Red Cross honors 'Hometown Heroes' at annual luncheon

Eight Idaho individuals and an organization were honored Thursday in Boise as Hometown Heroes by the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho.

“Our annual Hometown Heroes event is a great way to recognize the exceptional people among us,” said Nicole Sirak Irwin, regional CEO of the American Red Cross of Idaho and Montana. “We’re thrilled with the way the local community has rallied around and supported our annual celebration.”

Those honored include Fire Safety Hero Tristan Reding, a Nampa 18-year-old who helped a wheelchair-bound woman out of a burning house; Law Enforcement Hero Kirk Rush, a Boise police sergeant who revived a man who had collapsed in a Downtown parking lot; Military Hero David Jensen, an Idaho Air National Guard staff sergeant who helped the injured victim of a car crash; Youth Hero Bella Rossman, an 8-year-old who saved her great-grandfather's life by calling 911; Animal Rescue Hero the Boise Fire Department, whose firefighters freed a dog whose head was stuck in a steel pipe; Workplace Hero Alicia Benningfield, who rushed to help a colleague who was calling in sick; Water Safety Hero Erica Pearce of Nampa, who rescued a child whose mother had submerged him in a ditch; Blood Donor Hero Michael Wilson, who has donated more than 10 gallons of blood platelets; and Spirit of the Red Cross Hero Charlie Finlayson, a 13-year-old who cared for his injured father in the wilderness, then hiked to find help.

Here is the full information about the 2016 Hometown Heroes, provided by the Red Cross:

Fire Safety Hero

Presented to a professional or volunteer firefighter, or an ordinary citizen involved with a fire-related incident, whose lifesaving action goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Tristan Reding

Nampa, ID—Most people would have run for cover, but Tristan Reding decided to run the other way. In August of last year, 18-year-old Tristan Reding was driving near Skyview High School, when he saw flames rising above nearby rooftops. Driving in the direction of the flames, Tristan arrived on South Garland Street and saw a home engulfed in 100 feet high flames.

Fire trucks were on their way but had not yet arrived, so Tristan ran towards the back of the house to make sure everyone had gotten out of the house safely. That's when he heard two explosions from inside the house, followed by loud screams. Ignoring the wall of smoke and flames, Tristan jumped a fence, kicked in the back door and ran into the burning house. There he found a wheelchair-bound woman with singed hair whose arms were badly burned and whose oxygen tanks had just exploded. She pleaded with Tristan to help her. Although he could barely see, Tristan lifted the woman out of her chair, carried her out of the house where neighbors took over, and then went back into the burning building to retrieve the woman’s wheelchair. The woman was released from the hospital the day after the fire.

Law Enforcement Hero

Presented to a member of law enforcement or 911 dispatcher whose lifesaving action goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Kirk Rush

Boise, ID—On September 18, 2015, police dispatch requested a Code 3 response for a welfare check at the YMCA downtown. A caller noticed a male lying on the ground in the parking lot and called 911. A short time later, another caller advised that a woman had run into the middle of the road to flag him down.

The woman, who was hysterical, said that her husband had collapsed and that he was possibly dead. She provided little additional information. Sergeant Kirk Rush and Officers Perkins and Salvas responded to the scene and arrived within 2 minutes. Someone was attempting to perform CPR on the unresponsive man, but Sgt. Rush recognized that the well-meaning person was not performing CPR correctly and took over. The man was not breathing and his eyes were slightly open. While Officers Salvas and Perkins kept the crowd at bay, Sgt. Rush performed CPR on the male for several minutes. Shortly before medics arrived, the man regained his breathing and his pulse was strong. He was transported to the hospital where he received additional care. The officers later learned that the man suffered from frequent seizures and that he had fallen while at the YMCA.

Military Hero

Presented to a member of the Armed Forces (active or retired) whose lifesaving action went above and beyond the call of duty.

SSgt. David Jensen

Boise, ID—On August 26, 2015, Staff Sergeant David Jensen of the Idaho Air National Guard and a fellow airman arrived at the scene of a one-car rollover on Highway 51. They quickly realized that the man inside the car was injured and bleeding heavily. Staff Sergeant Jensen was able to wrap a remnant of a blanket around the victim’s head and provided other life-saving care until emergency crews arrived. At that point, he was able to help remove the victim from the car and pass on critical information to the paramedics regarding the victim’s injuries and the treatment he had administered so far. For his actions, Staff Sgt. Jensen was awarded the Idaho Cross, Idaho's highest state award presented to members of the Idaho military division.

Youth Hero

Presented to a youth (18 or younger) who applied lifesaving skills to save the life of another.

Bella Rossman

Boise, ID—An eight-year-old girl is credited with saving her great-grandfather’s life after he suddenly collapsed while they were home alone together. Bella Rossman and her great-grandfather, Bill Page, were watching television when Bill suddenly became unresponsive. Bella quickly took action.

