2018 Heroes Celebrated in Akron

The 22nd Annual Acts of Courage event was held on March 1. The event generated nearly $130,000. The proceeds from the night will assist the work of the Red Cross in Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties.

Here are the stories of those honored.

Lt. Jeff Layne and Officer James Craft – The commitment police, fire and rescue workers have for their community knows no days off, as Akron Fire Department Lieutenant Jeffrey Layne discovered on a sunny day in April. Lt. Layne was off duty getting ready to enjoy a bike ride by Summit Lake with his wife and a friend when an SUV appeared out of nowhere and drove off the pier into the cold, murky water. Lt. Layne called out to pedestrians nearby to call 9-1-1 and immediately jumped into the lake. Approaching from behind, Lt. Layne recognized car seats from the back window and feared the worst.

Akron Police Department Police Officer James Craft was on duty and just driving past Summit Lake when the call came in that a vehicle had gone into the water and may have a family on board. Arriving at the scene, Officer Craft wasted no time removing his vest and jumping into the frigid water to assist Lt. Layne.

As more rescue personnel began arriving on the scene, Officer Craft used his ASP baton to break the rear window and fire rescue officers atop the vehicle broke out the passenger window allowing them to come to the relieving conclusion that there were no other passengers in the vehicle aside from the driver. With the water now up to the driver’s chin Officer Craft grabbed hold of the driver and pulled him out of the vehicle through the broken window. The driver began to panic and wrapped his arms around Officer Craft, pushing him under the water. Officer Craft regained his position with the driver and with the assistance of additional rescue personnel on the dock, was able to get the driver onto the shore to safety. The driver was saved thanks to these two men’s quick action, courage and determination.


Wade Wooten – A strange haze filled the sky outside of Wade Wooten’s home. Feeling a sense of alarm, Wade decided to step outside and investigate immediately being overwhelmed by smoke. Looking to his right, he saw plumes of thick black smoke and flames pouring out of his neighbor’s air conditioning unit. Wade ran to his neighbor Nikki’s apartment and banged on the door while shouting her name, but there was no response. Wade stayed calm and recalled his years of experience serving in the U.S. Navy and the training he received in the fire and rescue division.

Wade’s first objective was to locate his neighbor. He rammed the door with all his might and forced it open. Smoke barreled out, he waited a beat and began to crawl low to the ground searching for Nikki, who was shouting for help from her bedroom on the second floor. Realizing he could not reach her from the front, due to the smoke and flames, Wade ran around to the back entrance, climbed the wall and jumped to Nikki’s second floor balcony where she was trapped. He grabbed Nikki and tried to lead her back out to the balcony, but Nikki was struggling as her four small dogs were still somewhere inside. Wade looked her in the eyes and told her they had to go and as they stepped back onto the balcony it gave way and the two went tumbling to the ground. Without even catching a breath, Wade lifted his neighbor Nikki into his arms and carried her to the front of the building to await Fire and Rescue professionals.

His sense of valor showed through on that cold February day. Wade and Nikki both received treatment for smoke inhalation.

Unfortunately, Nikki’s four small dogs were lost in the fire. Following the fire Wade gave her another life-saving gift, his dog, whom Nikki had gifted to Wade three years prior, to help her through her time of grief.


Blake Osborn – Blake Osborn and his wife, Miranda, were hiking the Glens Trail in the Gorge Metroparks on a beautiful Labor Day weekend. A certified wilderness expert, and a Kent State University Adventure Center Program Officer, Blake guided Miranda on an offshoot of the official trail in order to get a better view of the river. Out of the corner of his eye Blake noticed a man at the bottom of a rocky hill sitting with a shoe off. Thinking this was strange, he yelled down to him, “Are you hurt? Do you need help?” The man responded, “no”. Blake then noticed some red on the rock next to the man. He decided to go down to the bottom himself to check it out. Blake called out to nearby hikers to dial 9-1-1, not knowing what he might encounter down below.

