(The American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley) — The American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley is proud to announce the seven local individuals who will be honored at the 25th annual Acts of Courage Awards for their bravery and acts of heroism during a time of emergency.
The event, to be held on Thursday, March 4, will be a virtual event due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will begin at 11:30 am with a virtual networking event, immediately followed by the awards presentation.
The 2021 Acts of Courage honorees include:
- Twinsburg Police Officer Yamil Encarnacion is being honored for springing into action to rescue a small child pinned inside an overturned vehicle.
Officer Encarnacion rescued a four-year-old girl who was trapped inside of a totaled vehicle. Police noticed that the little girl’s legs began to lose color. Knowing time was of the essence, Officer Encarnacion leapt into action by crawling into the wreckage and cutting the child’s safety seat free and getting her out of the vehicle.
The mother of the child remembers Officer Encarnacion, who was covered with his own blood on his arms, carrying her daughter to safety.
Thanks to Officer Encarnacion’s quick thinking, the child only had minor scrapes and bruises.
- Clarissa Gagne of Tallmadge is being recognized for administering CPR to save a neighbor’s life.
The Betty Jane Community Learning Center second-grade teacher, who learned CPR during a parenting class, was taking her puppy out for a walk, while working from home, when she witnessed a neighbor collapse in her front yard.
Gagne began to administer CPR when she couldn’t feel the neighbor’s pulse and noticed she was turning blue. Neighbors assisted Gagne by calling 911, taking the collapsed neighbor’s grandchildren to another house, and caring for Gagne’s puppy.
Due to Gagne’s quick response, the neighbor was able to survive.
- Dustin Nist, a Kent State University student, is being honored for helping to save a woman from a vehicle trapped in a river.
Following his shift at Graves Lumber, Nist witnessed a vehicle run a stop sign, pass over railroad tracks, and plunged into the Tuscarawas River, near the Clinton fire station.
Nist immediately ran to the fire station to report what had happened, while another called 911.
He then broke through the brush and swam to the passenger side of the vehicle. Noticing the water was up to the neck of the older woman who was the passenger in the vehicle, he was able to talk her through unlocking her door and getting it open.
Noticing that the vehicle had stabilized, and the water was no longer rising, Nist decided to not remove the woman due to fear of possible injuries and began to talk with the woman to keep her alert, until first responders were able work through the brush and remove the woman from the vehicle and transport her to the hospital, where she survived with minor injuries.
Sadly, the driver did not survive.
- Richard Santucci and Jim Shepherd will be recognized for helping save the life of a man who lost consciousness at Nordson Xaloy Inc. in Austintown.
On Feb. 2, 2020, while at work, the man fell to the ground. Shepherd immediately assessed the man and alerted the team about what had occurred. Santucci came to the man’s aid with an AED and began to perform CPR, until first responders arrived.
- Natalie Weisler is being honored for alerting her family of a home fire.
Seven-year-old Weisler woke up early in the morning of November 8 to watch TV with her cat, while her parents and brother were asleep, when she heard a sound that startled her.
Thinking some pots and pans fell, Weisler went into the kitchen, when she saw through the kitchen window that the breezeway was on fire.
Without panicking, Weisler ran to her parents’ room to wake them up and inform them there was a fire. She then went to alert her 16-year-old brother, who initially thought she was lying due to how calm she was, until he got out of bed and saw the flames.
Once her parents saw the fire, they immediately called 911 and the family gathered at the front yard to safely wait for the New Franklin Fire Department to arrive and extinguish the fire.
- Joanne White is being recognized for helping to keep others safe during COVID-19 by making facemasks.
Being at risk from COVID-19 complications due to health issues, White has been homebound since March. However, instead of feeling sorry for her situation, White immediately sought to improve the lives of others.
White researched which cloth masks were best fitting, most durable, washable and protective, and began making masks for the most needy and vulnerable members of the community.
Requests began to come in from healthcare workers, nursing homes, domestic violence shelters and CSB workers. Whenever a delivery person came to her home, she made sure to offer them one of her handmade masks. When White saw on social media the frustrations from essential workers unable to get a mask, she would mail her masks out to them.
A partnership formed between White and Youngstown Police Chaplain Lewis Macklin to help distribute her masks to anyone who needed them in the city.
Despite living on a fixed income and using her meager wages to buy material for the masks, White never asked for any money in return. When asked why she doesn't sell them, she shakes her head with a look of disgust. She couldn’t imagine making money off those who may not have the means for something so important. For her, this is simply a way for her to help others and possibly save lives.
To date, White has distributed more than 1,500 masks throughout the community.