Red Cross to salute Stanislaus, Tuolumne heroes at annual breakfast

local@modbee.comJune 6, 2013 

— The American Red Cross Capital Region Chapter's annual Heroes Breakfast will be held June 11 to honor "community members from Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties who have performed extraordinary acts of courage."

Heroes will be recognized in these categories: animal rescue, good Samaritan (senior, adult, youth), law enforcement, medical professional, military (active), military (veteran), professional rescuer, workplace, Spirit of the Red Cross and Hero of the Year.

The breakfast will be at the DoubleTree Hotel in Modesto from 7:30 to 9:15 a.m. Tickets are $35, and proceeds from the breakfast support the American Red Cross Capital Region Chapter's disaster-relief services and training programs.

For more information, contact Rebecca Ciszek at (209) 523-6501 or

Here is a look at the honorees:


Flora Ortega

School had been out for a few weeks when 10-year-old Flora Ortega and her 12-year-old brother Gilbert Ortega Jr. crossed Crows Landing Road to get tacos. It was June 16. Flora and her brother, with his bike, crossed over to the taco vendors and ordered 10 tacos.

The taco vendors are across from Shackleford Elementary School, and the children usually use the crosswalk at School Road, but decided to cut across the street to get home. Gilbert was pushing his bike. Out of the corner of her eye, Flora saw a car coming at them. She pushed Gilbert out of the way. She was hit by the Model T hot rod. The impact sent Flora into the Model T's windshield before she hit the road.

Her injuries included a fractured skull, two broken ankles, a broken arm and lacerated spleen. A passing motorist stopped to help, and paramedics soon arrived.

Flora genuinely cares about people and will help whenever she sees a need. Because of her caring spirit, Flora was selected to speak at her sixth-grade graduation at Shackleford Elementary.


Darlene Mathews

Friends of the Animal Community in Sonora was founded in 2000 by Darlene Mathews, after she took a stray dog to Tuolumne County Animal Control and realized how many animals were there. Working with Animal Control, FOAC began removing animals for care and adoption. FOAC began tracking rescues in 2002 and, as of April, members had removed 1,116 animals into volunteer care or adoption. Unwanted pets and strays also come directly to FOAC through the community.

FOAC is a nonprofit run solely by volunteers. In 2000, 50 percent of animals brought to animal control were euthanized. That rate is down to 25 percent.

While the group primarily rescues at-risk dogs, cats are also taken in. Animals selected by FOAC are those that have limited to no chance of adoption. They all have minor to major medical needs, behavioral problems or are unkempt. FOAC sees to their medical care through local veterinarians, where animals are treated, spayed or neutered, given shots and are embedded with a tracking chip. Animals receive grooming and are placed in a volunteer's care until adopted.

In 2012, FOAC piloted Senior Pet Assistance with Tuolumne County's Meals on Wheels program. SPA brings together sheltered dogs or cats and seniors who are mostly shut-ins, living on limited incomes.


Donna David

On Sept. 17, Donna David was headed to work. While at the Coffee and Sylvan roads traffic light, she noticed dark smoke coming from a residential area north of her office. She called 911, and then went to the building and knocked on doors to alert residents of the fire.

Ensuring everyone was safely out of all four units at the building and that the fire department had arrived, she got back in her car and drove to work.

Donna just seems to be in the right place in emergency situations. One time a candle burning too close to a Christmas tree caught fire and, again, she was the first to arrive. Two male occupants were able to escape; a young woman did not. Another time a fellow employee was using scissors to open a box when they slipped and became imbedded between her eyes. Donna took control, providing first aid until paramedics arrived. These are just a few instances in which she has responded.


Audrey Foster

Audrey Foster has dedicated her life to the needs of abandoned children and those awaiting adoption. In 1982, and under the umbrella of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Foster developed what's now known as Family Connections Christian Adoptions. FCCA initially focused on children with special needs. The agency received state licensing in 1983 and served Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties. By 1989, it was licensed to serve 40 counties in California. In 1991, FCCA developed programs for intercountry adoptions, beginning with India and Ethiopia. In 1992, FCCA became a licensed foster family agency. FCCA has placed 4,739 children in 30 years.

