In honor of the upcoming Century of Champions Red Cross Ball on Saturday, we are giving you a sneak peek into the stories of those heroes who will be recognized at the event. We continue with the International Humanitarian Services Award and Disaster Cycle Services Award.
International Humanitarian Services Award – Simon Kurzban
Simon, 18, was serving as a volunteer at a juvenile center in the Philippines when Typhoon Haiyan struck the night of Nov. 8, 2013.
He and his host family fled rising water and rode out the storm on the roof of a building. In the morning, Simon encountered a scene of total destruction. Over the next five days, he had little to eat and spent time foraging food for himself and his host family, comforting friends, and helping neighbors salvage what little they could of their devastated homes.
When Simon was finally evacuated with help from the U.S. military, his thoughts weren’t for himself. He thought of the families who would be staying behind, who had lost everything, and he made an impassioned plea via the American media who interviewed him: Help the people of Tacloban. Send donations.
His touching story and plea for help inspired an unknown number of Americans back home to contribute towards Philippine disaster relief. And his experience changed his life: Simon now wants to pursue work in the nonprofit field and hopes to return to help with long-term typhoon recovery in Tacloban.
Disaster Cycle Services Award – Chief J.J. Hoffmann, Sgt. Kevin Parker, Connie Sullivan & Neil Sullivan
When devastating floods struck in September 2013, all routes in and out of Lyons were cut off, isolating the town from all outside help. Fortunately for the town’s 2,000 residents, local leaders had implemented preparedness precautions that saved untold lives and enabled the community to come together to take care of one another over the next days and weeks.
Although it was truly an inspiring, community-wide effort, four individuals stand out as models of disaster preparedness, response and teamwork.
Lyons Fire Protection District Chief J.J. Hoffman had worked for years on preparing his community for the worst – whether wildfire or flood. Hoffman was inspired and guided by the foresight of Boulder County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Barber, who had predicted the massive flood threat facing Lyons. Hoffman proactively identified “islands” that could be isolated by flooding and, before water inundated the town, stationed emergency resources to serve each area and help with evacuations. He also trained his crews in swift-water rescue so they were ready to rescue residents in Lyons and in surrounding communities.
Sgt. Kevin Parker is the Sheriff’s representative for Lyons. He had already developed excellent working relationships that enabled his agency, the fire district, and local residents to collaborate on delivering vital services when disaster struck. The night of the flooding, he reported to Lyons and ended up playing an integral role in managing the emergency response during and after the floods – including helping to open and run a shelter at the local elementary school.
Connie and Neil Sullivan own the St. Vrain Market in downtown Lyons, a small grocery store. During the flood they selflessly donated their entire inventory to help sustain the town.
“Connie’s exact words were, ‘here’s the key, take what you need and we’ll figure it out later.’ We took emergency supplies from their store, and that’s what fed not only our evacuees but also our emergency responders here for the next couple of days,” Sgt. Parker said.