Red Cross to honor Modesto region heroes

Submitted by the American Red Cross

Dr. Larry Abel counsels at the Modesto Vet Center.
Dr. Larry Abel counsels at the Modesto Vet Center. American Red Cross

The Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross will recognize local heroes at a breakfast in June, honoring residents in 11 categories who have made a difference in the community.

Proceeds from the breakfast at the DoubleTree Hotel will support disaster-relief services provided by the American Red Cross Capital Region, as well as domestic disaster relief and other services the Red Cross provides.

The ninth annual American Red Cross Heroes Recognition event will take place from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on June 3 at the DoubleTree in downtown Modesto. Tickets are $65 and may be purchased at www.redcross.org/ModestoHeroes or by calling (209) 986-0890. Deadline for reservations is May 25.

Each year, the regional American Red Cross holds this event to recognize members of community who have gone beyond what is expected, sometimes at great personal risk, to help those in need or save a life. The following are among the people whose extraordinary acts will be recognized.

Animal Rescue Hero: Niki Schiveley

Ruby, Archie, Sadie … these creatures, if they could speak, would be among the first to attest to Niki Schiveley’s passion for animals. Through extraordinary personal commitment, Schiveley found medical care and homes for these dogs. Without her help, they would not have survived.

Archie is just one example. Archie (whose previous name turned out to be “Lucky”) had been homeless for several years. He was dangerously thin and his teeth were so rotted that he could not eat or drink. He was scheduled to be euthanized, but Schiveley decided Archie was not ready to die just yet. She took him to her own veterinarian and found a family to take in Archie.

While searching for a family to foster Sadie, a 17-year-old shelter dog, Schiveley discovered her owners. Sadie spent her last days with her family and died peacefully in their arms.

Schiveley also has organized pet food drop-off events including “Santa’s Paws,” that resulted in thousands of pounds of dog food, pet supplies and cash donations for area animal shelters.

Her love for animals led to Brownies Wish, a nonprofit organization that finds families for homeless animals. Schiveley runs the organization. She also juggles single parenthood, pre-med studies with a 4.0 GPA, and performs volunteer work at Memorial Medical Center.

Good Samaritan (adult) Heroes: Cody Lamonte and Joel Deering

Without pausing to consider the danger to their own lives, these two friends sprang to the aid of a stranger who fell off a 70-foot cliff and into the ocean. They were out for a day hike at Point Reyes when a frantic woman ran up to them. Her friend had fallen from the cliff above Arch Rock. Cody Lamonte and Joel Deering hiked to the beach below the cliff and swam 30 meters to a rock outcropping where the injured man lay. He had fallen headfirst but broke his fall with his arms, shattering both wrists. He also suffered a collapsed lung and broke all but two of his ribs.

The two used a first-aid kit to splint the man’s broken bones and bandage his lacerations. They used blankets to keep him comfortable and held his head stable for 21/2 hours until a rescue team arrived by helicopter and airlifted the man to a hospital. But Lamonte and Deering were still in danger. With each passing moment the tide drew closer; the crashing waves drenched them and threatened to pull them into the ocean. The helicopter returned for Lamonte and Deering and pulled them to safety one at a time. They have both since talked to the victim, who thanked them for their heroic actions.

Good Samaritan (adult) Hero: Jim Moore

Nominated for this award by his sister, Donita Osborne, truck driver Jim Moore was driving his big rig along Garberville Highway when he witnessed a SUV swerve over the middle line and hit a big rig truck head on. Moore ran to the SUV but found the driver had died on impact. Then he heard a woman screaming for help from the cab of the big rig. The truck was on fire and the woman was trapped inside. Moore broke the glass on the door and reached in and pulled the woman out. In only a matter of seconds, the cab and the truck were engulfed in flames. Moore stayed at the scene until the highway patrol arrived.

Good Samaritan (senior) Hero: Lonny Davis

Lonny Davis provides mobility and dignity to the disabled poor by collecting and distributing used wheelchairs. Though his ‘day job’ is owner and operator of Davis Guest Homes, mobility for the poor captured his heart many years ago when a friend invited him to go on a wheelchair distribution trip to Central America.

“There was this 13-year-old girl that came in,” Davis says. “She was strapped to her mother’s back. She had been carried that way since birth. When we fitted that girl for a wheelchair and showed her how to use it, she just lit up. I’ll never forget her, and I’ll never stop doing what we’re doing because of her.”

What started locally with one wheelchair distribution and seating clinic 11 years ago has developed into Hope Haven West, located in Modesto. Davis and several dedicated volunteers have coordinated more than 25 seating clinics in dozens of developing countries, with over 5,000 of the disabled poor receiving specially fitted wheelchairs. In 2001 Hope Haven West developed a collection site in Ceres for discarded chairs and a system of volunteer-driven wheelchair collections began.

Law Enforcement Heroes: Todd Musto And Caelli Koehler

Officers Todd Musto and Caelli Koehler were working as members of a Community Response Team when a call was received of a subject down at Kewin Park, a local park plagued with drug activity and habitual transient offenders.

They arrived on the scene to find a man who was unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse. Lifesaving procedures were started immediately by both officers and continued until the individual was revived. Medical transport arrived a short time later and the individual was taken to a hospital and stabilized.

Without the actions of Officers Musto and Koehler, this man may have succumbed to his drug addiction. These officers come into daily contact with individuals engaged in drug abuse and criminal activity. However, they did not see a criminal lying there, but a person who needed to be saved. CPR was performed without hesitation to subsequently save this individual’s life.

Medical Professional Hero: Dr. Larry Abel

Dr. Larry Abel served as a combat medic for the Army during the Vietnam War, providing medical for many soldiers. He also volunteered to go into villages to provide medical care for indigent civilians. After completing his combat tour, Abel graduated from medical college, then he focused on alternative and holistic care.

