Heroes. Ordinary people performing extraordinary acts. They don’t do it for recognition or accolades, but rather simply because it needs to be done.
This was a common theme running through the 11th Annual Red Cross Heroes event, held Wednesday, April 10 at Wine and Roses in Lodi, CA. This year’s Heroes event honored 21 local heroes from Calaveras and San Joaquin counties for their selfless actions and offered an opportunity to recognize the heroism that surrounds us everyday.
Nominated by friends, family, and community members, and applauded by a reception hall filled to capacity, this year’s heroes humbly accepted recognition for acts they felt were simply their duty to perform. From performing lifesaving CPR to donating bone marrow, from honoring and assisting military veterans to creating a student project that reaches out to the community, the spotlight shined brightly on heroes of all ages for their efforts which have left a lasting impact on those they have helped and the communities in which they live.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They are our friends, our neighbors, and as we often find, heroes can be complete strangers until circumstances dictate a change. The Red Cross is proud to honor these everyday heroes as they step up in times of need and make a difference.
Get to know this year’s heroes from Calaveras and San Joaquin Counties:
Good Samaritan Hero (adult): Laura Chavarria of Stockton
On a routine day at work in 1993, Laura noticed a blood drive flyer for a young Hispanic girl with Leukemia. Laura gladly donated at the drive. While attending, she noticed an information table on bone marrow donation and registration and willingly signed up for the opportunity to Be the Match. Imagine Laura’s surprise when she received a letter in 2011 informing her she was a potential match for a seven year old boy in urgent need of her help.
Be the Match prepared her for the doctor visits, physicals, procedures, surgery, recovery, and level of discomfort involved with donation. Laura easily admits the experience was not fun, but the emotional and spiritual benefit of helping “her patient” was all she needed to ease her pain.
Laura gave from her heart and would do it again in a heartbeat. “My thoughts are if I needed it and somebody was willing to give it, I would do the same,” – Laura Chavarria.
Approximately 50% of people who join Be the Match do not follow through when contacted as potential matches. Only 30% of patients in need of a marrow transplant find a familial match. Be the Match today! http://marrow.org
Good Samaritan Heroes (youth): Marcelo Hernandez
Fortitude is what makes Marcelo Hernandez, that and a deep love for his mother, Victoria. Raised in a single-parent home, the second youngest of five boys, Marcelo is no stranger to adversity. However, during his sophomore year Victoria was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that starts in the plasma cells of the bone marrow. Trying to balance school and taking care of his mom took its toll.
Marcelo’s grades slipped and he was academically ineligible to play football, having to sit out his sophomore season. Marcelo was at a cross road. He thought of giving up school, football, and his dreams to help care for his mother. Victoria would not let him put his dreams on hold while she battles with bone cancer. Marcelo’s response filled her heart with pride and his future with hope.
Inspired by his mother’s strength and determination, Marcelo dedicated himself to football and his studies. He finished his junior year as a backup lineman for the Lincoln Trojans, earned a 3.0 GPA, and kept on.
Over the summer, he worked for the city of Stockton in the reprographics department and reported to summer practice in football shape. As a senior, Marcelo started on both offensive and defensive lines at right guard and tackle. He was named first team All-SJAA. Victoria could not be more proud of Marcelo. His younger brother Nicholas looks to him as a role model and has re-enrolled at Lincoln and is working on playing football for the Trojans next fall.
Good Samaritan Heroes (youth): Kayla Houle and Candice Collum of Angels Camp
Bret Harte High School students, Kayla Houle and Candice Collum, decided to spread the fun on Halloween.
This fun was not for the children but for the residents at Foothill Village in Angels Camp. Kayla and Candice conspired with other home economic students to hand decorate and deliver bags of small pumpkins and gourds to the residents.
What started out as a fun way to share the spirit of Halloween with those who have outgrown it ended up touching both students and residents on a more personal level.
Many of the residents do not have regular visitors and some students had not worked on a community project. The result inspired students to become more involved in the community and brightened many a presidents’ day.
Good Samaritan Hero (senior): Richard Windfeathers Muniz of Stockton
Richard “Wind feathers” Muniz volunteers with heart, mind and spirit currently serving as the Commander for the San Joaquin Native American Veterans Lodge of the Pacific Region. While there, he organized a Native American Color Guard. The guard presents flags for a variety of community events including powwows, parades, dedications, and for Native American soldiers killed in action or died of wounds.
Richard is Spirit Warrior One Arrow for Native Americans Killed in Action/Killed in Action, America Remembers our Fallen Heroes. He works closely supporting those who are left behind and helps those families bring honor to their loved ones who made the commitment and paid the ultimate price.
When tragedy struck the Muniz family in 2001, their reply was to honor the fallen. The Muniz family honors their son Jerome’s spirit by giving back to the community in his name. Building on Jerome’s love for music and a fondness for the tenor sax, the Muniz family annually bestows a music trust benefiting the fellow students of August Knodt Elementary.
