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.

Seven honored by Red Cross with 25th annual Acts of Courage awards

By: Mark Sitch, American Red Cross Volunteer

The 25th annual Acts of Courage, featuring the H. Peter Burg Community Leadership & Spirit of the Red Cross awards was not the norm this year, but what has been? Nonetheless, on March 4, 2021, courage and recognition did not stop! Due to precautionary measures during COVID-19, the annual honorees made history streaming virtually together for this edition. It is regarded as the greatest celebrated acts of courage, compassion, character and humility in which the American Red Cross proudly honors our region’s deserving recipients each year.

Seven individuals captured Acts of Courage through reactive giving.

Dustin Nist – a Kent State business management student was returning home when he witnessed a car plunge into the Tuscarawas River near the Clinton fire station. He broke a window of the sinking car with a railroad tie after seeing an older woman with water up to her neck in a desperate situation. “I was talking to the lady, letting her know it’s alright,” before responders were able to extract the woman from the car with only minor injuries. He remains modest and said he was acting out of instinct and only glad he could help. Watch Dustin’s story here.

Yamil Encarnacion –a Twinsburg police officer, earned praise after he crawled into an overturned car in the eastbound lane of I-480 to rescue a 4-year-old child pinned in a car seat after an end over end traffic accident. The little girl’s legs were losing color, so officer Encarnacion jumped into action, crawling into the wreckage, cutting the child free. “I remember seeing an officer carrying my daughter, then he went back for my son and there was just blood all over his arms,” according to Emma Johnson, the mother. She says she will never forget what officer Encarnacion did for her and her family. Watch Yamil’s story here

Richard Santucci & Jim Shepherd – On February 2, 2020, while at work at Nordson Xaloy Inc. in Austintown, Jim Shepherd helped save a life. A man lost consciousness, fell to the ground and began to have a seizure. Jim immediately assessed the man and alerted his team of the escalated incident. Richard Santucci also came to the man’s aid with an AED. Richard began to perform CPR while administering shocks to the gentleman until EMS arrived on scene. The skills learned in the Red Cross Training Services course helped to save the life of this man. Watch Richard and Jim’s story here.

Clarissa Gagne a journalist with the Akron Beacon Journal, recounts when Clarissa was pregnant with her daughter, she learned CPR as part of her parenting classes. “It’s one of those skills you learn, and you pray you never have to use it.” But the second-grade teacher did so eight years later. Clarissa’s neighbor had collapsed in front of her when she and several neighbors rushed to help. “It was really a whole neighborhood event,” she said. One person called 911, while another watched the woman’s family. Each link in the chain—the person giving CPR, the 911 caller, the dispatcher, the paramedic, the hospital worker, worked together. Watch Clarissa’s story here.

Natalie Weisler – The Portage County 7-year-old woke up at home early Sunday morning November 8, while her parents and brother were still asleep, she went into the living room to watch television. Only a short time had passed before she heard a startling crash from the kitchen. Upon investigating, she found the breezeway in flames. Remaining calm, Natalie woke her parents and older brother to get out safely. Though the damages were extensive, she was brave under pressure and as her father, Justin Weisler, boldly stated, his daughter simply saved their lives. Watch Natalie’s story here.

Joanne White – The 80-year-old suffers from multiple health issues and has been confined to her Boardman home since March 2020, due to COVID-19. Rather than feeling sorry for herself, she began making masks. She made a bundle of masks weekly in all different fabrics, styles and seasonal designs to distribute to anyone who needed them. On a fixed income and never asking for any money or credit to buy materials, she only wanted to make people smile. She cannot imagine making money off those who may not have the means for something so important. Joanne has has made over 1,200 masks and has shipped them all over the country, essentially “covering” our community. Watch Joanne’s story here.

2021 Peter H. Burg Community Leadership Award – Honorees of this year’s philanthropic legacy award are an inspired couple who have embraced their adopted hometown, Nick and Cindy Browning. Nick is the president of Huntington National Bank and Huntington-Akron Foundation. Nick engages leaders, colleagues, customers and communities in improving the lives of families. Cindy is a dedicated community volunteer, having retired after a 35-year nursing career. Her passion for Hospice of Summa and Grace House Akron continues as she serves as a volunteer member and coordinator on the capital and policy committees. The couple’s past work includes youth, health, nonprofit and many other community projects. They were honored for the difference they make in the lives of those in our communities.