Abel began work as a counselor with the Modesto Vet Center in April, 2011 specializing in treatment of PTSD and moral injuries from combat. For the past several years, he has provided exams, assessments, diagnoses, wellness recommendations and prescriptions for combat veterans at Modesto Vet Center. Abel carries combat-related PTSD and moral wounds from war, and is able to empathize and provide assistance to men and women who have experienced the traumas and horrors of combat that can take years and often decades to work through. He has provided hope, help and healing to many veterans.

Military – Veteran Hero: Mike Stavrakakis

Mike Stavrakakis, an 87-year-old veteran who served in both the Korean War and during the Cuban Missile Crisis, still serves his country in retirement. Several years ago he noticed there was little reading material at the VA clinics. He began collecting books and magazines to distribute to veterans’ hospitals and clinics throughout Northern California. This has grown to include videos, toiletries, DVDs and even hand-knitted lap robes for wheelchair-bound wounded vets. Stavrakakis’ sense of patriotism was inspired even more when he saw the need for a monument to recognize the VFW Post 3199 veterans who had served 75 years. With the help of his fellow E Clampus Vitus club members, a concrete and stone monument complete with flagpole now stands in front of the VFW hall. Stavrakakis was also instrumental in the completion of a monument at the VFW Post in LaGrange. His dedication to his fellow veterans has resulted in over 40,000 items delivered throughout the area, from Palo Alto’s Discovery Lodge to the Livermore Veteran’s Nursing Home, and in Modesto.

Professional Rescuer Heroes: Jesse Miguel And Jason Wyatt

On Feb. 14, Modesto Fire units were dispatched to an apartment fire on Campus Way. Fire crews learned that citizens were trapped in the bathroom of a second-floor apartment. The first engine crew observed heavy fire involvement from multiple apartments on both the first and second floors. While firefighters attacked the fire from the front of the building, slowing the spread of the fire, Truck 1 Firefighters Wyatt and Miguel responded to the back of the building where the victims were trapped. They raised a ladder to the second-floor bathroom window and firefighter Miguel quickly ascended the ladder and assisted the first person out of the window and down the ladder, handing her off to Firefighter Wyatt. Firefighter Miguel again climbed the ladder and then had to physically lift the second person out of the window, onto the ladder and down to safety. The quick actions by Miguel and Wyatt no doubt saved the lives of two people.

While rescue is an expected part of the job, the complexity of removing one occupant from a second story window on a ladder is impressive. This type of rescue does not present itself very often, and is rarely performed with multiple occupants. Because of the actions of Miguel and Wyatt, two people are alive today.


Sandy Sanville exemplifies the spirit of the Red Cross in her everyday life. In her professional life she is a registered nurse. But in her commitment to helping, educating and comforting both friends and strangers, she is truly a friend in need. Friends with sick children, ailing parents or medical emergencies know that Sanville can be relied on day or night. Neighbors, like the man choking from complications arising from a recent tracheostomy; or the child suffering from severe seizures; or the man whose wound opened while he was working in his garage – all are grateful that Sanville lives nearby. Strangers, too, call her a friend, whether they are the children at the Salvation Army Red Shield Center who cannot afford camp physicals, or the bike rider in Knights Ferry who collapsed and was treated by Sanville.

And she keeps caring after the emergency has passed. She will go the extra mile to teach family members to provide ongoing care, and help patients and their families find the specialized care they need. “I believe my skills are a gift from God to be used to help others,” says Sanville, who always seems to be where she is needed to provide comfort, care and support.


It all started a few minutes before 11 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2014. Andrew Jolliff, a 16-year-old sophomore at Hughson High School, tripped and fell on his way to Marla Woody’s math class. Marla Woody saw teacher Don Tetrick running toward him and asked him if Jolliff was breathing.

“I don’t think so,” he replied. “Call an ambulance!”

Jolliff’s condition looked like a seizure, so at first the two teachers turned him onto his side. Realizing that wasn’t the case, they tried rolling him onto his back. Woody cleared Jolliff’s airway and Tetrick started CPR. Jolliff wasn’t breathing and the teachers couldn’t detect a pulse. Most people can’t administer chest compressions longer than two minutes but Tetrick soldiered on for five or more, continuing his efforts until emergency crews arrived.

Jolliff was hooked up to a portable heart monitor and defibrillator. When his heart started beating again it was abnormal so he was transported to the emergency room at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.

He was off the breathing tube about 24 hours later. He stayed in the hospital five days, mostly to adjust his medication.

Jolliff’s mother, Jill Ramsey, is convinced many miracles – and two extraordinary teachers – saved her son. “It is exactly because of them, exactly because of them,” she said. “that he is back to being Andrew.”


Michelle Obeso-Theus needed a new kidney. Jon Gianelli, a distant family member whom she did not know, wanted to give one. While Gianelli underwent six months of testing, the two kept in touch via Facebook.

They met during his three days of testing at UCLA. Gianelli was approved to be a donor, but he and Obeso-Theus were not a match. Instead, they were entered into a kidney exchange program, where Gianelli’s kidney went to someone else and Obeso-Theus received a kidney from another donor. Post-surgery, Gianelli hobbled over to Obeso-Theus’ bed to make sure she was OK. “I couldn’t imagine how in the world he walked only a few hours after having a kidney removed because I was in extreme pain,” she said.

Throughout the six-week recovery period, Gianelli was Obeso-Theus’ motivation. She reflects on life and how her quality of life would be so terrible if he hadn’t been willing to help a stranger and save her life.

“Forever and always will my heart feel appreciation for Jon and his amazing family for being the real heroes and allowing me a second chance at life,” Obeso-Theus says.