The Bay Area chapter of the American Red Cross this morning celebrated San Mateo County heroes, including a few from the city of San Mateo.
The awards breakfast, held at in San Mateo, recognized people and organizations that display extraordinary courage and kindness in the community.
Individuals honored this morning included two women who collected quilts to comfort those affected by the 2010 San Bruno explosion; a young boy who raised money for victims of San Bruno, the Japanese earthquake, and the Philippine flooding by using his musical talent; a father and son who rescued several elderly women in the aftermath of the San Bruno explosion; and a retired dentist who distributes wheelchairs around the world.
Here's a list of those honored, their accomplishments, and quotes from each:
Community Service Heroes, Individual:
Kit Morse and Julie McAuliffe
Shortly after the gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Kit Morse and Julie McAuliffe, the owners of in San Mateo, were searching for a way to show their support and comfort to the affected families.
Due to the large number of families affected, they realized they couldn’t make enough quilts for everyone, so they reached out to quilters around the world on their company’s email list.
The response to their call was overwhelming. They received 135 quilts, with an estimated valued from $200 to $1,000 for each quilt, from as far away as New Jersey. Since Always Quilting was also part of a million pillowcase challenge through a national magazine, they collected a pillowcase to match each quilt.
Taking it one step further, a local church arranged for a pillow to be donated for each pillowcase. The quilts, pillows and pillowcases were distributed to the families at an event in January.
(Kit Morse) "People who come to our store make a lot of quilts, and they’re always happy to donate to anyone in need, so we consider them to be the heroes, we’re just the organizers of it. It’s nice to be honored, but I don’t know about feeling like a hero. I think the heroes are the ones that run into the burning buildings."
(Julie McAuliffe) " We’ve gotten a number of beautiful thank you notes from people (who received the donated quilts). There was a lady that was in a hotel. She said that even though things had been taken care for her, so she felt like she had all the necessities, when she got her quilt it was like the one true thing that was hers because everything else in the hotel belonged to other people."
Community Service Hero, Organization:
, founded in 1987, provides comprehensive and coordinated housing and support services for homeless residents of the San Francisco Peninsula.
Shelter Network’s mission is to help homeless clients re-establish self-sufficiency and return to permanent homes of their own.
With the help of residents, businesses, local government agencies, and community organizations, Shelter Network is able to provide services to thousands of homeless families and individuals every year.
Shelter Network’s programs are more than a hot meal and a bed for the night.
Their transitional programs provide residents with the resources they need to exit homelessness permanently, including coordinated case management, a mandatory savings plan, life skills workshops, one-on-one counseling and free childcare.
Last year, Shelter Network served more than 4,300 people, including 850 families and more than 1,700 children. Notably, 93 percent of families who completed transitional programs succeeded in returning to permanent housing after an average stay of less than 100 days.
Act of Courage Hero:
On April 11, the San Mateo and Burlingame Police Departments handled an incident that involved the . The driver was experiencing a medical problem which made the driver lose control of his vehicle.
As a result, the man drove on the wrong side of the road, ran several stop lights and crashed his vehicle at a high rate of speed. One of the stop lights the man failed to stop for was at the intersection of Broadway and El Camino Real.
Charles Simons, a crossing guard, was in the process of assisting students across the crosswalk.
When the runaway SUV approached the intersection, Simons and a small child were crossing the road. Simons saw that the vehicle was right in the path of the child and himself and yelled at the child to get back. As they both ran to the safety of the sidewalk the SUV sped past within several feet of the student.
Several citizens at the scene commented that Simons saved the life of the student.
Although the purpose of a crossing guard is to ensure the safety of pedestrians, Simons’ actions were above and beyond the normal scope of duty. His quick thinking and heroic action prevented a tragedy.
(Simons was unable to make it to the breakfast.)
Tom Lantos Humanitarian Award:
Jon B. Grant, D.D.S
As a charter member of the Foster City Rotary Club, Jon Grant is proud of more than 35 years of 100 percent Rotary attendance. He is a former president of the club, and served as district governor from 1994-95.
Grant has been honored as the Foster City Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year and as Foster City Citizen of the Year.
Grant’s greatest impact and satisfaction come from his work as the foundation chair for his club, which provides assistance to people throughout the world.
Since 2000, he has been actively involved with the Wheelchair Foundation, raising funds and securing matching grants with the Rotary Foundation totaling approximately $15 million. This effort has so far provided more than 300,000 people in developing countries with wheelchairs, immeasurably improving their independence and quality of life.
Although Grant has personally traveled to more than 50 countries to deliver aid and wheelchairs, he spends even more time and effort communicating the importance of service to others.
Grant’s enthusiasm is contagious. He has convinced hundreds of individuals to travel with him to help in wheelchair distribution, and thousands of people to provide financial support to countless worthwhile causes, not only in Foster City but wherever there is a need in the world.
“After I retired, one of the first things I did was volunteer to be the dentist in a Vietnamese refugee camp in the Philippines. From that I saw that one person really can make a difference. I always thought that ‘this project is too big for me; how can we alleviate hunger, how can we alleviate poverty?’ and, if you look at that, you get so frustrated that you don’t do anything. But if you look at ‘What can I do?’ as one small thing, and I do bring others in as volunteers, everyone comes back and says ‘I made a difference.’”
Lifesaving Heroes, Adult:
Bob Petrini and Robert Petrini
Bob Petrini and his son Robert knew exactly what to do when they saw the San Bruno pipeline explosion last September. They hopped in the car and drove straight toward the fireball.
The heroic father and son pair rescued three elderly women from an assisted living care home. One woman had been wheeled out onto the sidewalk earlier.
