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Red Cross chapter looking for heroes to honor at ceremony

Heroes come in all ages, shapes and sizes as circumstances find them. The American Red Cross is looking for a few good heroes to honor at an April awards ceremony.

The Merced/Mariposa Red Cross chapter is planning its second annual Everyday Heroes Celebration Breakfast April 2 but before that happens a committee must pick finalists from nominees the public submits.

Last June the Red Cross honored 10 different heroes from seven different categories and it's hoped even more nominees can be found with more advance time to solicit help and plan the 2008 event, Larry Reed, executive director, said. This year there are 12 categories for hero selection.

"Everyday heroes are all around us," Reed said. "People who one day find themselves living through extraordinary circumstances, reaching out to someone in need and doing remarkable things."

Red Cross heroes have one thing in common -- they all have exhibited exceptional acts of heroism through selfless bravery, dedication to humanitarian principles or extraordinary public service, Reed said.

A Feb. 1 deadline has been set to accept hero nominations. A Red Cross committee then will pick the honorees by about Feb. 15, who will then be honored at the April recognition breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Senior Community Center on West 15th Street.

Rich Gipson, a retired teacher and chairman of the Red Cross board, is looking forward to the next recognition ceremony.

"I had never experienced anything like this before and was blown away by it," Gipson said. "It was so inspirational to hear and talk with them. It (program) was a great tribute to them and the Red Cross."

The act of heroism could have taken place anywhere during 2007 but the nominees must live or work in Merced or Mariposa counties. Categories include animal rescue, education, adult, senior and youth Good Samaritans, law enforcement, medical professionals, military, professional rescuers, wilderness rescue and workplace.

A "Spirit of the Red Cross" award also will be given to someone who exemplifies the humanitarian mission of the organization, Reed said.

Reed said everyone has received the hero recognition program positively. Similar events have been taking place for about 30 years in the Midwest. Videographers tape three to four-minute testimonies from prospective heroes which are put together for a video presentation during the awards breakfast.

Merced Fire Chief Ken Mitten, a former board member who has served the Red Cross for 24 years, said it's important for the community to recognize heroes. He defines these people as those who go above and beyond the call of duty, putting personal agendas and safety aside to help those in dire need.

Reed said those interested may contact the Red Cross at 383-2150 for nomination forms or go to the Web site and print the form online.

Last year's honorees included a woman for her animal rescue work, three Mariposans for helping a choking child, a young couple for rescuing a man from his burning truck, a boy for summoning help for his seriously ill mother, a teenager for helping nine family members escape from their burning mobile home, a respiratory therapist for helping an injured motorcyclist and a Livingston nurse for promoting workplace wellness.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485