Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Local Heroes Honored at Hershey Event

The American Red Cross Central Pennsylvania Chapter honored local individuals for their heroic and selfless acts during the Spirit of the Hero Dinner held at the Hershey Lodge on Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The evening started with a silent auction and reception and concluded with a dinner and awards presentation.

Honorees at this year’s dinner included:

Mark and Karen Brezitski (category – Community Impact)
After suffering the tragic loss of their eight-year-old son, Owen, who was struck and killed by a distracted driver in 2011, Mark and Karen Brezitski turned their grief into action in an effort to create situations where similar tragedies do not occur. With the help of their daughters, Makenna and Kyla, Mark and Karen founded Owen's Foundation to promote pedestrian, driver, traffic, childhood, and community safety. Their message of Slow Down, Be Alert, and Save a Life permeates everything they do in the community. From the Solar LED Crosswalk signs at Bishop McDevitt High School to the scholarship program recognizing a Bishop McDevitt graduating senior about to attend college, from community and school presentations on the dangers of distracted driving to their work with the State’s Legislature on improving crosswalk safety, Mark and Karen have made a positive impact on countless individuals and community organizations. Owen’s memory is alive and well, and the Harrisburg community a much safer place, thanks to the dedication and commitment Mark and Karen have made to their neighbors through their work with Owen's Foundation.
Amanda Chambers (category – Animal Rescue)
When fire struck an apartment on the 300 block of Waterford Court in Lancaster this past July, a mom and her two children made it out safely, but their eight-year-old pet poodle/shih tzu mix, Rocky, was overcome by the smoke and would eventually be found on the bedroom floor by a firefighter during a room-to-room search. Not breathing, the family rushed Rocky to the Lancaster County SPCA, where Veterinary Technician Amanda Chambers immediately jumped into action in an attempt to save the ailing dog. Inserting an intubation tube, Amanda was able to pump fresh oxygen into Rocky’s lungs, enabling him to breathe and helping to keep him alive until he could be stabilized and transported to Pet Emergency Treatment Services (PETS), where veterinarians from PETS and VCA Bridgeport Animal Hospital worked together to save the beloved family dog. Amanda’s quick thinking ultimately saved the life of Rocky, and provided hope and comfort for a family who lost so much during the fire.

Amanda Sheets (category – Good Samaritan)
Amanda Sheets, a nursing student, was working in the meat department at Karns Quality Foods in Carlisle when an announcement came over the store’s PA system asking whether or not any doctors were currently in the building. Although not yet through nursing school, Amanda decided to see what she could do to help. As she approached the front of the store she was told that a customer had collapsed of an apparent heart attack out in the parking lot. With paramedics already en route, Amanda quickly made her way to the man and performed CPR until the first responders arrived on scene. We are often told how important it is to learn CPR, but seldom hear how ordinary individuals use that skill in times of crisis. Amanda’s training, coupled with her desire to make a difference and willingness to get involved, kept a man alive until paramedics arrived. Now, after having three stents implanted following his collapse, the gentleman has made a full recovery, thanks in large part to Amanda’s decisive action.

Ashley Haldeman (category – Good Samaritan)
With Nick’s mom watching the kids back in Mechanicsburg, Nick and his wife, Jennifer, had embarked on a South African vacation to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. Upon arriving at their destination they received a call that turned what should have been a special occasion into a rush to get back to the States when they were told that their youngest son, Beckham, had suffered a seizure, stopped breathing, and was now on his way to the hospital. Thankfully, for the young child and his family, there was a group of people participating in a Bible study at the home. When it became obvious that Beckham was in distress, Ashley Haldeman, one of the group participants, immediately jumped into action, administering infant CPR until the paramedics arrived. There is no greater gift than the gift of life. Ashley’s knowledge of CPR saved the life of a small child, enabling him and his family to grow together for many, many years to come.

Patrolman Patrick Ribec (category – Law Enforcement)
In the early morning hours of January 1, Lower Swatara Township Patrolman Patrick Ribec was on duty when a call came in concerning a vehicular accident with entrapment and a fire on North Union Street. Arriving at the scene, Patrolman Ribec found a vehicle on its side with fire coming from the engine compartment. The driver was trapped in the front seat and a young girl in a child seat in the rear of the vehicle. Entering through a broken rear window, Patrolman Ribec used a knife to first cut the child from her seat. Handing her through the broken window to a fellow officer, he then made his way from the back of the car to the front seat, where he was able to free the male driver and remove him from the vehicle through the rear window. Patrolman Ribec, at the risk of personal injury, entered a dangerous situation and – ultimately – saved two trapped individuals from sustaining serious injuries that could have resulted in death.

Patrolman Scott Dojka (category – Law Enforcement)
Palmyra Borough Patrolman Scott Dojka was working his shift last April when he was dispatched to a home on West Main Street for a reported drug overdose. Upon arrival at the residence Patrolman Dojka observed two individuals performing CPR on a known heroin user, who was passed out on the floor. Realizing the emotional state of the two performing CPR was hindering their ability to assist the individual in need, and without any rescue breathing apparatus or protective barriers to use, Patrolman Dojka took control of the situation and began administering CPR until the victim began coughing and breathing on his own. Once the paramedics were on the scene, the heroin overdose drug NARCAN was administered. The overdose victim made a full recovery. By assisting a known drug addict, Patrolman Dojka risked exposure to infectious diseases in order to save the life of an individual on the brink of death. His ability to put the needs of others above his own safety makes him a true hero in our community.

Firefighter Nate Radic (category – Firefighter)
You never know when your skills or career experience will enable you to assist a person in need. Nowhere was that more evident than when the Friendship Fire Company of Bressler in Swatara Township received a call to rescue a man stuck 80 feet up in a tree this past October. What should have been a relatively easy task because of the various ladders and bucket trucks available at the fire department, became a bit more challenging when dispatch informed the firefighters that the stranded individual was actually stuck not just in a tree, but in a tree on Hoak Island in the middle of the Susquehanna River. Luckily for the fire department and the trapped individual, Firefighter Nate Radic owned a tree-trimming business. Once on the island, Firefighter Radic used his equipment from his business to climb the tree, removing limbs as he went. Reaching the trapped individual, he was able to free him from his situation and lower him to the ground, where he was transported back across the river to a waiting ambulance.