However, they felt they hadn’t searched thoroughly enough, and dashed back for one more look. In the back room they found a deaf 96-year-old woman, hooked up to oxygen and a catheter, and confined to a hospital bed.
Bob, Robert and another man lifted the woman out of her bed and wheeled her outside up the street to safety.
(Bob Petrini, Sr.) "We were just sitting down for dinner. We heard and saw the explosion. At first, as we all did, it was an airplane. My son and I felt this was just too big to just sit and watch, and we needed to go in and help. There was mass hysteria. People running everywhere, people stranded in the middle of the street, people in nightgowns. That’s where we stopped; a very, very old lady in a wheelchair, in her nightgown, in the middle of the street. Bobby, my son, tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Dad, we’ve got to stop here. This lady needs help.’ And I said ‘Oh my God.’ So that’s where we stopped, and that’s where we started, in a sense.
You didn’t know what was going to blow up next; you heard things exploding from one second to the next, another house going up in fire.
We pulled the first couple of ladies out, and we saw how disabled they were, incapable of moving on their own, and that’s when the adrenaline really kicked in. And then we went back in to get the last lady out, she was in a hospital bed that wouldn’t fit out of the doorjamb, that’s when it really kicked in, ‘cause we could see the flame from the back window of her bedroom.
I went into a little bit of a depression, to be honest with you, because it was like ‘wow’, but you kick out of it and move on.
If you asked my wife, we’ve been late for many events because I’m the guy that pulls over to help someone on the side of the road."
(Robert Petrini, Jr.) "We really didn’t know what we were getting into. When we helped the first woman, my dad probably would have driven closer to the fire if I hadn’t jumped out of the car while it was moving, and asked her what was wrong. Before we could move anywhere else, someone else came up to us and asked us to help. It was weird. It was like you would imagine the end of the world to be like. People running, people disoriented, people standing and staring, it was bizarre. You just got to move on, you can’t dwell on it."
Lifesaving Hero, Youth:
Matthew Bernardo was at his home when the San Bruno pipeline exploded, putting his home in immediate danger. Due to quick thinking and valiant efforts, he was able to get six-year-old sister Isabel and himself out of their house. As a direct result, they survived the fire.
Bernardo was upstairs watching TV when he thought he felt a strong earthquake that was not stopping. He ran downstairs knowing that Isabel was downstairs playing in her bedroom.
On the way down, he saw the sliding glass door shatter and found his sister in the hallway covering her ears. He instinctively grabbed her and ran out the front door and across the street to a neighbor’s house to escape the heat from the flames.
Bernardo escaped the house with only the clothes he was wearing and his little sister. As soon as he was outside, he borrowed a cell phone and called his parents.
"For the next couple of months, it was like disbelief. My house was gone, everything was gone. For the most part, I didn’t dwell on it, even though it was that kind of experience. I just kind of felt like ‘Life goes on,’ especially since me and my sister were unharmed. It doesn’t feel like I should be here this morning (at the heroes breakfast); I don’t feel like I did anything, I just did what I had to do."
Act of Kindness Hero, Youth:
Joshua Allen Hui
The Friday following the San Bruno pipeline explosion, school was cancelled for Joshua Allen Hui.
Hui asked his dad to help him think of some places where he could play his drums to raise money for the victims of the tragedy that had just happened. Hui selflessly thought that if he could help some of the people who lost their homes then they would not have to worry as much.
After two days and four hours of playing in San Francisco at the Justin Herman Plaza and Pier 39, Hui was able to raise $420. He presented the money he raised to the Red Cross.
Hui has continued to raise funds though by playing his drums for the San Bruno Disaster, Japan Earthquake and Philippine Floods. Hui said “doing this makes me feel happy, because I’m making other people feel happy.”
Hui’s father said that when he was just 18 months old, he was able to make a drum rhythm on pots and pans, and at 20 months was playing a snare drum and copying the movie “Drum Line.”
"I fundraised for the San Bruno fire in the streets of San Francisco to help people to build homes. I wanted to help people not worry that much. They might think it might be the end for them, but I think it’s not.
I’ve been thinking I want to be a firefighter and a drummer, but now I want to be an engineer that helps people. Like inventing electronic stuff."
Animal Act of Kindness Hero:
Sherri Camps and her dog Sara
Sherri Camps and her dog Sara spend three to four days each week providing caring support to children and families in need. They work regularly at the Children’s Health Council at Stanford, the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, Riley’s Place in Woodside and various other venues.
Sara is also a reading dog for the San Carlos Library and was the therapy dog at Camp Bennett for young children with cerebral palsy.
After having a successful career as a court administrator for more than 25 years, Camps decided to prepare for retirement, so she and Sara took classes and achieved certification in Pet Assisted Therapy.
They are now working through the Peninsula Humane Society. When Sara is not working she enjoys long walks, playing in the snow, soaking in her wading pool, and playing with her many stuffed toys.
She loves her family, friends and Hector the mailman, whom she waits for every day.
Camps and Sara are thankful for the opportunity to give back to the community.
"I’m here because of this wonderful dog, Sara, who provides love, care, concern, compassion, and empathy to children and families. Kind-of wherever we’re needed, we go. Sara really varies her comfort and empathy level to whatever the child needs. She watches as children read, she calms a child with anxiety who otherwise can’t work with a therapist.
Sara would just say that in addition to the love she gives, that she gets so much back, that she feels like she gets more than she gives.
Recently, we worked six days in a row. When we got home, she slept 12 hours that night. She was tired; she gives a lot. But when she doesn’t work, when I give her a day off, she walks to the hall tree, she points to her vest, that it’s time to go to work. She absolutely loves it."
-- The Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross and Bay City News contributed to this report