In 1997, Foster learned about a group of women trying to feed and clothe orphans in Uganda. Foster developed a ministry to assist children at Dorcas Orphanage near Mbale, Uganda. The purpose was to find sponsors for children, promote education, ensure available health care and meet basic needs. Shared Blessings International Christian Ministries sponsorship program began in 1998 under FCCA and in 2007 became a separate nonprofit religious corporation. Foster has served as executive director since its inception. SBICM has grown from a single ministry at Dorcas Village to a program that allows individual sponsorship of children, providing for their daily needs and education, and bringing life-saving resources to children at Kaziya Orphanage in Gulu, Uganda; Children Safe Uganda near Kampala, Uganda; and Odisha School in Orissa, India. SBICM efforts have resulted in child sponsorships in all locations, provision of fresh water by drilling wells, purchasing a van, ensuring medical care for children at a Dorcas Village Health Center, and constructing several buildings in varying locations.


Nina Leal

Nina Leal is an 8-year-old who attends Mary Lou Dieterich Elementary School and its after-school program. On Nov. 14, Nina was standing in front of her sister Emily as they waited to move to another classroom. Nina noticed that her sister was choking. Having learned basic first aid from her family, Nina immediately reached her arms around Emily from behind and clenched her fists together to perform abdominal thrusts, successfully dislodging the food and allowing Emily to breathe. Nina acted very fast and did what she needed to do to save her sister.


Officer Joseph Wren and K-9 Zeus

On Feb. 5, Ceres police officer Joseph Wren's quick response to a Stanislaus County sheriff's dispatch resulted in keeping victims from further harm, fellow officers safe and apprehension of a suspect without using a firearm.

At the scene, Wren saw a young man covered in blood and holding a shovel. Wren requested immediate backup. As he walked toward the suspect, the man screamed, "I will kill you!" Wren pulled his firearm and ordered the suspect to drop the shovel. The suspect turned back to the apartment, continuing to pound on the shattering window. Wren ordered the suspect to drop the shovel again, and the man turned on Wren. Wren positioned himself to distract the suspect while he used the auto-door release to let K-9 Zeus out of his cruiser. Again, Wren ordered the man to drop the shovel. As the suspect turned on Wren, Zeus shot out of the car, biting the suspect and quickly bringing him down. Zeus maintained his hold while Wren restrained the suspect.

The Sheriff's Department arrived to take the suspect into custody and booked him on charges, including attempted murder and battery on a K-9 and police officer. It was later learned that the suspect had stabbed a 23-year-old man.


Dr. Douglas Chadwick, retired

For 10 years, Dr. Douglas Chadwick has volunteered as a retired pediatrician at Children's Crisis Center of Stanislaus County. Chadwick provides free health screenings and consultations at the agency's five sites.

CCC provides safety and shelter to children up to 17 years old who are at risk of abuse and/or neglect or homeless. Once while examining a child, Chadwick detected a rare heart condition that required surgery. Another time his assessment and referral for an undiagnosed cerebral palsy meant that a family was able to access medical care and therapeutic resources not available prior to the diagnosis.

Chadwick has a way of connecting with young children, often using his visits as a teaching tool. Children who may be timid and initially afraid of seeing a "doctor" are inevitably taken in by his charm, as he compares a stethoscope to a telephone, "where your heart can speak to you."

Chadwick has become involved in almost a dozen organizations and boards, including Stanislaus Civil War Association, Stanislaus Arts Council, Doctors Without Borders and Shared Blessings International Christian Ministries, a Modesto-based agency working to support Ugandan orphans through nutrition, education and health care. His efforts helped to build and improve a health care center, complete with a delivery room and incubator to increase newborn survival rates.


Phillip B. Ramos, specialist Army Reserves; Army, retired

Spc. Phillip Ramos is attached to the Army Reserve unit for Military Police in Fresno, after two enlistments between 2004 and 2010. Each enlistment included a tour in Iraq. During his first tour, he was recognized for his extraordinary service for actions during combat. A partial list includes delivering passengers to safety when his vehicle was hit with heavy artillery, causing the vehicle to catch fire; supporting a short-staff medical unit during his appointment to offload critically injured Iraqi patients following an improvised explosive device explosion; delivering combat supplies to fixed sites while under heavy fire by exiting the vehicle to ensure ground troops received essential supplies to maintain operations and working with civilians to instill peace.

Following his second enlistment, Ramos attended college in Oregon and responded to a traffic accident outside his classroom. The incident resulted in posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, making it impossible for him to continue school. Ramos returned home to be close to family and VA medical services while continuing to serve in the Reserves and volunteer to support veterans and military families.