The 2021 Spirit of the Red Cross Award Winners – Through their success in the automotive industry, Greg and Alice Greenwood and their family of companies have become synonymous in the Mahoning Valley with devotion for over 36 years. The Greenwoods serve by following the core values the Greenwood dealerships were built upon: Respect, Trust, Honestly, Loyalty and Professionalism. The Greenwood family and its dealership teams are agents for philanthropy and community contribution by supporting the Red Cross in Youngstown, where Greg was an active board member and speaker. Their dealerships support many diverse organizations and events, including local schools, youth clubs, family healthcare and nonprofits. The Greenwood family and dealerships follow the example that Greg and Alice set in raising their three children, with selflessness and generosity.

Thank you to all the deserving award winners for placing others first and, like the Red Cross, being there when help is needed. You, too, can be a local hero. If you are interested in volunteering or to learn more about what caring folks and the Red Cross do on an ongoing basis, visit redcross.org.

Edited By: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Red Cross board member donates plasma to help others recover from COVID-19

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

January 25, 2021- Over the past year, our lives have been consumed by news and updates regarding the coronavirus. We have experienced school closures, canceled vacations, social distancing and mask wearing.

Many of us however have either experienced the virus firsthand or know someone who had COVID-19. For Debbi Grinstein, both experiences are true.

Debbi, a trust officer for Farmers Trust Company, previously served as the board president for the Lake to River Chapter and is currently a board member for the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley. In addition to serving on the board of directors, Debbi is also a Disaster Action Team volunteer, assisting residents following a local disaster.

Debbi Grinstein

On December 10, 2020, Debbi began to experience postnasal drip, feeling achy and had a slight fever. That is when she found out that she would join the list of millions of Americans who had COVID-19.

Despite the diagnosis, Debbi considered herself lucky because despite the slight symptoms, she was able to continue to work and exercise at home, and her recovery was quick.

In addition to herself, Debbi experienced the virus through a loved one, as her son, who lives in New York City, also was diagnosed with COVID-19.

During her recovery process, Debbi decided right away that she was going to donate convalescent plasma once she was fully recovered, to try to help others overcome the virus because “it was the right thing to do.”

Convalescent plasma comes from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. Plasma is the part of blood that remains after red and white blood cells are removed. It is rich in proteins and antibodies. Hospitals and research labs around the country are working to see if these antibodies can help the immune system fight COVID-19.

On January 15, Debbi attended her scheduled appointment at the Akron Donation Center to donate her valuable convalescent plasma.

To those who have recovered from COVID-19 but are on the fence about whether they should donate their convalescent plasma, Debbi has a message for you: “Convalescent plasma is helping a lot of people and it does not hurt when you donate.”

Those who have received a verified COVID-19 diagnosis, have fully recovered and have been symptom free for at least 14 days are urged to sign up to give convalescent plasma by completing the donor information form HERE.

To hear more about Debbi’s COVID-19 journey and about her convalescent plasma donation, be sure to follow our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages for an upcoming video conversation with her.

Akron athletic trainers recognized for using Red Cross training to save life

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

January 20, 2021- Have you ever wanted to get CPR and AED training, but you thought you would never have an opportunity to use your training to save a life? Well, hopefully today’s post will change your mind.

John Walters and Kalie Jenkins are athletic trainers at the University of Akron.

On January 11, 2020, while working during an indoor track meet at the Stile Athletic Field House, a spectator in the stands began to experience chest pains.

John and Kalie quickly responded to the aid of the gentleman. Instantly their Red Cross training kicked in as they delivered breath and chest compressions and administered an AED, until first responders were able to arrive to assist.

Thanks to the quick thinking and responsiveness of John and Kalie, the spectator survived and made a full recovery.

During a virtual ceremony last week, the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley presented John and Kalie with the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders, the highest award given to an individual, or team of individuals, who saves or sustains a life, outside of a medical setting, as part of their employment or while on duty.

A screenshot from the virtual award presentation. Left to right/top to bottom: John Walters, Kalie Jenkins, Phil Ormandy, Max Elder, Susan Sparks, Red Cross Training Services, and Rachel Telegdy.

“I am always amazed when someone takes the wherewithal to act. That is the hardest step,” stated Phil Ormandy, American Red Cross Training Services, during the presentation. “I am very proud of you [John and Kalie] and thankful that you put your training in action to save a life.”

“Thankfully John and Kalie were at the right place at the right time. I am proud of them and the University of Akron for holding these trainings,” said Max Elder, John and Kalie’s coworker, who nominated them for the award.

The American Red Cross offers training programs in various areas from first aid, CPR, AED administration, water safety, babysitting and more. Learn more about Red Cross lifesaving courses here.

If you wish to nominate someone for a lifesaving award, visit redcross.org/take-a-class/lifesaving.