By its very nature, the annual Red Cross Heroes Soiree is an emotional occasion.
Descriptions of the acts of heroism, bravery and compassion are so moving that they often elicit tears from both audience members and the honorees themselves.
This year was no exception, although the most heartwarming moment had more to do with romance than an award.
Rex Laceby, recipient of the Service to the Armed Forces Heroes Award, ended his acceptance speech by asking girlfriend Sabrina Blosky to join him on stage so he could publicly thank her for the support she has given him over the years.
When she did, he got down on one knee, took a ring from his pocket and asked her to marry him.
She said yes, and the 600 guests gave the couple a standing ovation.
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Laceby retired as a decorated U.S. Marine Corps captain to lead a career placement program for veterans at the University of Colorado. He also teaches courses on how to create a welcoming environment for veterans and volunteers with the Boulder Emergency Squad.
“I’ve never considered myself a hero,” he said. “But I’m truly honored to receive this award.”
The 2017 Heroes Soiree was chaired by Alice Jackson, Mark Mathews and Brett Dolan and held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown. It raised $490,000.
Recipients were chosen by a committee headed by Colorado first lady Robin Hickenlooper and Murugan Palani, director of supplier diversity for Xcel Energy.
The Lifesaving Hero Award went to Christopher Francklyn, CU’s club rowing coach. He was doing some maintenance work at the Boulder Reservoir when he realized rowers from a high school club were on the water as a squall with winds of 40-plus miles per hour broke out, swamping the rowing shells and endangering the young people in them. Despite the strong winds and waves breaking over his launch, he made his way to the nine students and piloted them to safety.
Girl Scouts Haley Bolen and Annabelle Schaeffer, recipients of the Youth Hero Award, were recognized for recognizing the signs of a stroke in a parent volunteer during a camping trip at Sky High Ranch in Woodland Park. EMTs were summoned, the parent was transported to a hospital and her life was saved.
“These young ladies showed great lifesaving skills by keeping everyone calm, not panicking and also knowing what to do in an emergency,” noted master of ceremonies Reggie Rivers.
The International Services Hero Award went to Yadira Rodriguez Bernal in appreciation for her service to detainees at the Immigration Detention Center in Aurora and for organizing a home fire prevention program where her co-workers at Nationwide Insurance installed smoke detectors in homes located in vulnerable communities.
Police Det. Shawna Gilbert and nurse Sue Jordan, recipients of the Health and Safety Hero Award, were participating in the Law Enforcement United’s Road to Hope, a three-day bicycle ride that began in Reading, PA and ended in Washington, D.C., when on day two they saw a rider fall from his bicycle.
Jordan was the first to reach him and found that he was unconscious, had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. They administered CPR and the rider regained a heartbeat and began breathing on his own before being taken to a hospital and undergoing triple bypass surgery.
“As a result of these ladies’ quick assessment and effective rendering of CPR, he is alive today, fully recovered with no permanent damage and has returned to work as a police sergeant,” Rivers noted.
Gino Greco, the chief executive officer for the American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming, joined Dennis Moore, chairman of the Mile High Chapter board, in welcoming such guests as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; Norm Franke, regional president of Alpine Bank; Roger Hutson, president/CEO of HRM Resources, and his wife, Meredith, founder and executive director of Presenting Denver; Deirdre Wildman, an executive with MorEvents, and boyfriend Rick Steiner, executive vice president at Air Comm Corporation; Elaine Torres, community affairs director at CBS4; Ruth Rohs, director of corporate communications for IMA Financial Group and executive director of the IMA Foundation; Barefoot PR principals Cori Streetman and Sarah Hogan; Perla Gheiler, director of strategic initiatives and outreach for Metropolitan State University; Wells Fargo VP Vince Abrue; Chris Chavez, director of global corporate citizenship for Ball Corp.; Gloria Schoch, community affairs manager for MillerCoors; and Hollie Velasquez Horvath, Xcel Energy’s director of community relations.
Joanne Davidson: 303-809-1314, firstname.lastname@example.org and @joannedavidson on Twitter
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