San Diego, California - The American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties is pleased to announce the local heroes that will be honored at its 17th Annual Real Heroes Breakfast on Oct. 11 aboard the USS Midway Museum. The popular event recognizes individuals and organizations that embody the mission and spirit of the Red Cross by saving lives and creating safer, stronger and more resilient communities.
Since the inception of the Real Heroes Breakfast, the Red Cross has celebrated well over 100 individuals and numerous organizations in several categories. Each hero has their own unique story of helping others in need.
“We look forward to honoring the courage, selflessness and service of this year’s Real Heroes,” said Sean Mahoney, Regional CEO of the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties. “Our award winners demonstrate a unique willingness to go above and beyond to help those in need. Each hero being celebrated has their own extraordinary story, and we know attendees will leave this year’s event feeling truly inspired.”
This year’s Real Heroes Breakfast is generously sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric as the Hometown Hero sponsor and co-presenting sponsors Crux, Sycuan, and US Bank along with numerous other sponsors at the regional, community and neighborhood levels.
The Real Heroes Breakfast took place on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, at 7:30 a.m. aboard the USS Midway Museum.
2019 Real Heroes honorees:
Spirit of Hope Award: Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Jonathan Morales and Oscar Stewart
On Saturday, April 28, 2019, two men risked their lives to stop a gunman who walked into the Chabad of Poway with a rifle and opened fire on worshippers. Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a 60-year-old mother, was also tragically killed when she heroically stepped between the gunman and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. Three others were injured, including Rabbi Goldstein. Oscar Stewart, a U.S. Army veteran from Rancho Bernardo, courageously rushed at the gunman and chased him outside. Off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent Jonathan Morales fired a weapon at the fleeing shooter's car. In the aftermath of this heartbreaking incident, Rabbi Goldstein, Oscar Stewart and Jonathan Morales have epitomized hope, courage and bravery – sharing kindness and compassion, and keeping their community strong and resilient.
Youth Good Samaritan Award: Karolyn Curtis
Karolyn Curtis is a 17-year-old social justice advocate who works to aid those in need and improve her community through Morse High School's One World Club, Student Equity and Youth Ambassador programs. Karolyn educates her peers about local and global injustice, including violence, abuse and food deprivation. She helps provide basic needs, including food and clothing, to local families. In March 2019, she organized the high school’s inaugural Walk for Peace event. Being a former foster child, Karolyn is especially interested in addressing issues within the foster system and advocating for the well-being of those in the foster system. Time and time again, Karolyn has stepped up for those in need to improve her community.
Bill Trumpfheller Community Leadership Award: Honor Flight San Diego
Honor Flight San Diego is a non-profit branch of the nationwide Honor Flight Network. Each year, Honor Flight San Diego takes hundreds of local veterans from WWII, the Vietnam War and the Korean War to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at the military memorials built in their honor. When they return home, they are warmly greeted by thousands of San Diegans at the airport, donning their best red, white and blue attire, bringing with them American flags, balloons and signs of thanks. This often serves as the hero’s homecoming that so many didn’t receive during their original tours of service. Honor Flight San Diego works tirelessly to thank veterans for their service, as well as provide members of the Greatest Generation with a special opportunity to connect with their fellow veterans.
Military Award: Colonel Thomas M. Fahy
On April 29, 2019, Colonel Fahy was driving across the Coronado Bay Bridge when he noticed a crowd gathering at the bridge’s apex. A woman had stopped her car and parked alongside the guardrail. She then climbed onto the hood of her car in an attempt to jump off of the bridge. Observers were attempting to persuade her not to jump. Upon realizing the gravity of the situation, Colonel Fahy immediately stopped his vehicle, jumped out and ran to the scene. He tackled the woman off the hood while onlookers distracted her and held her there for over 10 minutes while she was fighting, biting and scratching him as he tried to convince her that it was not worth ending her life. Emergency Medical Service first responders arrived and took control. His unhesitating actions that placed himself in danger and injury undoubtedly saved the woman’s life.
Law Enforcement Award: Randall Gray and Fernando Martinez | El Cajon Police Department
On June 10, 2018, at 12:57 a.m., Officers Randall Gray and Fernando Martinez responded to a radio call of an apartment fire. They arrived on scene and were unable to see into the apartment due to the heavy smoke. As they attempted determine if anyone was inside, a resident of a different apartment told them the apartment was empty. They were not convinced it was and they were concerned for anyone who may have been inside. At the risk of their own safety, Officers Gray and Martinez entered the smoke-filled apartment, continuously calling out for anyone who may be inside. They observed a woman and a toddler laying on the couch, apparently unconscious and unaware of the blaring alarm or the smoke filling the air. Officer Gray picked up the toddler and carried him outside. Officer Martinez was able to wake the adult and escorted her outside. Both were treated by medics and fully recovered, thanks to the brave actions of Officers Gray and Martinez.
