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 of Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties celebrate the 2015 Acts of Courage

The Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter is pleased to announce the local heroes who were honored for their bravery and heroism at the annual  Acts of Courage event on Thursday, March 5.

The 2015 Honorees included:

Donald MoleskyChristopher Silbaugh and John Underwood were recognized for saving the lives of a couple after a torrential downpour left them trapped in their flooded basement.

A tornado watch was in effect for Cuyahoga Falls. As the water line began to rise during the sudden and torrential downpour in May of 2014, the Hammonds family sought safety in the basement of their home. Once the threat of a tornado had cleared, the children returned to the main floor of the house, leaving their parents to clean-up a small amount of water that had seeped through one of the windows.

Suddenly, the basement wall caved in taking a natural gas line with it. Water rushed in, trapping Michaelann and Mike in the dark stillness of the basement. They rose on the crest of the water until their heads touched the ceiling. The floor joists offered the only air space, though it was tainted by the noxious fumes of the gas. They pounded on the wood, calling to the children to go and get help.

The Hammonds siblings – Emma, Matthew and Sonia – swam across the street to the home of their neighbor, Donald Molesky. Their screams alerted many of the neighbors, including Christopher Silbaugh,  and strangers like John Underwood, whose truch had gotten stuck in the flooded road. John, Christopher and Donald ran to the house.

They pulled an ax from the Hammonds garage and used it, along with Donald’s power saw, to cut through the floorboards. They were able to free Michaelann. Working hard but carefully, they finally pulled Mike through the floor.

Peter Radke was recognized for saving a girl from drowning in Lake Erie.

Peter Radke had agreed to take his daughters and their friends to Lake Erie’s Huntington Beach for a birthday party. Though they knew the water was too choppy to swim, Peter noticed a girl in the water who was struggling to stay afloat. Peter was an excellent swimmer. In spite of the conditions, he dove into the water.

He reached the girl and was able to push her to a safe area where others could grab her.

As they did, Peter struggled to bring himself in.  He was pulled further out into the temperamental, black waters of Lake Erie.  Then he was pulled under, not to resurface.  Peter lost his life to save that drowning girl.

David EiseleDave Wokaty and Officer Justin Winebrenner were recognized their actions when a gunman entered a crowded pub.

Dave Wokaty, David Eisle and Officer Justin Winebrenner were each enjoying a night out with friends at a local pub when Wokaty noticed the manager having an altercation with a customer.

15 minutes later, the customer returned brandishing a weapon. The manager asked Wokaty to see the customer out. Their voices rose in anger. Officer Justin Winebrenner, an off-duty Akron Police officer, and David Eisele joined Wokaty in seeing the customer out.

“From that moment, in my perspective, everything began to move slowly,” said Wokaty.

The gun went off. Though their fearless, and quick thinking saved many patrons and staff members, Wokaty was shot in the stomach and arm.

Officer Winebrenner received a fatal shot.

“I believe,” continued Wokaty,” if it weren’t for Justin, I wouldn’t be here now.”

The gunman ran off. He was caught shortly afterwards by the police.

Jason Duncan was recognized for performing CPR to save the life of a 7-day old infant.

On a cool night in early May, Jason Duncan and his wife Krista heard screaming coming from outside of their front door. Then they heard the sound of someone desperately pounding. Opening the door, Jason saw his neighbors, Bobbi Jo and Dustin holding their seven-day-old baby, Logan. The baby was not breathing and his lips had started to turn an unnatural shade of blackish-purple.  While Krista dialed 911, Jason grabbed a nasal aspirator and began infant CPR.

In a few heartbeats, Logan’s tiny cry pierced the stillness. A sound that Jason and Dustin describe as one of the greatest sounds they ever heard.

Essien (Chris) Cobham and Samantha Phillips were recognized for performing CPR on a visiting student at Kent State University.

Kent State University student, Chris Cobham, was studying in a quiet area of the Student Union on campus, when he heard a thud. A high school student who had been visiting the campus was choking. Quickly assessing the situation, Chris stepped in and began abdominal thrusts on the boy. He slid him to the ground and began CPR once the student’s lips turned blue.

Samantha Phillips, who was cutting through the Student Union on her way to her next class, heard the panic in the conversations of those around her. She went to investigate.

“It’s instinct to go and help someone,” said Samantha, who is working on a degree in Athletic Training. Part of her curriculum is Red Cross certification in First Aid and CPR.