Richard Wind feathers Muniz contributes heart, mind, and spirit not only to the Native Americans in our community but across our multicultural heritage. Thank you for your time and service.
For more information on NAKIA/KIA visit www.kiawarriors.com
Law Enforcement Heroes: Det Karen Sangster and Sgt Michael P. Jones of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department
December 17, 2012 was an ordinary day for Sergeant Michael Jones and Detective Karen Sangster as they lunched at SF Boudin. While enjoying lunch, a loud banging noise drew their attention to the outdoor seating area. Sergeant Jones quickly recognized a mother in need of assistance – her son was choking!
Detective Sangster called 911 while Sergeant Jones assessed the boy’s condition. His lips were turning blue and he was unconscious. Sergeant Jones took the boy from his mother’s arms, performed the Heimlich maneuver, placed him on the ground, checked his vitals, and began rescue breathing.
By the time the first responders arrived on scene the boy was alert and responsive. Both Sergeant Jones and Detective Sangster acted swiftly and heroically at such a crucial moment and saved a boy’s life.
These Law Enforcement Heroes are always on duty and never truly take lunch. Thank you for your dedication and service to our community!
Medical Professional Hero: Al Duncan of Stockton
Fate brought two men together September 2, 2012, at a Stockton Ports game – a game neither man had been planning to attend. One drove up from Modesto because the Nuts were out of town while the other needed to use his Groupon before it expired. Ready to enjoy the game, Al Duncan settled in with his kids when he heard someone yelling for help. An off duty paramedic, he rushed over to assist along with several other bystanders.
Al began performing Hands-Only CPR. Stadium personnel soon arrived with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Al had to use the AED twice prior to Engine 2’s arrival. As the first responders maneuvered through the crowd and made room to work, Al continued working, having to utilize the AED for a third time.
The actions and knowledge that saved Clifford Meyer’s life that fateful Sunday are some in which we can all take part. Learn CPR. Do it for your family. Respect the men and women who are called on scene to assist and ensure they have room to work. Help us honor our Medical Professional Hero, Al Duncan, by honoring his wish and learning CPR.
The next time you see the AED box on the wall, know it can save a life, and know how to use it.
Military Hero: (active duty) Jennifer McLean and (veteran) Ricardo McLean, Jr. of Stockton
The McLean’s are a military family and an example of the heartbeat driving our country. Ricardo joined the Army in 1994 shortly after college, serving for 11.5 years, nine of which were on active duty. He served with many units during his military career, starting with the 2nd Armored Division “Hell on Wheels”, 4th Infantry Division, 5 Corps, 3rd and 7th Group Special Forces, and finally with the National Guard Scout Unit and 43rd Engineers Demolition Unit.
Ricardo served several tours in Afghanistan, with a total of 440 days in country. In 2008, Ricardo discharged from service as his wife, Jennifer, enlisted with the Army. Currently, Jennifer is on deployment in Afghanistan, ensuring her fellow soldiers have a good quality of life while in country by way of food, water, and sanitation. Ricardo and Jennifer have four children together – Donovan, Jae’ Kay, Ricardo, and Jatianna.
The life of a military family is not an easy one. Upon Ricardo’s discharge he was diagnosed with PTSD, causing him to retreat from active participation in family, community, or social activities. Seeing the effect this was taking on his family, Ricardo became dedicated to turning his life around. The Welcome Home Heroes Foundation helped provide Ricardo and his family with the tools and support they so desperately needed.
Often, soldiers change stations, which require the family to relocate. The constant change – be it weather, having to make new friends, having a parent deployed, etc. – takes a toll on the family. However, the family bands together, stepping in and up for one another. The children are proud of their parents, and their parents are just as proud of them. Currently, Donovan attends college at Wayne State University; Jae’Kay is a senior at Chavez and plans on attending Washington State University in the fall; Ricardo is a dedicated freshman and star athlete at St. Mary’s; and Jatianna is in grade school. The McLean’s believe in getting up and moving with purpose – that if you are in need of help or love, seek it out. Most importantly, stay true to yourself, your family and your beliefs.
For more information on the Welcome Home Heroes Foundation please visit http://welcomehomeheroes.org
Professional Rescuer Heroes: Kevin Culbertson and Eric Emmett of the Waterloo-Morada Fire District
Captain Eric Emmett and Firefighter Kevin Culbertson of the Waterloo-Morada Fire District were dispatched to a structure fire with the Linden-Peters Fire District on November 22, 2012. For these gentlemen it was a routine day in civil service.
The Linden-Peters crew was first on scene, knocking the fire down through a window. The Waterloo-Morada crew arrived on scene with the engine, and Captain Emmett arrived shortly after with the water tender. Culbertson and Emmett were advised to enter the house and conduct a primary search. Entry was forced through a security door at the front door entry way. The interior of the home was filled with smoke, forcing the two to crawl on their hands and knees for visibility. Culbertson went left, clearing the master bedroom and bath, and then turned down the hall where he found a woman laying on the floor. Culbertson yelled to Emmett that he had found someone and quickly removed her from the house. Once outside and in safe location, Linden fire personnel performed basic life support. Culbertson reentered the home to continue the search when he heard Captain Emmett yell he found another person. Culbertson and Emmett removed the gentlemen from the house through the back door. Once outside and in a safe location, Captain Emmett removed his mask, placing it on the patient until personnel and equipment were available to perform basic life support on the gentlemen. AMR medics transported the patients to the hospital.
