Acts of Courage & Spirit Awards: Honoring individuals for heroism

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

June 21, 2019- The annual Acts of Courage & the Spirit of the Red Cross awards was held at the Metroplex in Liberty, Ohio on Thursday, June 13th. It is regarded as the greatest evening of celebrated acts of courage, compassion, character & humility in which the Red Cross Lake to River Chapter proudly honors its deserving recipients each year.

Following a guest reception and social period, Debbi Grinstein, Lake to River board chair, welcomed all to an evening of regional recognition. Opening remarks followed the presentation of colors by Troop 40 of Girard and the chapter’s Disaster Action Teams (DAT) that took part in the hero’s processional. The program master of ceremonies was Greg Greenwood, representing the Greenwood Foundation and a Red Cross Hope Partner.

After a delicious dinner buffet was enjoyed by nearly 300 in attendance, the focal point of this night was now center stage. The spirit of giving and courage was squarely in the spotlight with patriotism for our country, community and individuals exemplifying acts of selflessness. Ten individuals for their heroic efforts and a respected business that captured the spirit of proactive giving were honored. Recipients were:

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Nathen White – (Mahoning County) The Mill Creek Metro Park police officer didn’t plan on saving the life of Malayla Jackson. However, recognizing her allergic reaction, struggling to breathe and time restraints, he hurried her to the hospital in his squad car for the help needed for her survival. “She felt like she was dying”, time was critical and officer White’s quick actions saved her life.

Candice Desanzo – (East Palestine) didn’t know Ruth Kennedy; that is until their paths crossed in an emergency at a local restaurant. While enjoying dinner, Candice witnessed Ruth collapse from an apparent chocking episode. She immediately cared for her with both abdominal thrusts & CPR until EMS arrived. Candice made a difference in positive outcome through her training in live saving techniques.

Fab Four (Mosquito Lake) – Scot Oehlstrom, Rod Schaaf, Mike Soots & Zachery Westrich all had one thing in common on this cold January afternoon – ice fishing. Their second commonality became sharply apparent when they collaborated together to help a family of seven when their tent broke through the ice and heard their calls for help. Nearly 30 yards from shore with a ten-year-old untested rope and the determination of these four enthusiasts knew they had to act fast due to hypothermia. These men, with the screams for help ranging in ages from 7 to 34 were answered in affirmative actions rescuing each one from the frigid water. All survived the frightening ordeal because of the bravery of this fab four who now have more in common; they are heroes.

Mat Jamison (Girard) – Officer Jamison was on routine patrol when he noticed fire at the back of a duplex apartment in the city. After calling the fire department, he felt he had to act now to avoid a possible tragic outcome and entered the burning building with disregard for his own safety to rescue the adults & children inside. Girard Police Chief, John Norman interjected that Jamison had no reservations on going into the house, knocking on doors and getting the people to safety. The department, the city and the community are proud to recognize and honor his efforts that go above and beyond his call of duty.

Judy Sheve (Ashtabula) – Is another of our heroes that knew what to do in a choking emergency, such is the case of a fortunate 91-year-old Simone Campbell. While attending a senior center bridge club night, waitress Judy, recognized the chocking patron and with quick action of abdominal thrusts saved a golden life. In a twist, she left the tip that night; training is paramount in an emergency.

Madison Withrow (Ashtabula) – Is only 10 years old, which is why sharing her story of courage is so important. Madison was home with her mom and her 5 younger siblings when a fire broke out in their home. Against all odds and the will of passion, she was able to carry two 4-month-old twins and return for a 2-year-old brother to safety before first responders arrived. Sadly, Maddie nor the fire fighters could rescue her mother or two younger brothers. We honor and celebrate her selfless courage.

If handling emergencies like the preceding honorees are called acts of courage. Then planning to avoid a life-threatening emergency also falls into the same category, but over a longer period of time as with our next hero.

David Crawford (Canfield) – The local High School is the epicenter of a friendship of Coach Crawford and his boss, Athletic Director, Greg Cooper. Greg was diagnosed with non-alcoholic end stage liver disease-cirrhosis and was waiting for a match. When the coach found out that he was an exact match, “I knew I had the chance to save my friend” he said. That he did, donating 65% of his liver to save Greg’s life that would have ended all too soon.Greg’s daughter delivered a public heartfelt message of affection for the Crawford family and David’s gift of life for her father in a compassionate moment.

Hill Barth & King (HBK) – Was awarded the Spirit of the Red Cross. Founded in Youngstown in 1949 with seventeen offices in five states, they exemplify leadership in the community; compassion for its people and dedication to the life saving mission of the Red Cross.

The closing remarks by chapter director, Karen Conklin, expressed the compassion for family, a friend or a stranger develops extraordinary character, courage and humility that is the spirit of the Red Cross.

Thank you to the Acts of Courage Committee, chair Grinstein, the chapter board, committee judges and the awesome staff for their planning.  It was a proud night for our chapter to honor these recipients. Congratulations and thank you for your selfless acts of courage & spirit!