to animals in everything from forensics, necropsies, parasitology, restraining techniques, quarantine, lab analysis, avian disease and biosecurity to emergency response. She’s also a credentialed animal-cruelty investigator and humane officer, empowered to bring cases to the district attorney.

The American Red Cross is proud to honor Karolyn Verville with the Animal Welfare Award for her tireless work on behalf of creatures big and small.

Military Honoree

Lucca – Military Service Dog – USMC, Retired

chris-and-lucca-2Most heroes have two legs, but some have four legs and a cold nose. Lucca, a 12-year-old German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix, served in the United States Marine Corps for six years. Her service included two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.

Lucca successfully led over 400 patrols, during which there were no injuries.

One day, Lucca was leading a patrol in Afghanistan and located an improvised explosive device (IED). As she started searching the surrounding area, a second IED, which was booby-trapped, exploded. Lucca suffered burns to her chest and torso and her front left leg had to be amputated. Thanks to the quick reaction of her handler, she was medically evacuated right away. Lucca traveled to Camp Pendleton, Ca where she made a quick recovery. In fact, she was walking just ten days after her injury. After recovering, Lucca was officially retired and adopted by her original handler, Chris Willingham.

While Lucca is enjoying retirement, she also still enjoys representing the K-9 community. Military Working Dogs have been serving our military since World War II, and Lucca enjoys bringing awareness to their hard work and sacrifices.

Youth Honoree

Janeth Santos

janeth-santosLast summer, Janeth Santos was at home when she heard a woman screaming at a nearby
apartment. Janeth found that the woman’s child, a toddler, was choking on a hard candy. Janeth jumped into action. At first she tried to administer abdominal thrusts, but the candy wouldn’t come out. the baby’s face was turning purple and he couldn’t breathe. Janeth reached into the toddler’s throat and scooped the candy out with her finger. Janeth credits her ability to help to the CPR and AED training she received in her medical pathways classes at Curtis Middle School. Her teacher, Jerrid Patton, says he is very proud of her and of the district for offering the program, which teaches lifesaving skills and allows students to earn Red Cross CPR and AED certifications.

“At first I was very nervous but then I remembered that my teacher taught me to stay calm,” Janeth said. “i’m now proud of myself, that i was able to help.”

The American Red Cross is proud to honor Janeth Santos with the youth award for her brave and quick-thinking actions that helped save a child’s life.

Lifesaving Honorees

Jack DeJong, Eric Sherwin and Ryan Starling
San Bernardino County Fire Protection District


On Wednesday, December 2, 2015 terror struck the community of San Bernardino, California. It was a workplace training and holiday party for many San Bernardino County employees at the Inland Regional Center. Soon thereafter, a tragic shooting took the lives of 14 people and wounded 22 others.

For Jack DeJong, Eric Sherwin, and Ryan Starling, all San Bernardino County and City Fire
responders, this day would be anything but ordinary. they, along with their colleagues, responded and stepped into harm’s way as they cleared the room where the shooting took place and began to treat those who were wounded. Miraculously, all who were treated for their injuries survived that day due to the quick and heroic response of the personnel at San Bernardino County and City Fire and the brave first responders on scene.

Though each would say they are not heroes and were just doing their job, the American Red Cross is honored to recognize Jack DeJong, Eric Sherwin, and Ryan Starling with the Lifesaving Award for their selfless and heroic efforts as they served the San Bernardino community.

Life-Giving Honoree

San Antonio Regional Hospital

SARH_StackedSan Antonio Regional Hospital is being honored for their tireless work in engaging the community in creating a legacy of giving by hosting life-saving blood drives. San Antonio regional Hospital’s Robin Garcia and her team hosted 18 blood drives and collected 1,160 blood donations in 2016.

They are true supporters of the mission of the red Cross and their donations have potentially helped over 3,000 patients.

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Eighty percent of the blood donations given to the Red Cross are collected at blood drives set up at community organizations, companies, hospitals, high schools, colleges, places of worship or military installations.

The need for blood is constant. We are deeply appreciative of San Antonio’s commitment to saving lives through ongoing blood drives. the american red Cross is proud to honor San Antonio Regional Hospital for their steadfast dedication to helping us collect lifesaving blood for countless patients in need.

Philanthropic Honoree

Circle K

circle-stackedIt is said that “some give by helping while others help by giving.” It is rare to find a partner that does both. Circle K – West Coast Division began partnering with American Red Cross during the response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Moved by the devastation caused by the quake, Circle K raised over $204,000 in just a few short weeks through their stores in California, Oregon and Washington to support relief efforts.

Circle K noted that raising funds for Red Cross seemed to resonate with their customers and their employees voted to adopt the red Cross as their “charity of choice.” launching a year-round customer donation program in their stores and through hosting an annual golf tournament with their vendors, Circle K has raised close to $10 million to support the humanitarian services of the Red Cross. in addition, their employees have given generously of their time to assist with promotional events, Home Fire Campaigns, special projects and have served on local committees and boards of the Red Cross. Circle K expanded their commitment to saving lives by hosting regularly scheduled blood drives at their corporate office in Corona, in addition to blood drives at various store locations.

The American Red Cross is proud to honor the Circle K with the Philanthropic Hero Award for their ongoing support of the red Cross and their commitment to providing help and hope to those in need in our own backyard, across the country and around the world.

Community Partner Honoree

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

san-manuelBased on a culture of giving, San Manuel has a long-standing partnership with the Red Cross that began after the 2003 “Old Fire” in the San Bernardino Mountains. San Manuel’s financial support assisted the Red Cross in providing relief efforts following the wildfires that burned more than 90,000 acres and destroyed over 1,000 homes.

Since then the tribe has supported multiple Red Cross international and domestic disaster relief efforts including the most recent “Blue Cut” Wildfire. Additionally, San Manuel helps fund programs that provide preparedness education, local single family fire disaster assistance and lifesaving CPR/First Aid training to members of our community and beyond.

Year after year, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has generously supported the Red Cross mission in the community.

“San Manuel understands the importance of life safety skills and has made emergency training a priority for our community and our businesses,” said San Manuel Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena. “In a disaster like a major earthquake, we must rely on one another to make it through, and our partnership with the American Red Cross will help all communities in this region to prepare for emergencies.”

The American Red Cross is proud to honor the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians with the Community Partner Award for their long-time support of the Red Cross and their dedication to making the community a safer, stronger and more resilient place.

We thank the following sponsors who helped bring about this very special day:

Community Bank  |Sysco of Riverside | Arrowhead Water | Altura Credit Union | JJ Roofing|Sports Authentics | Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial | Bob Rivera | Inland Empire Magazine | Markeya Dale | Riverside Legal & Professional Services | Riverside Public Utilities Department | Thompson & Colegate LLP. | Victor Valley Association of Realtors, Inc.

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