Thank you, gentlemen, and all those in your brotherhood who stand with you and give selflessly.
Spirit of the Red Cross Heroes: John Kesselman and Andrew Long of Stockton, Fred Gregory of Sacramento, Robert Henning of Valley Springs, Greg Garcia of Lockeford,Aaron Morrow of Lathrop
Emergency service workers strive for great patient care, adventure, learning and compassion. This desire and need to further develop and progress within the EMS community focuses on helping others. These gentlemen applied to become part of a larger nationwide EMS team, the NOR-CAL Strike team, working for one goal: to help others. For many of them, Hurricane Sandy was their first deployment. It was a Saturday when they got the call to action. Most had been off duty enjoying their family, children’s sporting events, and in one case, a daughter’s 13th birthday party.
This was the first time they had been placed together as a team; however, they have worked together at AMR for several years. Within six hours of the call, they were all en route to the airport. The shock and realization of what had and was transpiring did not fully sink in until the team landed in Philadelphia and boarded a bus to Fort Dixon, NJ, where they would pick up ambulances and drive into Manhattan. For the first three days the gentlemen of the San Joaquin County crew operated on less than 10 hours of sleep, working through the storm loading ambulances with equipment and assisting where necessary, all leading up to the NYU evacuation during the heart of the storm. For Rob Henning, Fred Gregory, John Kesselman, Greg Garcia, Andy Long and Aaron Morrow, this was the beginning of a long initial deployment.
This experience has each one of us taking away something different; but given the need to respond again in the future, you can be sure that these six men will be the first to step up and go wherever they are needed. For this we are eternally grateful.
The Northern California Strike team was established in 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina. The team in San Joaquin County consists of 30-32 members locally, enough to deploy two strike teams to any disaster, state or nationwide. To date, the Nor-Cal Strike team has deployed to 5 major disasters. This team requires dedication and complete understanding from each individual member that, if deployed, the potential for being away from family, a normal bed and their children for up to 30 days is a strong reality. For Hurricane Sandy, one team member was deployed for 28 days.
Workplace Hero: Misty Doyal of Lodi
Misty Doyal is a seventh-grade teacher at Van Buren Elementary in South Stockton. October 8, 2012 started as a regular day. Students milled in and classes progressed. While teaching a math lesson, a blast echoed in the classroom – one Misty knew was not a firecracker. She could smell the gun powder. Mrs. Doyal immediately went to the intercom and notified the front office. She then turned to one table of five students, seeing that the rubberized floor under the table was split. Remaining calm, she asked the boy, “What is it? Whatever you have, put it on the table. Give it to me.”
After about 30 seconds, the boy placed a .22 caliber handgun on the table. Doyal placed a sheet of paper over the gun so the other students would not see it and ordered the boy to stand in the corner and keep his hands visible. Within minutes, school security, Principal Ringen, and Stockton Unified police officers swarmed into the room. Misty’s quick actions and cool response ensured many children in the class were unaware of exactly what had transpired.
The incident on October 8th was an eye-opening experience which has manifested positive change within Van Buren Elementary. The school has increased security, added a full time counselor and assistant principal, and has partnered with the YMCA to bring athletic activities to Van Buren.
Hero of the Year: Ruth Briggs of Tracy
Ruth Briggs faithfully volunteers at the Livermore Veterans Hospital. She started volunteering over 35 years ago and has logged over 23,000 hours of service to our military veterans.
President of the Tracy American Legion Auxiliary she considers her fellow volunteers, veterans, and the staff of the Veterans Hospital in Livermore as one big family. Ruth moved to Tracy in 1963 when her husband retired from the Navy.
Originally Ruth started accompanying her husband and members of the post on monthly bingo trips to the Veterans Hospital. She enjoyed visiting with the veterans and the appreciation she felt from them fueled her desire to return. For many years Ruth made the trip over the hill three times a week. Ruth’s passion and dedication has helped in rehabilitating patients in the nursing home, helping veterans return to a stable life, and has been there to comfort them during the last hours of their life.
Recently, Ruth had to cut back her time and now makes weekly trips with her husband George, who has joined her in volunteering for the past five years. She keeps volunteering as a means of repaying the veterans for their service. The nursing home is now separate from the clinic, but Ruth still helps out with the picnic every year on Armed Forces Day.
Her service gives her life meaning, as she means so much to those she serves. Thank you, Ruth!
For more information about Red Cross Heroes, visit the Capitol Region Chapter website. Do you know someone that is a hero? Tell us their story and nominate them for recognition here! Nominations may be submitted year-’round.