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Monday, March 11, 2013

Heroes: 2013 Breakfast of Champions

The heroes highlighted at the 2013 Red Cross Breakfast of Champions share a common trait: quick thinking and selflessness in emergency situations.    As videos of each award winner’s story filled the Hyatt Regency ballroom last Friday with examples of courage and hope, many attendees reached for tissues.

I had the opportunity to speak with the men, women and youth that were recognized at this inspiring event.  From all walks of life, these doctors, security guards, fashion consultants, military personnel, sons, daughters, and married couples all expressed humility and thankfulness for having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of family or strangers.

Omar Salgado, recognized as this year’s “Adult Lifesaver” said that his reward is “just knowing the person is still alive.”  Other people were looking at the car that had plunged into Cherry Creek but Omar made the quick decision to climb down the embankment, jump into the icy river and pull the driver out to safety.  “I’m blessed and thankful to the Red Cross,” said a shy and soft-spoken Salgado. 
Omar Salgado: Adult Lifesaver
Katie Connally, along with brother Matthew, received the “Youth Lifesaver” award for performing CPR on their father.   “I almost started crying,” Katie said after receiving the award, though it was all about the “the other heroes” as she was deeply impressed by “how much people do” to help out others in emergency situations.

Matthew and Katie Connally: Youth Lifesaver
“The Spirit of the Red Cross” was awarded to Jerry and Patti Ellmann, an amazing couple who spent countless hours volunteering at the Red Cross for survivors of the High Park Fire, even after having their own home destroyed in the disaster.  “We were just helping people,” Jerry said as Patti added that she was “overwhelmed by the stories,” told throughout the ceremony as she didn’t think they “did anything special.”  Jerry thanked the Red Cross for “being there for us,” noting that it was “like therapy for us to be part of the outpouring of community” in times of personal disaster.

Jerry and Patti Ellmann: Spirit of the Red Cross
Senior Airman Keith Anderson could not attend the ceremony to personally receive his “Military Lifesaver” award as he was recently deployed to Afghanistan.  But his commanding officer wanted the audience to know that Keith’s incredible story of providing lifesaving triage to rollover victims also involved Anderson’s wife, Amber, a nurse whose medical assistance was invaluable to their combined efforts that saved many lives.

David Haigh accepting on behalf of Senior Airman Keith Anderson: Military Lifesaver
Governor Hickenlooper provided thoughtful comments to close out the event.  “One thing we have as Westerners,” the governor told the audience is “that we don’t give up.  We have a level of resiliency and commitment to help others.  And we do that together: strangers helping strangers.”

As March is Red Cross Month throughout the country, let’s embody the selflessness demonstrated by the men and women featured at this year’s Breakfast of Champions!  Donate some of your time, talent and treasure to an organization that makes a difference

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