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American Red Cross of Summit and Portage Counties to honor six stories at annual Acts of Courage Eve

Event will take place Thursday, March 6 at the Hilton in Fairlawn

Published: March 4, 2014 2:06 PM

AKRON — The American Red Cross of Summit and Portage Counties announced the ten area heroes who will be honored for their bravery and heroism at the annual American Red Cross of Summit and Portage Counties Acts of Courage event. The event, to be held on Thursday, March 6 at the Hilton in Fairlawn, honors local residents who have displayed extraordinary courage in the face of disaster.

The 2014 Honorees include:

Dr. Melani Sherman (Akron) and Dr. Humberto Choi (Cleveland) will be recognized for performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on a fellow competitor during the Cleveland Triathlon.

The morning of the Cleveland Triathlon, 44 year-old Todd Rains was at his physical peak. Three weeks earlier, he had had a complete physical and all looked good. On his way to the race, he spoke on the phone to a couple of friends who called to wish him well. In heat of the race, he had just finished the swimming portion and moved on to the cycling section when he went down. Dr. Humberto Choi, a fellow racer, saw him on the ground. He leapt from his own bike and ran to Todd. Approaching, he announced that he was a Cleveland Clinic doctor. Todd’s skin was blue and he had no pulse. In spite of having finished his own swim through Lake Erie, Dr. Choi immediately began Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). “Those are the moments you just get energy from places you never knew existed,” said Dr. Choi.

From her bike, Dr. Melani Sherman noticed the two men up ahead on the course. As she approached, she flew off the bike. Shouting her credentials as an emergency room doctor from Akron General Medical Center, she proceeded to assist Dr. Choi with compressions. As precious minutes ticked by, the odds were growing against Todd. Once an ambulance was finally able to make its way through the course, Todd was taken to an area hospital and the doctors continued on to the finish line.

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Through various channels, the doctors learned that Todd had survived. They were both overjoyed.

“That was not a professional situation. That was very personal,” said Dr. Choi.


Hayden Lukasik-Barber (Macedonia), Officer Vince Danko (Northfield), Officer Nick Szaibel (Concord Twp.) and Officer Brandon Heisler (Akron) will be recognized for saving Emily Cable from her burning home.

On March 29, 2013, Officer Brandon Heisler was the new guy on the beat. He was out on patrol with Officer Vince Danko when they received a call to report to a possible fire. When they approached the home, nothing looked unusual. Then they noticed 9 year-old, Hayden Lukasik-Barber standing at the rear of the house motioning them to the back. Hayden quickly explained that 70 year-old Emily Cable was in the home she shared with Hayden and his grandmother, Ruth Barber. Officer Danko opened the back door only to encounter the heart of the blaze. With the back door blocked by the fire, Hayden led the officers to the front of the building. While they ran he described the layout and where he and Ruth expected Emily to be waiting with her walker. Black smoke had begun to pour through the front of home. Officer Danko plunged into the darkness and dropped to his knees once the smoke overcame him. Outside, Officer Nick Szaibel had also responded to the call. Unaware of the drama taking place at the front of the home, he attempted to enter through the rear door. The heat was too much and he retreated. Seeing Hayden, he ran to tell him to move away from the house. It was then that he learned what was transpiring.

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Using the tile design as a marker of where he was going, Officer Danko crawled through the room and connected with the leg of Emily’s walker. Step by step they worked their way back through the rooms to the open door where Officer Heisler guided him the rest of the way by his gun belt.

“I didn’t feel anything until my Chief showed up. It was just my job, but talking with him made me realize all the things I risked,” said Officer Danko.


Jace Fletcher (Akron), will be recognized for reporting a student with a gun.

May 16th was a day like any other for 11 year-old Jace Fletcher. He woke up, got dressed and prepared to ride the school bus to his classes at the Akron Public Schools STEM Middle School. After boarding the bus, Jace sat down only to observe a student sitting nearby who was loading a gun. He watched as the boy slipped the magazine in and heard the click of the bullet as it slid into the chamber. Thinking quickly, he realized that he didn’t want to confront the boy, either by calling attention to the gun or by telling the bus driver, in the tight quarters of the school bus. Safe inside his first class, Jace took action. He quietly alerted two teachers to the situation.

“Jace is a Hero,” said Sergeant Ken Dies, the school resource officer. As a Bully-Free Facility, the STEM School encourages students to take a stand by not joining the activity, walking away and telling a trusted adult. Jace’s thoughtful actions that day prevented a potentially devastating situation.


Kelsey Parkman (Akron) will be recognized for rescuing his Vacation Bible School instructor from drowning.

The last day of Vacation Bible School at New Covenant Sanctuary of Praise started as a rainy summer morning. As a result, 14 year-old Kelsey Parkman had not planned on swimming at the end of the week celebration at Turkeyfoot Lake. As the sun broke through the clouds, Kelsey changed his mind and joined his friends in the cool water. They began playing a game of keep-away with his instructor. Suddenly, the instructor began struggling and calling for help. While many observers thought that it was a joke, Kelsey saw the panic in his teacher’s face. Although Kelsey had no training in lifesaving, he had taken Red Cross swimming lessons a few years earlier. A strong swimmer, Kelsey swam over and realized that they were at place where the bottom of the lake dropped off. He pulled the instructor to a shallow depth and they returned to their game. It wasn’t until the ride home that the magnitude of his actions hit Kelsey.

“At the end of the day, you just have the one extra thing you’ve done,” Kelsey said about saving a life.


Brian Nichols (Akron) will be recognized for performing first aid on a car accident victim.

At approximately 2:30 a.m. on October 12, 2013 Brian Nichols heard a terrible crash outside of his home. Brian, a volunteer with the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team, ran to the site. In the wreckage of the three car accident, he observed a woman with a compound fracture of her leg and bleeding profusely. Brian sprinted back to his car and retrieved his first aid kit. On his way back to the scene he told a bystander to check in with the nearby Fire Department. Handing his flashlight to another onlooker, he attempted to control the bleeding until the paramedics arrived.

“You just respond at the scene then you go back to your home and let it sink in,” said Brian. He credits his Red Cross training for his quick response.


John Duckworth (Akron) will be recognized for pulling a man from a burning car.

John Duckworth had worked an hour over his regular shift and was heading home at 2:30 in the morning. He was driving along his regular route when he observed a Hummer crashed down an embankment on Route 224. Its hazard lights were blinking and the engine was still running. He called 911 and then went to see about the driver. Another car stopped and a man got out. Assured that the driver was okay, John turned to go back to his own car. Stopping at his door, he heard shouting. Flames licked the hood of the car. John and the second man ran back to the Hummer. They reached into the burning car but the driver was trapped. Recalling that a colleague had recently returned his baseball bat, John sprinted to his trunk to retrieve it. He swung at the Hummer’s windshield. After several swings, the windshield shattered. John and the second man were able to free the driver and pull him away as the vehicle was engulfed in flames.


Each year the American Red Cross of Portage and Summit County recognizes the heroism of area residents at the event as well as presenting the H. Peter Burg Award to community members who have been selfless in service to the community. This year’s recipient is Pam Williams, who demonstrates a lifelong commitment to humanitarian causes, charitable organizations and the vitality and welfare of the local community.

While CEO of FirstEnergy and chair of the local Red Cross Board of Directors, H Peter Burg established a legacy of dedicated service to the Greater Akron community. Following his death in 2004, the American Red Cross established an award in Pete’s name to honor his memory and inspire others. By bestowing the award on Pam the Red Cross recognizes her lifetime of community service.

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