Several individuals, groups of first responders and one very friendly canine were recognized for their heroic efforts in the community during the fifth annual Hometown Heroes ceremonies at the Activities Center of the Santa Clarita Sports Complex Saturday morning.
Emcee Rick Chambers welcomed those gathered, acknowledging the somber anniversary of the terrorist attacks and offering kudos to those who served their communities.
That theme was expanded by keynote speaker, L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who shared his personal 9/11 experience. Cooley and his wife were in Washington D.C. and heard the explosion as the hijacked passenger plan hit the Pentagon. He spoke of the way the country bonded together to help each other after the attacks and how important it was to keep that spirit alive.
Bloodhound mix “Jaeger” greeted participants before he and his handler Jerry Newcomb were honored for finding several missing persons over Newcomb’s 40-year career with the L.A. County Sheriff’s department. The hound even warbled along with singer Andrea Lewis as she performed the National Anthem.
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The ceremonies, sponsored by and a fundraiser for the American Red Cross in Santa Clarita, honor those who have gone above and beyond the norm to be a hero, whether it was taking extra time with students, comforting the wife of a dying deputy, saving the lives of endangered dogs and cats or setting a good example for volunteers of any age.
Honored during the event:
‘Jaeger’ and Jerry Newcomb for their service in trailing and finding numerous missing persons.
HMNMH employee Robert Hill for administering CPR to Deputy Cameron Glover at the scene of his motorcycle crash and tending to Glover’s wife during the difficult time at the hospital.
Larry Mason and Durran Heaney, Search and Rescue volunteers who didn’t give up when the initial search was called off for an elderly man in Canyon Country, finding him under vegetation on the side of the road and getting him to the hospital.
Yvonne Albee, founder of Bow Wows and Meows, for her dedication to shelter animals and outreach efforts to find them homes.
Tracy Gauny, a volunteer for the SCV Senior Center’s Home Delivered Meals program who found a client pale and having chest pains; administering CPR until paramedics arrived.
Sierra Vista teacher Kerry Skoczylas, whose math classes are popular with students because she goes the extra mile to help them understand equasions.
LA County Fire Engine 124, Ladder Truck 126, Paramedic Squads 73 and 124, Chief Dave Buchanan and Assistant Chief Bill Niccum for their response to the “Balboa Incident,” a multi-car accident on the I-5 near Calgrove in a challenging weather and location situation.
Ida Lee, a greeter and hostess during daily lunch at the Senior Center for her attention to the seniors’ needs
Cecil Bernstein, the ‘voice’ of the Senior Center, who fields phone calls and requests for information and has become an essential part of the busy center.
Dr. Peter Kim, who works with Hope Force International and picked up his second Hometown Hero award. The HMNMH pediatrician, who traveled to Houston to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, went to Haiti after the devastating earthquake earlier this year to offer medical aid.
Perhaps the most inspirational honorees of the day were the Salerno brothers, Michael, Matthew and Christopher. Oldest brother Michael, who is only 11, decided to forego birthday presents for donations to various charities, a practice his brothers decided to follow. The brothers have supported the SCV Domestic Violence Center, the Castaic Animal Shelter, the Red Cross and the SCV Food Pantry, among others.
The Jackie Van Hoesen Award was given to nurse Susie Close, who volunteers with the Red Cross Disaster Response Team. Joining after 9/11, she told the crowd that she had been mentored in her volunteerism by Van Hoesen who “taught me how to be a member of the community.”
Duran Heaney and Larry Mason
Sierra Vista teacher Kerry Skoczylas and emcee Rick Chambers
L.A. County Firefighters from Stations 124, 126 and 73
Ida Lee, volunteer from the SCV Senior Center
Jackie Van Hoesen Award winner, nurse Susie Close, listens as presenters outline her achievements