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From Wildfire Rescuers to CPR Providers, 60+ Angelenos to Receive Red Cross Honors

Los Angeles, May 2, 2019 — The American Red Cross Los Angeles Region is honoring community heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary acts of courage and humanitarian service at its 15th Annual Hometown Heroes Luncheon on Thursday, May 9th. Many of this year’s honorees are concerned citizens who fought to keep our communities safe during the horrific Woolsey Fires. With Wildfire Awareness Week just around the corner, the Red Cross is proud to honor these heroes.

WHAT:15th Annual Hometown Heroes Luncheon

WHERE: Carson Civic Center

801 E Carson Street

Carson, CA 90745

WHEN: Thursday May 9th, 2019. 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Program starts at noon.

For 14 years, the Red Cross has celebrated extraordinary acts by ordinary people who have saved lives; made significant positive differences in their community in the areas of emergency response, disaster preparedness, and prevention; or exemplified the Red Cross mission in some other way.

This week also marks the 6-month anniversary of the devastating Woolsey Fire. Here in Southern California, more than 700 Red Cross volunteers worked tirelessly to help neighbors devastated by the Woolsey and Hill fires, which scorched more than 96,000 acres, destroying 1,500 homes.

“To commemorate last year’s devastating disasters, we want to honor heroes like the Woolsey Fire Strike Teams,” said Veronica Garcia Dávalos, Executive Director at the Greater Long Beach, Rio Hondo and South bay Chapter of the Red Cross. “In the face of one of the most destructive fires in California history, these individuals left their families at home to save lives, provide hope and make sure their teams made it out safely.”

Following are the individual heroes’ stories:

Daniel Tauch & Jesus Villavicencio – Humanitarian Hero Award

When a fellow construction worker collapsed on the job due to a seizure caused by a brain aneurysm, Tauch and Villavicencio delivered CPR and assisted emergency personnel as they stabilized the man in order to transport him to a nearby hospital.

Darlene Geekie & Dr. Martixu Ravenscroft – Disaster Services Hero Award

When the Woolsey Fires forced them to abandon their Agoura Hills veterinary practice, Dr. Ravenscroft and Geekie provided free medical care to more than 200 animals at the Pierce College evacuation shelter.

Deputy Rafer Owens – Community Hero Award

Deputy Owens, a 30-plus-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department, has launched, led, and engaged in community programs based in his hometown of Compton that offer services ranging from youth mentorship, parolee community re-integration, and community-police relationship building. Owens also serves as church pastor for a congregation of more than 2,000.

Dr. Pamela Wiley – Education Hero Award

Dr. Wiley, a speech language pathologist, founded a clinic in Baldwin Hills to serve children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families after noticing a disparity of services available to children of color and those from lower-income families. The program has since evolved to include a Vocational Training Program that prepares young people to enter the workforce and achieve independence.

Gabriel Castillo – Youth Humanitarian Hero Award

Gabriel used the Red Cross First Aid training he learned from his mother to rescue a choking classmate.

Gus Olmedo & Angel Miranda – Disaster Services Hero Award

When a neighboring mobile home caught fire after being struck by an out-of-control vehicle, Olmedo smashed the home’s window to rescue the woman, man and pets trapped inside. He and Miranda pulled the neighbors from the blaze before they sustained any major injuries.

Jose Iriarte & Marcelo Retamosa – Humanitarian Hero Award

After noticing a bus in motion without any apparent operator, Iriarte discovered the driver unresponsive and face-down on the floor and immediately began delivering CPR. After temporarily reviving the man, Iriarte recruited Retamosa to assist and, when the driver once again became unresponsive, the duo worked together to get him breathing again until emergency responders arrived.

Mike Ballentine, Gwynfa Hopkins, Jeffrey Clifton & Julianne Schaller – Blood Services Hero Award

These four prolific donors have collectively contributed more than 1,700 units of blood, plasma and platelets, and continue to regularly schedule donations. Schaller was the first female Red Cross blood donor to reach the 700-unit milestone.

Reserve Deputies Thomas Hengzen & Michael Rogers – First Responder Hero Award

With the Woolsey Fires rapidly approaching a mobile home park, Henzgen and Rogers were forced to break down a deaf 97-year-old woman’s door in order get her to safety, at which point her dog escaped down the road. As Henzgen led the woman to their rescue vehicle, Rogers took off after the dog; they ultimately saved both lives mere minutes before the blaze swallowed their home.

Sam Sachs – Service to the Armed Forces Hero Award

A 104-year-old veteran of World War III, Sachs liberated a Nazi concentration camp and led a glider fleet known as “The Flying Coffins” that transported troops and supplies onto the beaches of Normandy during D-Day.

Sergeant Eric Matusak – Humanitarian Hero Award

While enjoying a family meal at a local cafe, Sergeant Matusak noticed an elderly patron in the adjacent booth choking and used abdominal thrusts to dislodge the food blocking her airway.

Woolsey Fire Strike Teams XLF 1321A & XLC 1206A – First Responder Hero Award

The Strike Teams overcame injuries, downed power lines, blocked roads, mechanical problems, poor radio and cellular communications and a lack of reliable water supplies to save more than 50 structures from destruction during the Woolsey Fires, including single family homes and the Salvation Army Camp.