Animal Welfare Award: Ginny Scharbarth | Kathy’s Legacy
Ginny Scharbarth’s daughter Kathy was tragically murdered by an abusive boyfriend. To honor her daughter’s memory in the aftermath of unfathomable tragedy, Ginny founded Kathy’s Legacy, an organization that supports victims of domestic violence. Part of Kathy’s Legacy includes Lady’s Legacy, a program that honors Kathy’s beloved yellow lab who witnessed her murder. Lady enjoyed long walks, cuddling with Kathy and lying in the sun. After Lady witnessed Kathy's murder, it was evident she missed Kathy and was caught in the crossfire of domestic abuse. Kathy’s Legacy and the San Diego Humane Society have partnered to launch a domestic violence program to provide a formal support system. Through Kathy’s Legacy, Ginny Scharbarth hopes to assist all victims of domestic abuse, including children and pets.
Good Samaritan Award: Cheryl Lundgren
Cheryl Lundgren, a Scripps Health food service partner, was on the freeway driving home after her shift when she noticed a woman on the shoulder waving her hands. Cheryl pulled over and saw a car on fire down an embankment. While the bystander called 9-1-1, Cheryl and another good Samaritan ran down the embankment to help the driver in the burning car. The driver was unresponsive and it was too hot to touch the seat belt buckle. Luckily, Cheryl had a box cutter, which she used to cut the seat belt. Together, she and the other good Samaritan pulled the man to safety and waited for emergency personnel to arrive. That night, Cheryl was in the right place at the right time – and with the right tool – to save a life.
Community Partner Award: San Diego Gas & Electric
The threat of wildfires is a constant concern for San Diegans. San Diego Gas & Electric is at the forefront of community partnerships for emergency preparedness and wildfire response. SDG&E values the importance of partnerships and collaboration – two key elements in the evolution of public safety. SDG&E understands the importance of a resilient community, partnering with local nonprofits and organizations to ensure our region is prepared for disasters big and small. Due in large part to SDG&E’s support and commitment to public safety, San Diego is one of the best-prepared regions in the world when it comes to wildfire monitoring and response capabilities. As the region’s response capabilities advance, SDG&E has consistently been a partner and community pillar, committed to improving systems, protocols and tools to keep the community safe.
Humanitarian Award: Maribel Padilla | Brown Bag Coalition
Maribel Padilla founded the Brown Bag Coalition to assist the growing homeless population in Calexico. She inspires citizens to step up and help with daily feedings of over 60 people from the homeless community. In addition to providing food, Maribel sets up showers and provides individuals with clean clothes. She is currently working with the City of Calexico to open a cooling center. Temperatures in Imperial Valley can soar, making it unbearable for anyone to be outside. Maribel makes sure to bring the homeless frozen water and Gatorades, even in 117-degree temperatures. Maribel is constantly picking up donations from community members and also gathers donations for migrant families seeking asylum at the Port of Entry. Maribel is a true hero for many and an inspiration for Brown Bag Coalition volunteers.
Fire-Rescue Award: David Kreamer, Kaitlyn Hart, Alec Liske and Jason Milosh
On July 17, 2018, the quick actions of the lifeguard and operations staff at the Dan McKinney Family YMCA saved the life of a YMCA member. Suffering cardiac arrest, Peter Kaufman was discovered unresponsive in the men’s locker room by another YMCA member. Within seconds, YMCA aquatics coordinator David Kreamer arrived on the scene and instructed two lifeguards to call 9-1-1. Kreamer performed chest compressions and provided rescue breaths. Simultaneously, lifeguard Alec Liske unpacked the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and YMCA Associate Executive Director Jason Milosh delivered the shock. After additional rounds of compressions, Kaufman showed signs of life. Thanks to their teamwork, Kaufman was breathing and had a pulse by the time paramedics arrived. A few days later, he left the hospital with no permanent effects from the incident.
Gift of Life Award: Kyle Kraska
San Diego News 8 sports anchor Kyle Kraska nearly died after being shot six times as he left his house. He was rushed to Scripps Memorial Hospital where he was treated for several traumatic injuries and required multiple blood transfusions. Marking the four-year anniversary of his survival, Kyle and CBS News 8 held the first-ever Celebration of Heroes Blood Drive to honor the first responders, doctors and blood donors that helped save his life. Four blood drives were held in early February 2019, resulting in 311 lifesaving units of blood collected. In addition, through a Red Cross Sleeves Up campaign, 101 people pledged to donate in Kyle’s honor. Kraska remains a dedicated and passionate blood donor advocate. He is currently planning the 2020 Celebration of Heroes Blood Drive and continues to use his inspiring story of survival to encourage others to give the gift of life to help patients in need.
About the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties:
The American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties is the most trusted community service organization in education, preparation and response to natural disasters and human emergencies. With the public’s ongoing support, we provide lifesaving preparedness training; disaster relief services; services to deployed military personnel and their families, and nutritional counseling through our Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Through Prepare San Diego, a regional resiliency initiative, the Red Cross brings together key community and business leaders from the region to create a sustainable network that encourages preparedness, carries out response and recovery plans, and strives for resiliency in the face of disaster, meeting all aspects of the disaster lifecycle. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/sandiego