The path down to the bottom of the gorge was rocky and steep but at the bottom, Blake knew immediately that this man was in perilous condition. The man, Anthony, had fallen down the hill, gashing his forehead and breaking his ankles, arm and pelvis. Anthony was in shock and the gash in his forehead was bleeding heavily. Blake acted on instinct with his years of wilderness training coming to the forefront. Not having any supplies on him but the clothes on his back, he quickly removed his shirt and tied it around the man’s head then placed himself in a position to keep his head and neck still, fearing a spinal injury.

Blake stayed calm and worked on keeping Anthony awake and alert while simultaneously fighting off yellow jackets who had become enticed by the pair. Nearly two hours later, the fire department was able to reach the two men by boat and Anthony was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Blake’s training and recognition of the fallen hiker’s impaired state, and unquestionable courage to put his own self in danger, helped to save Anthony’s life.


Officer Jason Strainer and Dr. John Bober – On May 24, 2017, Dr. John Bober was sitting in his office at Akron Children’s Hospital’s Division of Pediatric Psychiatry and Psychology when he noticed a man and woman sitting at a table outside his window having a friendly discussion. A loud thump brought Dr. Bober’s attention back to the pair, but the man was lying on the ground and the woman was screaming above him.

Nearby, Akron Police Department Officer Jason Strainer and his partner Officer Kent Shively, were walking their normal beat when they noticed the commotion. As Officer Shively called EMS, Officer Strainer and Dr. Bober simultaneously reached the man, checked and found the individual unresponsive. They began performing CPR. Dr. Bober went to retrieve the AED from inside the offices. They placed the leaders from the AED on the individual’s chest and administered a shock. Officer Strainer and Dr. Bober continued to perform CPR until EMS arrived. EMS transported the individual to the hospital where he survived another few days allowing his family a chance to say their goodbyes. Officer Strainer and Dr. Bober’s calm demeanors and use of CPR and AED training were exemplary.


Laura Deubel, Matt Petrick, Dan Flowers, Karen Sheppard, and Jennifer Dyer – Just after 10 a.m., Laura Deubel ran from her office at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to investigate a call that a volunteer had fainted. As soon as she saw the scene, she shouted “Code Blue!” to another office worker, who repeated the phrase over the plant’s speakers. Trained, designated staffers dropped their duties and raced to the distribution warehouse, where they found beloved volunteer, Horace Lewis, on the floor. The 87-year-old volunteered with Bridging the Gap Ministries. The training that employees had hoped to never use in a real situation kicked in.

Foodbank president, Dan Flowers, and Matt Petrick were the first of the safety team to arrive at Horace’s side. Dan and YMCA volunteer, Christin Domonkos, searched for a pulse but found none. While Dan rushed to retrieve the AED off the wall, the team went into action. Matt and the two YMCA volunteers Christin and Shana DeBerte began CPR, Jennifer Dyer supervised the group and kept the gathering crowd at bay, Laura stayed by Horace’s side offering reassurance and calm. Karen Sheppard operated the AED. Upon attaching the AED, and hearing the detailed instructions given by the machine, the team felt a sense of instant relief. Soon, the paramedics arrived and took Horace away in an ambulance.

Dan and the team are adamant that the AED made all the difference, not only for its life-saving technical components but also for its ability to take control of a situation and guide a person through it all. However, an AED machine cannot operate alone and if it wasn’t for the team’s thorough CPR training and their fast action Horace would not be alive today.


Eathan Cobbin – It was a normal, happy day at Brown Middle School. Eathan Cobbin and his best friend Christian Neff were eating lunch with friends in the cafeteria when everything suddenly went terribly wrong. As Eathan looked on, Christian took a bite of his string cheese and immediately began to cough and gag as though he was choking. His face turned deep red and, Christian later recalls, he feared he would soon lose consciousness. Looking around, Eathan realized that the teachers were too far away to see what was happening and everyone else seemed frozen with fear. Eathan knew that it was up to him to save his friend. Without thinking twice, he leapt across the table and tried to recall how to perform abdominal thrusts from the safety signs he often saw in restaurants and doctor’s offices. This knowledge proved vital, after a few attempts the cheese was dislodged and expelled. While the two boys were most assuredly shaken from this experience, Christian made a fast and full recovery and their relationship has never been stronger.

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