She could see that Chris was getting tired. Pulling out her CPR breathing mask, Samantha assisted breathing as Chris administered the chest compressions until help arrived. The boy was taken to the hospital, and is now back at home.

Bill Adkins and Tony Hylton were recognized for performing CPR on a friend, and fellow Seville Bronze worker.

When Jim Robinson fell to the floor not long after arriving at work, suffering from a massive heart attack, Bill Adkins and Tony Hylton responded quickly.  Trained as part of the company-sponsored first responder team at Seville Bronze, they never thought they would be called to perform CPR on Jim.

“Jim was Superman at work. To be pushing on your friend of 18…20 years? It was devastating,” said Tony.

Their extensive training in Red Cross First Aid and CPR kicked in and they were able to help maintain Jim until paramedics arrived.

“If not for the efforts of Bill and Tony, Jim may not be alive today,” said Chief Jerry Winkler of the Seville-Guilford Fire and EMS.

Officer Derrick Jackson,  and Officer Chris Crockett were recognized for saving a man from a home fire.

Officers Chris Crockett and Derrick Jackson reported to the scene of a house fire where someone was still inside. Knowing that seconds count in a fire, Officer Jackson, a new recruit on the Akron Police Department, pushed his way into the building. Thick smoke bellowed from the house. He came back out to catch his breath.

Officer Crockett returned to the police cruiser for a facemask to filter the smoke. Diving into the home, he too began searching around for the resident as Officer Jackson guided to him from the open door. Once the man was located, the officers pulled him to safety.

Devon McConnell, Ethan Cameron, Paul Martin and Andy Reece were recognized for saving two women and an infant from a fire.

Four Ohio Edison linemen — Devon McConnell, Ethan Cameron, Paul Martin and Andy Reece  — sent to a job site in Rittman, were just getting ready to break for lunch when they heard a woman’s voice screaming, “Fire!”

Looking around, Paul Martin saw a woman standing on a balcony, holding a baby in her arms.

The crew called 911. Knowing that time was of the essence, they quickly moved into position. Moving their truck closer to the building, Devon raised the bucket and grabbed the family. As he was lowering the woman and child to the ground, another woman appeared on another balcony and began yelling for help. As heat rolled out of the open door, Devon returned to rescue the second woman. It took five fire departments to contain the blaze.

All four men have first responder certification, as well as Red Cross First Aid and CPR training. They view their actions as just another facet of their job.

“We are fortunate to have a sense of pride in our jobs. It is an amazing feeling, simply to see the lights come on,” said Paul.

Melvin Davis and Steve Myers were recognized for saving a woman from an apartment fire.

On a Friday night in October, a resident at the apartment complex where Melvin Davis is a Live-in Assistant ran into his apartment to alert him to a fire in one of the apartments. Moving quickly, Melvin grabbed his pass key and followed the man. He could smell the smoke. He called out to the resident, an elderly woman. She answered that she was hurt and couldn’t get to the door.

Melvin opened the door. Struggling to breathe, he couldn’t see more than two feet in front of himself. He called out again. He moved into the apartment but returned to the hallway when he heard the door slam shut behind him. Steve Myers, a resident of the complex, was in the hall and offered to hold the door so that Melvin would be able to find his way out.

Melvin returned into the smoke and crackling flames of the apartment. Working between the sound of the woman’s voice and the sound of Steve’s, he was able to pull the woman to the door. Steve and Melvin moved her to the safety of the stairwell and then began helping the rest of the residents out of the building.

“It was just a blessing to help her,” said Steve.

Officer Adam LeMonier, Officer Darren McConnell and Officer Gregory Mesko were recognized for saving a woman from a home fire.

Officers Adam LeMonier, Darren McConnell and Gregory Mesko were called to a smoke filled home. Neighbors reported that the resident was at home and had not been seen. Moving quickly, the officers made the decision to enter the home and search for the woman. The Officers found her asleep on her bed unaware of what was going on. She was quickly removed from the home.

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In addition to recognizing the heroism of area residents at the event, the American Red Cross of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties will present the H. Peter Burg Award to a community member who has been selfless in service to the community.  This year’s recipient is William (Bill) J. Ginter, who demonstrates a lifelong commitment to humanitarian causes, charitable organizations and the vitality and welfare of the local community.

While CEO of FirstEnergy and chair of the local Red Cross Board of Directors, H Peter Burg established a legacy of dedicated service to the Greater Akron community. Following his death in 2004, the American Red Cross established an award in Pete’s name to honor his memory and inspire others. By bestowing the award on Bill the Red Cross recognizes his lifetime of community service.

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