2022 Acts of Courage Award winners honored

Annual H. Peter Burg Community Leader award also presented

By the American Red Cross and Ryan Lang, Red Cross Volunteer

Two police officers, an off-duty firefighter, an assistant middle school principal, a municipal recreation worker, a vacationing teenager and a professional model will be honored for bravery and acts of heroism, at the 26th annual Acts of Courage awards, presented by the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley.

The annual dinner and award ceremony will take place on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn, 3180 W. Market Street, Akron, Ohio 44333.

Bernett L. Williams, H. Peter Burg Community Leader Award recipient

As a special feature of the Acts of Courage awards, the Red Cross takes an opportunity to present a community member, who has spent a lifetime pursuing good deeds, with the H. Peter Burg Community Leader award. This year, the award will be presented to Bernett L. Williams, Vice President External Affairs at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Acts of Courage Award Winners:

LaDonya Williams, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

LaDonya S. Williams, day care provider and model, Akron, Ohio
While sitting at a traffic light at V. Odom and Raymond St., a motorist careened wildly down the street, crashing into the car in-front of LaDonya Williams and her father, off-duty Akron Police Department detective, Donny Williams.

A woman leapt out of the vehicle, screaming that her 7-month-old baby was choking. Working quickly, LaDonya pulled the 7-month old child out of the car and successfully performed infant abdominal thrusts, taught by the American Red Cross.

LaDonya, who in addition to being a licensed day care worker, is a professional model, and was supposed to be in Chicago on a modeling job, but canceled at the last minute. It was a decision that may have saved that baby’s life.

Tim Haas, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

Tim Haas – Asst. Chief, Brunswick Hills Fire Department
On just the second day of a family vacation to Mexico, Brunswick resident Tim Haas played the hero. While at the main pool of the resort where the family was staying, Hass, saw a 2 year-old girl being taken out of the pool.

The child had drowned. She was not breathing and had no pulse. Tim utilized his extensive training and performed CPR until she was revived, about two minutes later. Emergency personnel at the resort then responded, and later told Haas the girl was “doing well.”

Anthony Hermann, Assistant Principal, Barberton Local Schools
Eighth grade Assistant Principal Anthony Hermann was helping clean up on a Taco Tuesday during lunch at Barberton Middle School. As students were getting ready to return to class, Mr. Hermann was called on to use the first aid training he and other administrators are required to learn.

Anthony Hermann, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

A student was choking on his meal and unable to verbalize his distress. Mr. Hermann could tell immediately what was wrong and moved into action. As he patted the child’s back, trying to dislodge the food that was blocking his airway, the student passed out.

As the situation unfolded, Mr. Hermann called for the room to be cleared and began to perform abdominal thrusts to dislodge the food. Eventually, the student regained consciousness.

John Doyle, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

John Doyle, Recreation Supervisor, City of Macedonia
During Macedonia’s SummerFest 5K in 2021, Recreation Supervisor John Doyle was clearing the trails toward the end of the run and noticed a man face down on the trail. Recognizing him as the runner who had just passed him, John immediately radioed for EMS and approached the man. After performing multiple rounds of CPR, several other workers arrived with an AED and LUCAS device.

The runner regained his pulse and was breathing before being taken to the hospital.

Officer Lenny Kunka, Officer Kyle Auckland – Kent Police Department
A 14-year-old girl was babysitting a 1-year-old around 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, when she heard someone trying to get inside. Unable to get away, she hid in a bathroom and bravely called 911. Through whispered exchanges, she spoke with dispatch.

Kent Police Officers Kyle Auckland and Lenny Kunka, Acts of Courage Award Recipients

Two Kent police officers, officer Lenny Kunka and officer Kyle Auckland, responded to the call. Almost immediate shots were fired by the intruder. Officer Kunka was shot in the hand. Officer Auckland’s bullet-resistant vest saved his life when he was shot in the chest. Both officers have recovered.

The suspect was subdued and arrested.

Travis Shrout, College Student, Stow, Ohio
While vacationing in Topsail, North Carolina, 19-year-old Stow resident Travis Shrout went swimming. While at the beach, he noticed a mother and young child in distress in the water.

Travis Shrout, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

Travis pursued them using his body board. He first reached the mother and gave her the body board. He then swam toward the boy, who was struggling to stay above the waves some 10-yards away. Travis used his Red Cross lifeguard training to calm and rescue the boy, navigating both mother and son out of the rip current and safely to shore.

My first Acts of Courage Awards as a Red Cross Board Member:

Working in radio news for the past six years in Akron, I’m very familiar with the Red Cross Acts of Courage event. In fact, I’ve covered a lot of these heroes in the news over that time.

Acts of Courage Awards (Photo credit: Debbie Chitester, Red Cross)

But this year was my first in-person Acts of Courage event as a Red Cross board member, and the experience was even more rewarding that I could have imagined.

Prior to Thursday night’s ceremony, I had the chance to meet several of this year’s heroes and hear their stories firsthand. That was a few weeks ago, and as emotionally affected as I was then, I figured I was prepared to keep my composure during the main event.

I was not.

Hearing these stories from the men and woman that lived them was once again an emotional experience for me. LaDonya’s selflessness, Tim’s training in action, Anthony’s sense of duty to his student, John’s quick reaction, Lenny and Kyle’s bond, and Travis’ maturity and composure… Every single story moved me as if I was hearing them again for the first time.

These folks are heroes. They represent the best parts of our community and the Red Cross is proud to recognize them for their extraordinary acts of courage.

Bernett L. Williams, H. Peter Burg Award recipient with Ryan Lang, Red Cross Board Member (Photo credit: Debbie Chitester, Red Cross)

And then there was Bernett L. Williams, this year’s H. Peter Burg Award recipient, who was presented the award by her two sons, Todd and Jacob; two impressive young men who spoke so highly of their mother.

Bernett L. Williams and her sons Todd and Jacob (Photo credit: Debbie Chitester, Red Cross)

Bernett’s resume and long list of contributions to the community speak for themselves, but from where I was sitting, it was the testimony of her sons that truly spoke to Bernett’s character and her impact on the people around her. The way those young men carried themselves and spoke of their mother was beyond impressive and as the son of a remarkable woman myself, I could feel the pride swelling within them.

From her work with Akron Children’s Hospital to her leadership role in the Akron Urban League to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and the Women’s Endowment Fund, Leadership Akron, Summit for Kids, and the list goes on, Bernett is the epitome of selflessness in the community.

The H. Peter Burg Community Leadership Award was made for Bernett L. Williams.

I was honored to be there last night and I’m honored to represent the Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley, if only from my small seat at a very large and distinguished table.

See more photos from the award ceremony in our photo album.

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