Greater Cleveland Heroes Honored

It’s fitting, but not intentional, that National Good Samaritan Day fell the day before we honored Greater Cleveland Heroes.

The day is also known as Good Samaritan Involvement Day. It is a day for unselfish actions to help those in need and to celebrate kindness.

The term “Good Samaritan” comes from the Bible parable where a Samaritan helped a stranger who had been robbed and beaten and left to die by the side of the road.  The Samaritan not only cleaned the man’s wounds and clothed him, but took him to an inn where he paid for the man’s care.

The term is used today to describe those who perform acts of kindness for those in need, especially those who are strangers.  Like the seven individuals we honored on March 15.

About 500 people attended the 2018 Greater Cleveland Heroes Award ceremony at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, where the Cleveland Indians received the Community Leader Award.  See our photo album of the event here.

In a nutshell…

Olup & ProchazkaSM

Patrolman Christopher Olup and Sergeant Robert Prochazka

Patrolman Christopher Olup and Sergeant Robert Prochazka of the Willowick Police Department risked their own lives to enter a burning house and pull a disabled man to safety.




Nurse Janine Smalley of the Cleveland VA Medical Center volunteered to treat thousands of veterans in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Gilbert DiSanto of Miceli Dairy used an AED and performed CPR to save the life of a man who had collapsed near the company’s headquarters in Cleveland.



Dana Walling was a customer at Classic BMW in Willoughby Hills when he helped two wounded police officers subdue a gunman.

Jared Lee of the MetroHealth System improvised by using the drawstring from his scrubs as a tourniquet on a severely injured victim of a car crash.


John and Jan Durkalski

Jan Durkalski performed CPR and ran for help after her husband collapsed during a run in the Cleveland Metroparks, saving his life.

These seven individuals are the very definition of “Good Samaritans,” and we are proud to honor them for their selfless acts.

See our heroes tell their stories in their own words here.

We honored 12 Heroes earlier this month in Akron, at the 2018 Acts of Courage awards in the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.  And coming in June, the Acts of Courage awards in Youngstown will honor heroes from our Lake to River Chapter.



The Twelve Days of Christmas

Preparing Families for Emergencies

By John Gareis, Regional Preparedness Manager

Most people believe that on the First Day of Christmas the appropriate gift to give is a Partridge in a Pear Tree. Well the American Red Cross believes in building Disaster Resilient Neighborhoods during the Holiday Season as well throughout the year.pear
To help you select stocking stuffers and Christmas gifts designed to make individuals, families and the homes they live in as safe as possible, the American Red Cross has put together the following recommendations for gifts for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the First Day of Christmas

On the First Day of Christmas, the Red Cross recommends that you install a Smoke AlarmSMOKE ALARM. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of a home; outside bedrooms on the ceiling or high on the wall, at the top of open stairways and at the bottom of enclosed stairs and near (but not in) the kitchen. It is important to check your Smoke Alarms every month and replace their batteries annually. The life expectancy of ALL smoke alarms is 10 years – the sensors wear out.

On the Second Day of Christmas

On the Second Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you install a CO2CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM. Carbon Monoxide Alarms should be placed in hallways throughout the home. They should also be placed in recreational vehicles and on boats.

extinguisherOn the Third Day of Christmas

On the Third Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you install a FIRE EXTINGUISHER in your home. Install A-B-C type Fire Extinguishers in the home and teach all household members how to use them.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

On the Fourth Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you install aladder FIRE ESCAPE LADDER. Homes with more than one floor should have at least one Fire Escape Ladder stored on all floors, other than ground level. Store these ladders where they are easily accessible.

kitOn the Fifth Day of Christmas

On the Fifth Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you assemble a FAMILY DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT. A family will cope best by preparing for emergencies before they occur. One way to prepare is by assembling a Family Disaster Supplies Kit. Once disaster hits, you won’t have time to shop and search for supplies.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

petOn the Sixth Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you assemble a PET SUPPLIES KIT. Pets enrich the lives of individuals and families in more ways than you can count. In turn they depend on people for their safety and well-being. Having a Pet Disaster Supplies Kit is one of the best ways to care for pets when disaster strikes.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

On the Seventh Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you acquire wxa WEATHER RADIO. As the voice of the National Weather Service, a Weather Radio provides continuous broadcasts of the latest weather information directly from a National Weather Service Forecast Office. During severe weather routine broadcasting is interrupted and special watch and warning messages are issued.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas

firstaidOn the Eighth Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you get a FIRST AID KIT. Because the first five minutes of a medical emergency are critical, every individual and family should have a First Aid Kit in their home and vehicle and on your boat.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas

cprOn the Ninth Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you attend FIRST AID AND CPR TRAINING. For more than a century, the Red Cross has been saving lives with Health and Safety Services education programs. A unique idea for a Christmas Stocking would be a Gift Certificate for a First Aid and CPR Training course.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas

On the Tenth Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you purchasehouse numbers HOUSE NUMBERS. Each home should have its number posted clearly on the front door, over the doorway, or elsewhere on the front so emergency responders can easily locate it. Lives and property can be saved simply by adequate house numbers where emergency workers can find them as quickly as possible.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

flashOn the Eleventh Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you purchase a FLASHLIGHT. As simple as a Flashlight is, it can become a very important tool during and after disaster strikes. Every Family Disaster Supplies Kit should contain a Flashlight and spare batteries.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas the Red Cross recommends that you create an phoneEMERGENCY COMMUNICATION PLAN. Each home should have a list of Emergency Phone Numbers posted near the phone or in the front of a phone book.

For additional information on these and other safety tips visit:


Wife Performs CPR, Saves Husband’s Life

“You can’t leave me here.  I’m too young to be a widow. You can’t go,” Jan Durkalski pleaded.  Her husband John had just collapsed during a Sunday morning run and was struggling to breath.

Then, his breathing stopped.  So did his heart.


John and Jan Durkalski

Jan and John were on a run together in the Cleveland Metroparks when John suffered sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed.  Jan had just renewed her cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification the day before, and the instructions were fresh in her mind when she began CPR on John.


Jan and John Durkalski point to the spot where John collapsed during a run on January 22, 2017

“I never had to do live CPR before.  I just did it in class,” Jan explained.  “I walked away thinking ‘I’ll never have to do this.’ ”

Hear Jan and John tell the story in their own words by watching the video on our YouTube Channel.

It’s National CPR/AED Awareness Week and we are urging everyone to get trained on how to perform CPR and how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) so they can help during an emergency situation.

Many people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest die before getting to a hospital so every second counts. For every minute without defibrillation, a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chance of surviving drops. It is critical for as many people as possible to be trained to perform CPR and know how to use an AED until advanced help arrives.

Interested in getting trained? Find information on Red Cross classes here. Last year, nearly 50,000 people in Northeast Ohio enrolled in Red Cross first aid/CPR/AED classes.

“Sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of thousands of people in this country every year,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO. “National CPR/AED Awareness Week is the perfect time for people to get trained and help increase a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.”

John DurIMG_4382kalski not only survived, he is thriving.  He ran the 10K race at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in May, and plans to continue running. “40 years and one heart attack.  Why quit now?”

You can download the free Red Cross First Aid App which puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies, including sudden cardiac arrest, at your fingertips. Download by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at


Ordinary People Honored for Taking Extraordinary Action

Recognized with Highest Award the Red Cross Offers

Lifesavers.  When we hear that word, we think of surgeons, firefighters, police officers, lifeguards.

Add teacher and massage therapist to the list.

Two people who have been certified by the Red Cross for their lifesaving skills have now been honored after putting those skills to use.

Certificates of Merit were awarded to Natasha Alexander-Cooley and Molly O’Donnell.  The certificates, signed by President Barack Obama, cite their “selfless and humane action in sustaining a life.”  They are the highest award given by the Red Cross to someone who sustains or saves a life by using the skills learned during Red Cross training.

Natasha, an educator at Tremont Montessori School in Cleveland, was honored for saving the life of a choking student, by performing several abdominal thrusts until food was dislodged from the choking boy’s throat.

Molly, a licesned massage therapist and trained First Aid/CPR/AED instructor, was cited for her efforts to save the life of her Instructor Trainer, who suffered cardiac arrest prior to the start of their class earlier this year.

“The Red Cross trains people to react to emergency situations, and these individuals did exactly what they were trained to do,” said Charlotte Rerko, Regional COO and a Registered Nurse.   “It was an honor to present these awards to them.”

Charlotte was also honored with a Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action.  She also responded to the stricken CPR Instructor.


Mike Parks, Charlotte Rerko and Shawn Riley

The awards were presented by Mike Parks, Regional CEO, and Shawn Riley, Board Chair, during the quarterly meeting of the Greater Cleveland Chapter Board of Directors on Thursday, December 8.  There’s a photo gallery from the meeting on the Greater Cleveland Chapter Facebook page.

The Red Cross teaches not only First Aid/CPR/AED, but also Basic Life Support, Babysitting and Childcare, and Lifeguarding.  Go to to learn these live saving skills.  You may be called on someday to take extraordinary action in order to save a life.

