Local Heroes

"Some local heroes selected to be honored by the Island County Chapter of the American Red Cross during the third annual Real Heroes Breakfast include a half dozen people with stories of death-defying, Captain Marvel kind of heroism. Stories of locals who put their lives into real danger and put their physical strength and endurance to the test for complete strangers.But there's also the everyday heroes who are honored. There are volunteers who quietly, patiently make a difference in people's lives. Or those who go above and beyond the call of duty and are able to remain calm in the most stressful of situations because lives depend upon it.These are the stories of the people who were chosen in five different categories by a selection committee made up of Lyn Gaustad from Whidbey Vision care, Trish Rose from Whidbey General Hospital and Debra Valis of Island Athletic Club:Mountain rescueThe Military Award, which is sponsored by Northrop Grumman, goes to four men from Whidbey Island Naval Base Search and Rescue team whose heroics made headlines all over the region. They are helicopter pilot Lt. Chris Cote, aircraft commander Lt. Cmdr. Harold Parrish, and on-the-ground rescuers Chief Petty Officer Frank Leets and Petty Officer William Crews.The Whatcom County Red Cross is also honoring Senior Chief Petty Officer Bryce Schuldt, who was along on the mission. Their story goes like this:There's a montain climber down on top of Mount Baker.A crew of men far away on Whidbey Island get into a helicopter. They fly over the water and up the side of a mountain to where the air is thin and there's not much to keep the machine aloft. They lower two of the men into an icy avalanche zone so they can trudge uphill to the man in distress.The helicopter is low on fuel, so it zips down the mountain, gets gassed up and returns to the site. Meanwhile, the men on the ground have to finagle themselves across a treacherous gorge and up a sheer ice wall. Finally, the rescuers both on the ground and in the air reach the fallen man and hoist him up into the helicopter as its blades rotate just five feet from the glacier.Leaving the rescue team behind in the dangerous area, the helicopter team takes the man to the hospital and hurries back up the mountain to hover precariously once again while the rescue team members are hoisted up and finally brought back to safety.Helicopter crashThe Good Samaritan Award goes to Chuck and Betty Smith of Oak Harbor, who risked their lives to save a woman after witnessing a fiery accident by chance April 9 while shopping for a travel trailer near Stanwood.The Smiths had just arrived at a Stanwood farm when they heard a noise and looked up to see a helicopter fall out of the sky. Since Chuck is a retired Navy air traffic controller, he knew that time was short because of the fireball that usually occurs after an aircraft crash.The Smiths were the first on the scene of the crash and found two people who needed to be pulled away from the flaming helicopter before it exploded. Chuck helped the pilot drag a 300-pound man to safety while Betty stayed by the burning helicopter with a woman. While the pilot performed CPR on the man, Chuck ran to help his wife.Since neither of them were strong enough to pick up the woman, they improvised. Chuck got down on his hands and knees and had the woman crawl on his back. Then he crawled on all fours until they were safely 70 feet away.Although the accident caused one fatality, Chuck and Betty's selfless acts possibly prevented more fatalities from occurring, wrote Larry Salter, the commanding officer of the Whidbey Island Navy base, who nominated the couple for the award. The Smiths are ideal citizens and are truly heroes in the eyes of this command.Busy volunteerThe Youth Good Samaritan Award, sponsored by Pacific Northwest Bank, goes to Katie Stanford, a 17-year-old Oak Harbor High School student who somehow finds time to volunteer in a myriad of community activities.She is the first youth board member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Island County and has volunteered for every project or activity the group has undertaken - Bowling for Kids' Sake, Festival of Trees and Children's Day.Stanford had the initiative to organize a Big Brothers and Big Sisters program all by herself this summer. It was a successful program for networking existing and prospective matches and giving them a chance to meet and interact with each other.Over the last year, Stanford has earned both her high school diploma and her associates degree from Skagit Valley College, which was possible through the Running Start program.Supporting educationThe Educator Award, sponsored by Whidbey Newspaper Group, goes to Richard Thomas, an unpaid volunteer at the South Whidbey Intermediate School. Over the last five years, he has consistently volunteered three full days a week to work with children.Student Support Liaison Lorena Welch, who nominated Thomas along with four others at the school, best describes his tireless dedication:Richard bolsters the lives of 10 or more children each and every day, she wrote. He shows up at each room with a willingness to tackle any task the teacher hurls his way. With every ounce of academic, emotional, or social support, he build deep caring connections with each student. Connections which offer that rich sense of belonging so integral to our children, especially for those who feel less successful in their school community.Above and beyondThe 911 Dispatch Award, sponsored by Upchurch Scientific, goes to two dispatchers this year who acted heroically. Both Kelly Crownover and Shelley Edwards were able to keep their cool and walk people through medical emergencies with just the sounds of their voices.Crownover was on duty last November when she got a call from a Freeland man whose wife was going into labor two months early. She helped the upset husband deliver the baby boy in the couple's bathtub. When the tiny baby was born and remained silent, she explained how to wipe the mucus from his mouth.She remained calm and collected until she heard the baby's first wail. Then she could no longer hold her tears back.Edwards was working Sept. 18 when she got a 911 call involving a choking woman. The call was complicated by a language barrier since the caller was Spanish-speaking man who was obviously very concerned about the woman. After determining the woman's condition was dire, she walked the caller through the Heimlich maneuver.Together, the two - many miles apart - saved the woman's life.-------------The Island County Chapter of the American Red Cross' third annual Real Heroes Breakfast will be Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the Elks Club in Oak Harbor. It starts at 7:30 a.m. and is by invitation only. Anyone interested in attending should call the Red Cross office at 257-2096. "

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