Red Cross honors real heroes during annual ceremony

6 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine— Some of Aroostook County’s most extraordinary heroes were honored Friday, May 18, during the American Red Cross’ 20th annual Real Heroes Breakfast.

More than 300 people attended the celebration at the Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center, making Friday’s event the largest Real Heroes Breakfast this year in Maine and the biggest that the local Red Cross chapter has ever held.

“We’re excited to honor nine heroes and give out five community service awards, which is the most people we’ve ever recognized since we started the Real Heroes Breakfast,” Mary Green, community manager for the Red Cross chapter in Aroostook County, said.

The nine Real Heroes were nominated by community members and sponsored by area businesses and included Carrie Bull, of Washburn; Damian Languell, of Wade; Roderick and Adam Guerrette, of Caribou; Melodie Lavoie and Wendy Sirois, of Madawaska; Courtney Lovely, of Presque Isle; Lisa Caron, of Caribou; and Joey Cain, of Limestone.

All individuals were recognized for their courage and quick actions that saved the lives of others during emergency situations such as car accidents, home fires and medical complications, during the past year.

Caron, nominated by Casey Bouchard and sponsored by Pines Health Services, assisted an elderly neighbor after seeing the woman lying face down on the ground near her mailbox. Even though she had been travelling to an event, Caron stayed with the woman until paramedics arrived.

Cain, nominated by Jonathan Cote and sponsored by Katahdin Trust Company, was at McDonald’s during his lunch break when he noticed a man choking and turning blue. Cain performed the Heimlich Maneuver on the man and saved his life.

Green stated that those stories of just two of the many heroic efforts that the Red Cross strives to honor every year, which do not always receive public recognition.

“These heroes are our friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers and churchgoers who have made a difference in their communities without expecting anything in return,” Green said. “Today is the time when we can all come together and honor these extraordinary people.”

In the service award categories, Valerie Waldermarson and her students from Caribou High School’s Jobs for Maine Graduates program received the Community Impact Award. The seniors recently donated 3,000 individual food items to Aroostook County Action Program and have invested over 1,200 hours of community service to the region.

Roger Felix, of the Caribou VFW, presented Joseph “Norm” Ginish and Karen St. Peter, both of Caribou, with the Veteran Impact Award. Ginish and St. Peter have spent much of the past year helping the Dahlgren Skidgel Farm of Hope in Caribou, which provides work experiences to homeless veterans.

“Norm and Karen display leadership, honor and integrity and are selfless in their efforts to ensure that Aroostook County never hears of another homeless veteran again,” Felix said. “It’s an honor to present this award to fellow veterans.” Ginish and St. Peter received a standing ovation from audience members as Felix presented their award.

Bill Thomas, of Woodland, received the Volunteer of the Year Award for dedicating much of his time to volunteer for the Red Cross both in Aroostook County and abroad over the past decade. Tim Horton’s owners Troy Chamberlain and Scott Bragdon and Operations Manager Chad Saunders, who were unable to attend the ceremony, received the Business of the Year Award for their giving of thousands of dollars toward numerous causes in their community.

This year marked the first ever Biomed Award, which was given to Cary Medical Center for their efforts in building one of the most successful blood donor programs in New England. The hospital collected more than 10,000 units of blood through annual blood drives during the past 38 years, all of which go to patients who receive life-saving medical procedures.

Cary Medical Center CEO Kris Doody accepted the award in memory of her mother, Arlene Doody, who was a committed volunteer at community blood drives until passing away from pancreatic cancer last year.

She also read a first-person account from Jennifer, a former breast cancer patient at Cary Medical Center who received six to seven hours of blood transfusions before she was able to begin 20 weeks of chemotherapy. By the end of the year Jennifer was cancer free and she gives large credit to individuals who have volunteered time to donate blood at Red Cross drives.

“‘I was surprised to learn that it took three to five donors’ worth of donated blood to give me the right amount during my transfusions,’” Doody said, reading from Jennifer’s story. “‘By giving just minutes of your time to come to a blood drive and donate, you’re giving someone more years of life.’”

Folks who attended the Real Heroes Breakfast also had an opportunity to sponsor teddy bears that will be given to children impacted by disasters in Aroostook County, with proceeds from all sponsorships going toward the Aroostook County Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.