PORTLAND – The Southern Maine chapter of the American Red Cross presented seven individuals and one organization with its Real Hero awards Thursday.
“We’re honoring everyday people who do extraordinary things in service to others,” said Patricia Murtagh, CEO of the American Red Cross of Maine. “We salute these Real Heroes and recognize that they embody the spirit that is at the very heart of the American Red Cross. It’s the dedication of our volunteers and the generosity of our donors that ensures that we can be there for families when disaster strikes.”
The 2017 Southern Maine Real Heroes are:
Jayne Hitchcock of York (Education Award)
Hitchcock started fighting cyberbullying and cybercrimes after she became a target of online stalking in 1996. Maryland, where she lived at the time, was the first state to pass an email harassment law and she became the resident cybercrimes expert for “The Montel Williams Show.” The author of “Cyberbullying and the Wild, Wild Web: What Everyone Needs to Know,” Hitchcock works with young people to help them protect themselves online. She also urges their parents to be more involved with what their children are doing online.
“They need to sit down, talk with their children and find out what’s going on and not get mad at them,” Hitchcock said. “Because the one thing I hear most often from students is that they are afraid they’re going to be punished and kicked off the internet if they go to their parents for help.”
Lt. Joesph Carroll and firefighter Steve Mercier of Saco (Public Safety Award)
In March 2016, Carroll and Mercier of the Saco Fire Department rescued a man whose boat had capsized. The boat had started taking on water by Ram Island, but the man was able to get the motor started after some initial difficulty. But on its way back, the boat was capsized by a wave by the jetty.
Carroll and Mercier didn’t have a fixed location, but their familiarity with the geography allowed them to locate the man. He had fallen in the water and had no life jacket, but was able to get onto the hull of his capsized boat. The firefighters got him into their boat, wrapped him up and brought him back to shore where ambulance workers examined him.
It’s an honor being named a Real Hero, but also “a little bit surreal,” Carroll said. “We were doing our jobs.”
“I don’t really see it as truly being a hero,” Mercier said. “I just look at it as an opportunity to give back to my community and be able to help someone who needs help.”
Arthur Bourget of West Gardiner (Blood Services Award)
When the doctor called, he told Bourget to get his wife on the phone as well and then delivered the grim news: It appears you have leukemia.
“I looked at my wife at that exact second and I told her, I said, ‘I’m going to fight this to the end. Leukemia is not going to kill me,’” Bourget recalled.
But, later, while in the hospital for his second blood transfusion, a nurse told him the blood was not available. Bourget had to wait for nearly eight hours that day and he realized that despite his promise to his wife, he would not be able to survive without the blood he needed. In all, he received more than 28 blood transfusions and more than 35 platelet transfusions.
Bourget beat leukemia, but can no longer donate blood himself. He gives back by sponsoring his own drives and inspiring others to donate blood with his personal story and his tireless advocacy.
“Donors may never really know the lives that they’ve saved,” he said, “but I guarantee you those recipients will never forget.”
Kathy Sawyer of Old Orchard Beach (Lifesaving Award)
Last May, Sawyer went into the basement of her Limington home to check the circuit breaker box after the electronics had turned off. Suddenly, she heard her 4-year-old son, Dante, screaming.
Sawyer ran toward his upstairs bedroom. Flames were moving across the ceiling, the rug was on fire, the walls were starting to burn and her son’s bed was on fire. She ran to the basement for the fire extinguisher and ripped it – and its holder – off the wall only to find that she couldn’t get the pin out. She threw the extinguisher onto the fire, ran downstairs, grabbed Dante and ran out the front door.
The fire destroyed her home and gave her injuries that required a three-day stay in the hospital. She urges others to make sure their smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are in working order.
“Buy yourself that time to get yourself and others out alive,” she said.
Paul Reynolds of Harrison and Andrew Grant of Norway (Good Samaritan Award)
Reynolds and Grant were expecting a regular day on the job as Central Maine Power linemen when they came across a burning pick-up truck in Bridgton last June.
“We’re used to dealing with broken poles and car accidents,” Grant said. “We’re not use to being the first ones to pull up on the scene. Usually there’s fire and EMS there and police before we get there.”
But on this day, they ran to the truck. Its cab was filled with smoke, the driver was inside, trapped and upside-down. The broken pole and power lines were on top of the truck.
Grant and Reynolds tried to smash the windows to free the driver. They were able to break the glass only after Grant grabbed a pair of pliers to do the job. Reynolds pulled the man out of the truck.
About a minute later the truck was engulfed in flames.
“We’re just a couple of regular guys that were in the right place at the right time, you know?” Reynolds said. “On that particular day, someone was looking out for him.”
Unitil (Corporate Partner Award)
About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit MaineRedCross.org, like the American Red Cross of Maine on Facebook or visit us on Twitter at @ARC_Maine.