CPR Instructor Honored for Saving a Life

Red Cross Honors Instructor Who Used His Training at the Cuyahoga County Fair



Officer Jim Mikesina

Jim Mikesina is not a superhero.  He did, however, scale a wall at the Cuyahoga County Fair this year to assist man who was in need of immediate medical attention.

Officer Mikesina was providing security at the fair in August when a worker suffered cardiac arrest. The fallen man was on a carnival ride platform, and Jim took the most direct route to get to him…by climbing a wall adjacent to the platform.

Fortunately for the fair worker, Jim is a certified American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED instructor, and administered CPR immediately.  Coworkers estimate Jim applied chest compressions approximately 400 times before the emergency squad was able to get to get the victim into an ambulance.

The Cuyahoga County Agricultural Society recently honored Jim with a plaque, in recognition of his “Extraordinary lifesaving heroism in the line of duty.”

The Red Cross also recognized Jim with a Certificate of Appreciation, “For exerting extraordinary effort and utilizing your American Red Cross CPR training to alleviate the suffering of a fellow human being.”


Officer Jim Mikesina is congratulated by Mike Parks, CEO, Northeast Ohio Region

“Officer Mikesina went above and beyond the call of duty to reach the victim so swiftly,” said Mike Parks, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Region. “His determination and his Red Cross training certainly paid off, as he was able to save a life that day.”

First Aid/CPR/AED training is available throughout Northeast Ohio.  Log onto and click “Training and Certification” at the top of the page to find a list of classes.

Who knows…maybe your instructor will be someone who has used his or her training to save a life, like officer James Mikesina did this year at the Cuyahoga County Fair.

Another Successful Save-a-Life Saturday

Would you know how to save someone’s life if they dropped to the ground in front of you?

Thanks to our ongoing partnership with the Cleveland Clinic Akron General, over 30 community members now know how to perform hands-only CPR.

Learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR for short, is a vital skill. The Red Cross has set a goal of having one person in every household able to perform CPR. Through programs like Save-a-Life Saturday (which is held annually) and our free Citizen CPR courses, we are well on our way!

Here is a quick video that demonstrates how to perform CPR:



To learn more about our Citizen CPR course, contact your local chapter. For a complete listing of First Aid and CPR certification courses near you, visit


Photos: Mary Williams/American Red Cross


Red Cross Volunteers Credited with Saving Man’s Life

Performed CPR, Used AED to Save a Man at the Wayne County Fair

Farm animals. Funnel cakes. First Aid.

All are traditions of the Wayne County Fair.

The Red Cross has been providing first aid to fair goers for more than 60  years, as a service to the community.  This year, that service helped save at least one life.

A man attending the fair on Monday, September 12, suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed. Red Cross first aid workers rushed to perform CPR. They also applied a newly-acquired AED (automated external defibrillator) while awaiting the arrival of Wayne County EMS personnel.

The man survived.  “The ER staff said the Red Cross saved his life, as there was no way he would have made it if he had to wait for the squad to reach him inside the fairgrounds,” said Lara Kiefer, Executive Director of the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.

Captain Doug Hunter of the Wayne County Sheriff’s office also credited the Red Cross crew, in a video posted on Facebook.  Capt. Hunter said, ” I want to recognize the life-saving efforts of the representatives of the Wayne County Red Cross.” He continued,
“They frantically started doing what they are trained to do and tried to revive this man.”  He went on to describe the use of the AED.  “It was not looking good folks. I had pretty much written this man off as not going to survive, but they kept going.”

Captain Hunter also credits a nurse from the Wooster Community Hospital for assisting.

“It was truly a remarkable moment,” Captain Hunter said, in describing the moment the man first showed signs of life. “The people from the Red Cross at the Wayne County Fairgrounds saved this man’s life.”

Most first aid requests involve far less serious ailments, but the service provided by the Red Cross was deemed so important, a facility was built on the fairgrounds for use as a first aid station during the run of the fair every year.

About 120,000 people attend the Wayne County Fair, and the Red Cross provides first aid service free of charge.  Red Cross first aid workers respond to 200-300 incidents each year.  Taxpayer money is saved, by reducing the number of calls made to 911.

Our first aid service at the fair has been valued at approximately $20,000.

But for the man who suffered cardiac arrest on Monday, no value can be placed on the life-saving skills of the Red Cross first aid responders.

You can learn the same life-saving skills employed by the Red Cross by taking a class, to learn First Aid, CPR and AED. Training for other skills, such as babysitting and swimming and water safety are also offered. Go to

Photo credit: Mary Williams/American Red Cross