Story by Basima El Hasan, Orange County Chapter Communications Volunteer
In a society captivated by the virtues and capabilities of box office superheroes, one could only hope that in the real world, a hero would rise to the occasion and help those in need. Indeed, not all heroes wear capes. On May 3, 2018, the American Red Cross Serving Orange County recognized local heroes at the Hotel Irvine, with the help of KTLA’s Doug Kolk.
“Our luncheon recognizes ordinary people who do extraordinary things in cities throughout Orange County,” said Linda Voss, CEO of the American Red Cross Desert to Sea Region, which serves Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
The 2018 Orange County Heroes Luncheon honorees each had their own stories of heroism- exhibiting courage in the face of danger, sacrificing their own safety to help others, and providing hope to people in need. All of the honorees have improved the lives of others in their communities.
Youth Heroes: Alex Schrier and Jeffrey Bounds
It was a typical night when Santa Margarita Catholic High School Juniors Alex Schrier and Jeffrey Bounds headed home from a football game. Then, while driving through the quiet community of Coto de Caza, they spotted a burning vehicle on the side of the road. Two victims were trapped inside, screaming for help. The teens knew they had to break through the windows to rescue them. The youth instinctively jumped into action, dialing 9-1-1. With the help of a neighbor, Alex and Jeffrey rescued the passengers from the fiery car. Alex and Jeffrey received the 2018 American Red Cross Youth Hero Award for their quick-thinking and lifesaving actions.
First Responder Hero: Deputy Joseph Owen
Devotion to public safety comes naturally to Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Owen. On October 1, 2017, Deputy Owen was off-duty, enjoying the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas with his wife, several Orange County Sheriff’s Department colleagues, and friends. Suddenly, a shooter opened fire on the crowd. Deputy Owen and his colleagues instinctively laid their bodies over their companions to shield them. After Deputy Owen led the group to safety, he courageously returned to the “hot zone” to assist others in need. While aiding a wounded victim, he was shot in the stomach, and later in the leg. He was eventually transported to a hospital where he was treated for his wounds. Deputy Owen received the 2018 American Red Cross First Responder Hero Award for his selfless bravery, undaunted courage, and heroic lifesaving actions.
Animal Welfare Hero: K-9 Officer Puskas
During a police chase with a dangerous parolee-at-large, Santa Ana Police Department Officer Luis Galeana knew that only one officer could keep up with the violent parolee and stop the suspect. That officer was his seven-year-old K-9, Puskas. The suspect, wanted for assault with a deadly weapon against a police officer, was fleeing on foot and was headed toward an occupied building with potential victims and hostages. Officer Galeana released Puskas, who relentlessly chased down the assailant, leaping through the air tackling the criminal and injuring himself in the process. During the pursuit, Puskas struck his face against the concrete, broke all of his teeth and lacerated his gums. In spite of his injuries, the loyal and dedicated dog continued to struggle with the suspect, persevering until the criminal was apprehended and taken into custody. Puskas underwent lengthy surgeries to heal his injuries, and is now fully recovered. K-9 Puskas received the 2018 American Red Cross Animal Welfare Hero Award for his valiant defense of the community, and for protecting and serving the residents of Santa Ana each and every day.
Community Hero: Greg Vandermade
A great coach takes the training and development of his athletes seriously. But Greg Vandermade took his responsibility to a new level when one of his students suffered a life-threatening emergency. It was an ordinary day during athletic conditioning class at Mater Dei High School when Coach Vandermade was alerted that 16-year-old student Katie Flathom had collapsed and gone in sudden cardiac arrest. Greg immediately jumped into action and began performing CPR and using the AED that was located by Victor Bracamonte, the school security guard. Greg extraordinarily persisted in performing CPR for eleven minutes until paramedics arrived and was assured that Katie’s heart was beating. Katie was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County and has since recovered. Greg Vandermade received the American Red Cross Community Hero Award for his quick-thinking that saved a student in need.
Give Life Hero: Patrick Earley
Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, and each blood donation can save up to three lives. Patrick Earley, who is 92-years-young, began donating blood in 1992 to help the best friend of his daughter, who was in need of blood after an accident. Since then, Patrick has made over 900 platelet donations. He faithfully visits the Fountain Valley Blood Donor Center every two weeks and greets the staff with the a cheerful “God Bless!” upon arrival, and after every donation. When he donates blood, he envisions the children who have cancer who may rely on his donation to survive. Earley says he donates platelets for one simple reason: “It’s saving lives!” Patrick Earley received the 2018 Give Life Hero Award for his ongoing platelet donations that give the precious gift of life to countless patients in need.
Service to the Armed Forces Hero: Richard (Dick) Stone
When Sergeant Richard (Dick) Stone was a young Marine, he was able to return home for the holidays to be with his family because someone else made it possible for him. Now, he dedicates his life to returning the favor. Although Dick is now a retired aerospace engineer, he still considers himself mostly “an old Marine.” His loyalty led him to create the Special Forces Home for Christmas Fund in 2003 to help financially challenged Marines return home to visit their families during the holidays. His tireless efforts have helped 650 Marines return home so far, and he intends to help another 150 this year. In addition, he hosts other events to thank local Marines for their service. Dick Stone received the 2018 Service to the Armed Forces Hero Award for his commitment to serving those who serve us, and for his loyalty to Marines and their families, here in our region and around throughout the country.
Corporate Hero: Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A.
The employees at Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A feel a strong sense of a social responsibility to their local community, which has inspired them to host Red Cross blood drives since 2006. In the fall of 2017, Yamaha employees witnessed the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey and felt compelled to offer assistance to those in need. They rallied to raise funds for the distraught families impacted by these historic back-to-back hurricanes. Yamaha employees collected over $6,200 for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Then, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving thousands without power. Yamaha generously donated portable generators valued at $830,000 to the survivors of Hurricane Maria, while coordinating and funding the complex logistics required to get the generators to Puerto Rico. The generators were a much-needed resource and were used for many purposes. One notable lifesaving instance was when one of Yamaha’s generators was used to provide medical assistance to a Puerto Rican child with cancer who was in need of respiratory treatments. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. received the 2018 Corporate Hero Award for its generous support of those affected by disasters, and for helping the Red Cross provide hope when needed the most.
Do you know an ordinary person with extraordinary courage? Nominations for the Orange County Heroes Luncheon are accepted year-round! Please visit redcross.org/ocheroes for more information on the event or to nominate a hero.
Please visit https://flic.kr/s/aHsmk2N4fn for photos of the attendees and awardees!