During this past year, he's helped with the Heroes on Water Wounded Warrior Project, helping to feed 120 warriors and family members. Ramos stood honor in a flag line at Modesto Airport for two fallen soldiers and he escorted the procession to the funeral homes and also attended both services. As a member of Turlock's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5059, Ramos helps when the Veterans Administration Palo Alto Mobile Medical Van makes Turlock visits through greeting veterans, directing them to health care, socializing and helping with refreshments. He assists with the "Thank a Veteran" event through California State University, Stanislaus, Troops to School program. At Christmas, he helped to deliver toys, gift cards, food and clothing to 15 active military families from the Stockton-based deployed helicopter unit.


Robert Scarbrough, Navy, retired

Robert "Bob" Scarbrough served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, achieving an E-4 rank as a patrol river boat combatant. Scarbrough completed three combat tours and received an honorable discharge.

In 2010, Scarbrough retired after many years as a school bus driver and shortly thereafter attended two months of intensive care for post-traumatic stress disorder. After completing his intensive care, Scarbrough approached Steve Lawson, Modesto Veterans Center team leader, with an idea for a "mission to give back" to other veterans and their families. His idea was to purchase a pontoon boat and take combat veterans and their families on fishing tours of lakes and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Scarbrough knew his past experience as a professional fishing guide would lend naturally to this venture.

As a way to support the program, Scarbrough started his own business selling Armed Forces insignia pins, clocks, patches, vests, attire and other items. All profits are returned to the program including bait, tackle, fuel, food and other items for the fishing tours. It became a win-win. He sells items below market rate so veterans can afford the items and then invests the proceeds into the program. The added benefit is that veterans are proudly displaying their branch of service, combat experiences and units, which has opened doors of communication between veterans. The items are an important means to further the "welcome home" message.


Stuart Nickels and Alyssa Corbett

On Oct. 25, Stuart Nickels and his partner Alyssa Corbett, emergency medical technicians with ProTransport, had just finished loading a dialysis patient for transport. Nickels noticed a patient being loaded into another ambulance and thought she didn't look very good. The EMT in the other ambulance asked for Nickels' assistance.

Nickels began compressions while the other EMT managed the airway. Nickels did approximately five rounds of compressions when the paramedic on scene delivered a countershock with the defibrillator. Corbett stayed with the ProTransport unit, keeping her alert patient calm. Because ambulances load with the back doors facing each other, Corbett's patient was aware of the commotion in the other unit.

Within minutes, the fire department arrived and took over compressions. The unit then rushed the patient to Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital, where she received further treatment.

Still concerned about the patient's well-being, Nickels went to check on her and was informed she had responded. The combined effort of these teams is an excellent example of competitive boundaries being dissolved to do the right thing for the patient.


Frank Trinta Jr.

On July 11, Frank Trinta Jr. of Trinta Bros. was following employee Randy Morganti back to Trinta Ranch in Patterson after they picked up a load of sulfur. Morganti was driving a Ford 7500 flatbed pickup and carrying nearly a ton of highly flammable sulfur bags. As Morganti approached an intersection, a car driving 60 to 70 mph in a 25-mile zone careened through the intersection, hitting the truck and causing it to turn 180 degrees, flip over and ignite. Morganti was knocked unconscious.

Trinta pulled over and quickly worked to pull Morganti from the burning wreckage and to safety.

Due to the hazardous nature of the accident, West Stanislaus Fire Protection, Patterson police and the California Highway Patrol all responded. Morganti suffered second degree burns on his back and arms and a large laceration on his head. After nine months of healing, he returned to work in April.


Henry Benavides, Peter Hastings, Michael Mutoza and Michael Silver

Henry Benavides, Peter Hastings, Mike Mutoza and Michael Silver, all Stanislaus American Medical Response paramedics, were part of a strike team that responded to Superstorm Sandy in and around New York City and New Jersey. Leaving their families and safety of home, these specially trained disaster medical responders deployed for several weeks, arriving just before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. They are part of the NorCal Strike Team. These four men and hundreds of other first responders from across the nation are trained to work long hours in extreme conditions, specifically to provide medical care.

Arriving ahead of the storm allowed them to ramp up and be ready to respond at a moment's notice. What they didn't expect was to be among the first called into action transporting critically fragile newborns out of YU Langone Medical Center when power was lost and as the storm bore down. Like an assembly line, ambulances lined up for over a mile, inching their way to the hospital doors, where nursing and response teams gently loaded medically fragile patients with lifesaving apparatus attached, delivering them to safety and returning for more. After the initial storm, the weather turned frigid and the snow began to fall. They were then moved to support evacuation of Bellevue Hospital and helped to take 911 calls on Long Island in the deepening snow.

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