Many of us cross paths with heroes every day. Some make a difference in just one person's life; others have a positive impact on an entire community. They all give to others without thinking of themselves.
It's that spirit in which the Berks County chapter of the American Red Cross presented its 10th annual Heroes Awards and Breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Wyomissing on Thursday. This year's theme was "Celebrating a decade of heroes in our community."
The event's mission is to "celebrate heroes who, over the course of the past year, lived and embodied the values of humanity, voluntary service and unity, which constitute the core of the mission of the American Red Cross."
Xavier Martinez, an explorer with the Berks County sheriff's office Kyle Pagerly #027 Explorer Program, was honored as the youth good Samaritan hero for saving the life of a drowning friend, Ifedapo, by pulling him out of a swimming pool and performing CPR.
"When he spit up water, I immediately looked at his chest and it was going up and down, and I could see that he was breathing on his own," said Martinez, who was certified in CPR just 20 days earlier.
Ifedapo would spend the night at Reading Hospital and go on to make a full recovery.
911 telecommunicator Theresa Johnson was honored as the 911 dispatch hero for coordinating the police response to a report of an armed person in Wernersville.
"I dispatched the call, and as things developed, I started to realize that maybe it was going to turn into something that wouldn't end pleasantly," Johnson said.
What authorities didn't know at the time was that Jonathan Rutkowski, armed with two guns, had said goodbye to family and friends though Facebook messages and left a note saying he was “leaving today.”
Officers shot Rutkowski when he pointed the guns at them.
Christine Wendt, a nurse at Lauer's Park Elementary School, was honored as the medical hero for using CPR and an AED unit to revive a colleague, Lynn Haubrich, who collapsed in a school hallway.
"I knew that she had two children in the building, and no one was going down on my watch without a fight," Wendt said.
"She saved my life, and I don't know how to thank her enough," Haubrich said. "I thank God that she didn't give up on me."
Chief Warrant Ofc. 2 Jarrett Yoder was honored as the military hero for his service to our country.
Yoder lost his life when his Apache helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan on April 9, 2013.
"He wanted to fly since he was 4-years-old," his parents, Gary and Diane, told 69 News. "Since he was a little kid, he knew what he wanted to do. He was going to be a pilot."
Yoder and his wife, Heather, were married in July 2012. Only a month later, he was dispatched to Afghanistan for his second deployment.
"He'll forever be my hero," Heather said.
Dave Lis was honored as the animal rescue hero for developing the Animal Rescue League's Patriotic Paws program.
"I'm a Vietnam veteran," Lis said. "I have a PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] diagnosis."
The program offers a free cat or dog adoption to U.S. veterans who served in areas of combat.
"For vets coming home from wars and experiencing things many of us would never experience in a lifetime. The dogs understand that; the cats understand that," said Kristi Rodriguez, the ARL's volunteer program coordinator. "They've lost a lot in their lives, as well, so there's definitely a connection between the two."
Veterans interested in the program can email Rodriguez for more information.
Firefighter Anthony Morganti, Firefighter Jeffrey Rushing, Firefighter/Paramedic Christian Murray, Deputy Chief Andrew LaFaver and Chief Craig Reinhart, all members of the Temple Fire Company, and Michael Faranda, were honored as fire safety heroes for reviving Faranda's father, Salvatore, who was experiencing cardiac arrest inside his home in Muhlenberg Township.
Michael Faranda performed CPR on his dad until the Temple firefighters could arrive and use an AED unit him.
"Not many people get a second chance. I definitely had a second chance," Salvatore said. "If there’s a thing above hero, I’d put them there."
Pennsylvania State Police Troopers Edgardo Lugo and Brian Jasinksi and Cpl. Douglas Bendetti and Berks County sheriff's Deputy Richard Scott Reeser were honored as the law enforcement heroes for their actions in saving the life of a suicidal man.
Reeser was working as a security guard at Reading Hospital and saw the man sitting on the ledge of a parking garage.
"He looks at me, closes his eyes and he just starts to fall backwards," recalled Reeser, who grabbed the man by his shirt and held onto him for as long as he could. "I kind of, with all my energy, throw him to the side where there was a sign that leads into the garage there, and that's where he landed."
The troopers who responded helped pull the man to safety.
"We had to just take action on it to save this man, afford him the opportunity to live another day," Bendetti said.
Jeff Doelp, Dr. Robyn Gansner and James Young were honored as the adult good Samaritan heroes for their actions in saving the life of Russ Kline, Conrad Weiser's athletic director.
Doelp and Gansner began CPR after Kline collapsed and Young, a school athletic trainer, transported an AED unit to Kline.
"I got everybody away and I just hit the button and it shocked him," Young said.
It turned out, Kline had a torn heart valve.
"They are heroes and angels to me," Kline said.
Douglas Graybill was honored as the community impact hero for his everyday actions to help others in need.
Graybill, a Vietnam War veteran, runs Veterans Making a Difference with his wife, Liz.
"It's 24 hours, seven days a week," Liz said. "It’s his life. They call, he goes."
Graybill, who has been homeless himself, spends as much of his free time as possible visiting VA hospitals and taking food and clothing to veterans at various homeless camps around the Reading area.
"They can talk to me. I speak their language," Graybill said. "I was homeless five times. I was alone, depressed, so I know where they’re at."
Graybill hand-delivers most of about 500 lunches each month.
If there's a true mark of a hero, it's a man who is completely selfless, who does what others need, regardless of his own needs," said Robin 'Cherokee' Gilmore," Graybill's friend. That is Doug Graybill."
69 News anchor Karin Mallett, a member of the Red Cross chapter's board of directors, served as emcee of the event, and 69-WFMZ-TV again served as its presenting sponsor.
Dr. Timothy Ring, who has been practicing forensic psychology for nearly 25 years, served as the event's keynote speaker.
Ring, an American Red Cross disaster relief specialist, shared with the audience some of his experiences of providing crisis management and mental health services to first responders and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Indonesia.
If you know of someone to nominate as a hero for next year's event, contact the Berks County chapter of the American Red Cross.