The American Red Cross South Central Pennsylvania Chapter presented eight awards to fifteen individuals during the Spirit of the Hero Breakfast held at the Wyndham Garden York Hotel on Thursday, November 19, 2015. This annual event honors individuals from Adams, Franklin, Fulton, and York Counties for their heroic and selfless acts.
This year’s award recipients include:
Captain David Bowman, Captain William Sleeger, Firefighter Kenneth Swartz, Firefighter Kevin Westover, Firefighter Joseph Portner, Firefighter Shawn Firestone, Firefighter Donald Newcomer (category – Fire Fighter)
Firefighters from The York City Department of Fire Rescue Services Station Number 2 didn’t need to travel far to save two people earlier this spring. While working in the fire house, the men noticed a large commotion occurring on the street just outside their front door. What looked to be a large fight quickly escalated as shots rang out – two people had been hit.
As some participants in the fight started to disperse and others still congregated on the street, and with no idea where the shooter might be, the firemen left the safety of their building to render aid to the individuals laying on the pavement outside. These men did not wait for the protection of the police, who were quickly notified of the violence. Rather, they immediately stepped in to assist.
Once on the street, they rendered first aid to the individuals, one of whom had been shot in the face, the other with a wound to the leg that was bleeding profusely. Their bravery played a large role in the survival and ultimate recovery of the two victims.
Officer James Brunner (category – Law Enforcement)
A member of the Eastern Adams Regional Police Department, which serves the residents of New Oxford Township and New Oxford Borough, Officer James Brunner was on patrol when a vehicle was observed to be operating recklessly at a speed in excess of 100 miles/hour.
Officer Brunner and his partner attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver refused all efforts and continued to speed through the town’s streets. As the suspect’s vehicle made its way into an intersection, it crashed into another motorist, causing both cars to come to rest in an area off the roadway.
It was at this time that the vehicle which caused the accident caught fire. With the driver trapped inside, Officer Brunner sprang into action, risking his own life to save the trapped individual. Prying the driver’s door open, Officer Brunner managed to pull the individual to safety as the flames overtook the entire vehicle. His quick thinking and quick response saved the driver from certain death, enabling the person to escape with only moderate injuries.
Officer Michael Gessner and Officer Steve Gebhart (category – Law Enforcement)
Penn Township Police Officers Michael Gessner and Steve Gebhart were working the overnight shift when they were dispatched to an apparent apartment fire in late May of this year. Arriving first on scene, Officer Gessner noticed thick, heavy smoke pouring out of the structure.
Exiting his cruiser, he quickly ran into the burning building, where he found an adult male laying unconscious inside the doorway of the apartment unit where the fire originated. Realizing he needed assistance in removing the man from the building, Officer Gessner called for Officer Gebhart, who had just arrived on scene.
The two officers worked together to carry the man to safety and while Officer Gebhart rendered first aid, Officer Gessner went back into the building to make sure no one else was trapped inside.
With the smoke becoming too thick to continue, and with the fire department now on site, Officer Gessner exited the building. The victim has since made a full recovery due in large part to the heroic actions of Officers Gessner and Gebhart.
Jackie Bortner (category – Community Impact)
The students at York’s William Penn Senior High School, like many inner city schools across the nation, come from homes that struggle to meet their daily needs. A high poverty rate makes it difficult for many families to secure housing, adequate clothing, and even food.
Realizing the problem and understanding the impact it can have on students’ ability to learn and grow, Jackie Bortner decided to help. After meeting with members of the school’s administrative team and forming a coalition of area businesses and individuals looking to make a difference, “Hoodies for the Holidays” was born.
The result was amazing. Every student at William Penn received a school hoodie, an article of clothing that provided warmth and proved to be the only gift many would receive during the holiday season.
Jackie then took the success of the initial project and expanded it to create the school’s Resource Room, a place that provides not only clothing, but also food that students in need can take home to get them through the weekends.
David Dranbauer (category – Good Samaritan)
There was an arsonist on the streets of Hanover earlier this year, setting fires in both Hanover Borough and Penn Township. Eight fires had already been set, leaving the community on edge as to what would happen next.
David Dranbauer was in his yard when he saw a man walk into a garage down the street. Running from the garage a short time later, David noticed smoke coming from where the man had just been. As he ran toward him, David stopped the eman, asking him what he had done.
The man attempted to punch David, who quickly placed him in a chokehold before dropping him to the ground, holding him in place as his neighbor called police. As he waited for police to arrive, David asked the man why he did it, to which he responded that setting fires made him feel alive.
David’s heightened awareness of his surroundings, coupled with his willingness to take action, likely saved the area from additional fires.
Dr. Sonam Ruit (category – Medical)
A native of Nepal, Dr. Sonam Ruit of Martin Foot and Ankle in York, was heartbroken when word of the massive earthquake to his homeland reached him here in the United States. Confirming that his family back home had survived the devastation, Dr. Ruit decided he needed to do what he could to help those who had lost everything in the initial quake and its aftershocks.
Dr. Ruit called on area hospitals to donate any medical and surgical supplies they had available. He also solicited funds. He personally donated money and paid for the shipping of what he collected.
Traveling to Nepal in June, he delivered the items and funds he managed to raise. He saw patients and performed surgeries. The money raised was used to help build homes, purchase clothing, and secure school supplies needed in some of the worst hit areas. Dr. Ruit’s effort made a huge impact in some of the nation’s poorest communities, his determination helped many people get on the road to recovery.
Ke-Shon Riley (category – Good Neighbor)
Ke-Shon Riley knows the outcome of his young life could have been a lot different. As a middle school student in York, he was hanging with a rough crowd. His friends were becoming involved in things in which they shouldn’t, and it wouldn’t be long before Ke-Shon joined them.
As luck would have it, the Salvation Army After School Program took hold of him before the temptations of the streets could. Ke-Shon found that he liked everything about the program. Realizing the impact it was having on his life, he became a volunteer during his high school years. And now, in his first year since graduation, has taken a staff position with the program.
Ke-Shon knows that the safe, fun, and loving environment of the after school program helped him to grow into the fine young man he is today. He credits the staff for never giving up on the kids and working with them to overcome life’s challenges. As an employee, he hopes to have the same impact on the younger kids who participate today.
Lane Reever (category – Animal Hero)
Lane Reever met Buddy on his trainer’s farm. The two became close, which is why he knew he had to do something when the trainer decided to place the pony up for sale at auction because he was unable to afford Buddy’s eye cancer surgery.
Raising money that he hoped would secure him the pony, he attended the auction with his family, where he was given the opportunity to ride his friend for what many believed to be the last time, Lane was extremely nervous. He shared his concern with Deb Dempsey of Izzy’s Love Horse Rescue, who he happened to meet that day.
Thinking Buddy’s fate had been sealed when a meat buyer held the high bid, the Reever Family quickly felt relief as Dempsey stepped in and outbid the other gentleman. With Buddy out of immediate danger, Lane raised enough money for the pony to have the cancerous eye removed.
Now living on the Reever Farm, Buddy and Lane spend most days together. They have also started to participate in Youth Rodeo events, where the two have made quite an impression for their ability to perform well together and for Lane’s determination to save an animal that most thought to be not worth saving.