Remembering to call 911 from an emergency at school, she contacted emergency services. The phone operator asked her to stay calm and to explain where she was. Bella only knew the street name, Harrison Boulevard, but first responders were able to quickly locate Bella and Bill from there. Doctors concluded that Bill’s blood sugar dropped quickly and determined that had Bella not called 911 when she did, Bill would not have survived. Bella was honored by the Boise Fire Department for her heroic actions which saved her grandfather’s life.

Animal Rescue Hero

Presented to a person who saved an animal’s life or to an animal who saved a person’s life

Boise Fire Department

Boise, ID— Melissa Taylor and her small Jack Russell terrier, Baby Dog, frequently go for walks together. Baby Dog like to set her own pace and sometimes trails behind. One afternoon in December, Baby Dog didn’t return at her usual time and Melissa began searching the neighborhood for the canine laggard. In spite of hours searching, she found no sign of Baby Dog until a neighbor discovered the poor dog and her predicament the following morning: Baby Dog’s head was stuck in a section of steel pipe.

After her initial attempts failed to dislodge her dog’s head with oils and lubricants, Melissa rushed Baby Dog to the vet, but to no avail: the medical team they could not separate Baby Dog from her steely prison. In desperation, they called in the Boise Fire Department, who quickly arrived on scene and set to work cutting the metal around the little dog’s head. A flood of sparks and a little skillful maneuvering later, Baby Dog’s head was finally freed.

Workplace Hero

Presented to an ordinary citizen who saved a life at the office, at a construction job, or in any other workplace environment.

Alicia Benningfield

Boise, ID—Alicia Benningfield was on the phone with her colleague, Allison Demarest, who was calling in sick. While they were talking, Alicia could tell that something was seriously wrong. Trusting her instincts, Alicia called 911, jumped in her car and drove to Allison's house while paramedics also rushed to the scene. There they found Allison unresponsive and not breathing. Allison had suffered a stroke and was quickly transported to the hospital where she was put into intensive care. Thanks to Alicia’s decision to trust her instincts and call help, Allison survived the incident and is now in full recovery.

Water Safety Hero

Presented to an ordinary citizen or professional rescuer responsible for rescuing a person in a water environment.

Erica Pearce

Nampa, ID—On March 1, 2015. Nampa Police responded to an alert from Erica Pearce just before 8:00 AM. Erica reported a young woman who was carrying a baby and had another little girl with her, and who was acting very oddly. When Erica followed the woman after her call to 911, she was standing in an irrigation ditch in which she was submerging the crying child, while the little girl was sitting on the bank, also crying. According to police, Erica was able to wrest the infant from the woman, saving the child. Both children were placed in protective custody following the incident.

Blood Donor Hero

Presented to a person who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to donate lifesaving blood to the Red Cross.

Michael Wilson

Boise, ID—Michael Wilson has been donating blood platelets about once a month over the last seven years, which translates to about 178 volunteer hours, 134 donated units (10+ gallons of platelets), and 402 lives saved. Michael speaks highly of the Red Cross donation center. He encourages his colleagues and children to donate blood as well and he is committed to the process of helping save lives.

Michael got started donating platelets by mistake. A volunteer from the Red Cross called his office number looking for a former employee. When Michael told the volunteer that the employee had left the company, the caller introduced the donation process to Michael. He made an appointment to donate his first unit of blood on the spot. Knowing that he can save lives by giving what his body will naturally replenish, Michael plans to continue to donate blood for the rest of his life.

Spirit of the Red Cross Hero

Presented to a person or organization whose lifesaving action embodies the spirit of the Red Cross.

Charlie Finlayson

Salmon, ID--Charlie Finlayson and his father, David, a 52-old mountaineer, were camping in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness northwest of Challis on August 17, 2015, when a boulder knocked David off a ledge. He tumbled 20 to 30 feet down the mountain, breaking his back, left arm and left heel, and sustaining numerous other injuries. For the next two-and-a-half days, 13-year-old Charlie assumed the role of caretaker, making sure his father stayed hydrated, fed, calm and conscious. He also hiked back to their camp alone to retrieve a first aid kit and other supplies. Charlie and David eventually made it back to their lakeside campsite, an arduous trip that involved traversing a field of boulders.

On the third day after the accident, father and son decided that Charlie would hike 12 miles to the trailhead, alone, to summon help. Charlie left with a heavy heart, fearing he would never see his father alive again. A few miles into his trek, Charlie encountered a group of campers who immediately set out for David’s campsite, while a member of a second group of campers ran 8 miles to summon help at the nearest campground. The alarm was sounded, a rescue helicopter was dispatched and a short while later, David was airlifted and transported to a hospital in Boise.

Charlie was taken home to Salmon by the local sheriff. He was home for just one day before leaving on a planned Boy Scout trip to earn wilderness survival and hiking badges.