Scanning the 400 faces in UC Davis’ Freeborn Hall, it wasn’t obvious which of the 25 belonged to the heroes being honored by the Capital Region Chapter of the American Red Cross.
There were all shapes, sizes, genders and ethnic groups represented. They blended into the massive throng at the Heroes Luncheon on Friday, but they were honored for standing out in the crowd and going above and beyond the call of duty.
“This is just a remarkable event,” said Dawn Lindblom, CEO of the CRC of the Red Cross. “It recognizes heroes in the local community. You hear them say, ‘Anybody would have done it.’ But really there was not ‘anybody’ doing it, so they jumped in.”
Some heroes literally jumped in to save people from submerged vehicles. Some “jumped in” to help a cause overseas or to lend a hand locally to someone in need.
UC Davis graduate and longtime Yolo County resident Bill Hollingshead was named Hero of the Year for his lifelong fight to eradicate polio. In 1947, he started swimming lessons through the Red Cross. He earned his junior life-saver pin in 1950 and was en route to getting his senior life-saving badge when he contracted the viral disease. He battled the illness for four years and was eventually able to recover and earn his senior badge. Since then, he has kept on fighting by raising funds and awareness to eliminate polio.
“Before with polio, you’d get a shot and then every now and then you’d have to get another one, and they’d call it a ‘booster,’ ” said Hollingshead, who like all those honored received citations from local political offices. “These (citations) are like a ‘booster shot’ for me. At the end of each year, I’m about to hang it up. Then they give me an award, and I’m good for one more year.”
Hollingshead was honored along with good Samaritans Raul Chavez, Mike Ledesma, Colin Muller, Louie Muller, Bradley Van Sant and Tyler Barry; animal rescuers Sandy Kinney and Marsha Torbert; Major Robert Gale, a military veteran who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II; Yolo County sheriff’s deputies Mike Glaser and Derek Alatorre; professional rescuer John Schaufel; Drs. Robert Miller and JP Perlman; Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Welch, active-duty military hero; workplace hero Steve Rose; and Spirit of the Red Cross heroes from Patwin Elementary school: Katie Britt, Abbey Eaton, Megan Kong, Nathan Kong, Nick Roy, Elijah Smith, Kailey Smith and Principal Michelle Flowers.
“It’s very humbling because like they say, we are absolutely ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things,’ ” Hollingshead said. “And like these guys in the military, they don’t consider themselves heroes; they’re just doing what they do.”
The afternoon was filled with heroic stories. Short videos were shown on two giant screens before each medal presentation. The film featured nominators and heroes recalling the events that separated them from the ordinary. After each short presentation, the recipients came forward to receive their medals from Lindblom, shake hands with the Master of Ceremonies Sam Shane and say a few words — very few words. Heroes tend toward humility.
Chavez, Ledesma, Colin Muller and Louie Muller were named good Samaritans in the adult category after pulling four people from an overturned car in a canal.
Kinney was awarded for her work with canine emergencies. She put together proper kits and training information for paramedics to deal with animal resuscitation. Torbert organized the Woodland Veterinary Hospital’s “Spay Day” to help control the pet population and has rescued a menagerie of animals.
Gale received a standing ovation as he made his way up to the platform. The World War II veteran flew 160 missions in a P-40 and nearly 24 missions in a P-47. He earned four Distinguished Flying Crosses.
“I must say things are a little different here at UCD than when I went to school here,” Gale, who was an Aggie from 1939-41, said from the podium. “My first year here, there were less than 700 students. And I’d like the thank the Red Cross for putting on this wonderful event.”
Barry, 11, earned the Good Samaritan youth honor after taking care of his cousin who has a severe medical condition. At a family Fourth of July function, when Barry found his cousin turning blue from lack of oxygen, he carried him to an adult for help.
“It was pretty scary,” he told the crowd. “But I’m just thankful that I was there.”
Almost a year ago, deputies Alatorre and Glaser rescued five victims from an overturned vehicle in a slough east of Woodland and were named law enforcement heroes.
The students of Patwin Elementary organized a fundraiser to help tsunami victims in Japan. They raised approximately $1,100, which was donated to the Red Cross.
“It just kind of happened,” Kailey said. “My friend Megan (Kong) and I wanted to help with a charity. Then the tsunami happened and we thought why not give it there.
“We had to keep changing our goals,” she added. “We were hoping to raise $300 in the beginning, so we increased our goals.”
Schaufel, a Woodland firefighter, was attending the Reno Air Races with his sons. They had left their box to get snacks and toy for the boys. On their way back, he heard a noise and realized there was an accident. He made sure his sons were safe and then went to help. When he reached the crash area, he realized their box was only a few feet away from the impact. He was able to help people with makeshift bandages and tourniquets from T-shirts.
Doctors Miller and Perlman were honored for their work in Mexico. The duo have taken approximately 25 trips in the past 10 years to help treat people’s eye problems, mostly cataract surgeries. During their extended weekend trips, they perform between 5o and 90 surgeries.
“This is truly a great honor,” Perlman said. “We’re just two spokes in a wheel.”
Van Sant was the senior good Samaritan for his work with Angel Flight, helping sick people in outlying areas get to hospitals at Stanford University and UC San Francisco.
Welch was unable to attend because he is still active in the military — but now in America. He was honored for his four tours in the Middle East. The sniper squad leader thanked the Red Cross for the honor and the care packages via video.
Rose was honored for his quick thinking in a Wal-Mart when another customer collapsed and he started CPR. He had just taken the Red Cross CPR class two weeks before.
“I really don’t think I deserve this,” Rose told the audience. “I’d like to thank the Red Cross for having such wonderful programs out there where you can learn to help somebody. Everybody should take CPR. Learn it, use it. It can save someone’s life.”
For more information about Red Cross classes, how to donate or to nominate a hero, call (916) 993-7070 or see visit www.redcrosscrc.org.