A noble group of people from various backgrounds, many of whom flew under the community’s radar, were honored Friday at an annual ceremony sponsored by the American Red Cross’ Capital Region.
This year’s Heroes Recognition, which took place at UC Davis’ Freeborn Hall, honored commendable individuals from all walks of life. Local military veterans, doctors and even a dog were introduced to an attentive crowd of approximately 300.
Proving that courage comes in all shapes and sizes, 11-year-old Davis resident Maria Andrade was recognized in the Good Samaritan category. She was riding a bike with friends around her apartment complex when they heard the sound of a smoke alarm and smelled smoke.
Rather than just ignore it, she went straight to her parents and asked that they call 911. Firefighters responded, and later championed Maria’s quick decision-making in preventing the fire from spreading to adjacent apartments.
“Kinda,” Maria said in response to whether she knew what she did was heroic. It was a hesitance to accept the title of “hero” that was shared by all of the honorees Friday — both young and old.
“I do feel very proud of doing that, and helping to stop the fire,” Maria added.
Craig Senders, director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Program at UCD, had a much different, but similarly heroic, story. Senders commits himself two or three times a year to traveling and performing facial reconstruction surgeries on children in countries such as Honduras, Ecuador, the Philippines and Russia.
Senders, who does these surgeries for free as part of the Faces of Tomorrow organization, was honored in the Medical Professional category. His mission has taken him to many countries.
“My first trip ever was to Jamaica,” Senders said. “We’re in a unique position to change lives while abroad. There is no insurance or business to get in the way, we just get to help those that need it.”
And then there were locals tasking themselves with deeds on a smaller scale, such as Kerri Hogan and James Broaddus. The teacher-student duo from Holmes Junior High donated $2,752 to the Red Cross through a self-organized fundraiser.
“I think I want James to be my accountant,” joked master of ceremonies Sam Shane, a Davis resident and Sacramento TV anchorman, after hearing of the 15-year-old’s plan to make the fundraiser competitive to bring in more money.
An unconventional distinction, Animal Hero, also added to the Davis representation. Kabang, a mixed-breed dog, was hailed for reportedly saving two young girls in the Philippines. Kabang’s snout and upper jaw were sliced off in the accident, and she is undergoing multiple treatments at UCD.
The dog is recovering from chemotherapy for a tumor that was discovered, but is doing well, according to her handler, Dawn Gillette.
Lorraine Beaumont was recognized for founding a group called VetMerge, a Christian faith-based veterinary ministry. She has assisted animals throughout impoverished countries all over the world.
Woodland police Officer Kent Chan also was honored for being the first to respond to an emergency where a 4-month-old child was suffocating. The officer performed CPR and then escorted the baby’s family to Woodland Memorial Hospital and to the UCD Med Center in Sacramento for further treatment.
An enthusiastic David Whitlow coaxed laughs out of the audience members, who were still recovering from the somber story. Whitlow was honored for his persistence in changing and expanding laws that provide aid to disabled veterans.
Also recognized during the event were Costco employees Raemarie Goin and Scott Sherwood, for their effort in helping a customer suffering a heart attack; Jimmy Page and Tyler Reynolds, a pair who also assisted in a heart attack situation; Laurens Vogelesang, who performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking senior citizen; Woodland firefighter Dominic Norman, who helped a mother deal with the death of her 3-year-old child in a multi-vehicle crash; and Sue Horn, who created Project SAFE, a club that teaches students what to do in an emergency until help arrives.
The concluding Hero of the Year Award was presented by last year’s honoree, Bill Hollingshead, who was recognized in 2011 for his lifelong fight to eliminate polio. Hollingshead, a polio survivor himself, is a UCD graduate and longtime Yolo County resident.
This year, the annual tribute went to Davis native Linda Smith, member of Yolo Military Families and organizer of the troop-supporting “Hugs from Home” program. A video screened before she took the stage spoke highly of her tireless efforts to elicit help from the community.
Smith, whose son served in the military, has organized fundraisers, parties and newspaper coverage to attract donations and provide supplies to deployed service members. The room roared with applause as she approached the podium.
She began by thanking her nominators, her husband, the Red Cross and the community — and certainly made her gratitude for the Yolo Military Families apparent.
“We have a very, very special bond, and that is a deployed loved one,” Smith said during her emotional acceptance speech. “Imagine Susan Smith. … Her son, Danny, grew up in Davis. He deployed over the week of Thanksgiving for his fourth tour in the Middle East.
“As Susan noted, you feel that tug in your heart, even though you’ve been down this road before. I always described it as, ‘I hold my breath, until they’re home.’ Susan knows that even though she’s across the country, she has friends here.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052.