Friday, February 29, 2008

There are many heroes among us

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
— Heroes seldom get the thanks they deserve, but local good Samaritans received recognition Wednesday at the annual Heroes of New Haven County breakfast.
The South Central Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross presented the awards under the glittering chandeliers in the ballroom at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale.
Eunice Lasala of Branford won the Humanitarian Award for tackling the feral cat population explosion. Lasala founded and runs the Branford Compassion Club, which has rescued and neutered 2,500 cats and feeds 14 feral cat colonies. Many of the cats go to new homes, others are returned to their colonies. Lasala also is president of Branford Community Foundation and Branford Garden Club.
She encouraged the packed audience to be heroes in their own ways.
“All of us have the power within to serve and to lead. Discover your passion, launch a vision. ... Each of us is able to lead a life of significance,” Lasala said.
Jesse Wylie of Hamden received the Adult Good Samaritan Award for staunching the heavy bleeding of boy, 15, hit by a car on June 25, 2007. Wylie, who was passing by at the time of the incident, used his shirt to control the bleeding and kept applying pressure even when the boy had seizures, said Brian Andrus, who won the award in 2007 and made Tuesday’s presentation to Wylie.
Wayne Barneschi of Wallingford won the Philanthropic Award for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Red Cross with his annual Trail of Terror event. The event has people pay to walk through a maze filled with scary monsters (played by volunteers) and macabre scenes. Barneschi gets numerous youth involved yearlong in the project, teaching them skills as they build sets and design costumes, as well as offering them a safe place to go after school.
“The highlight of our year is presenting that check to the Red Cross,” Barneschi said.
Mark Osinski, a volunteer firefighter from Orange, won the Firefighter Award for helping to save an 82-year-old woman from a fire. After arriving first on the scene, Osinski spotted the woman in a window, calling for help.
Firefighters put up a ladder, but the woman could not climb down on her own, so Osinski carried her.
Jason Prates, 9, received the Youth Good Samaritan Award, for starting his volunteer work and fundraising for charity when he was 3. After losing a close friend and a grandmother to cancer, Jason began making homemade Christmas cards for cancer patients. He started by making 20 cards a year. Last year, he gave out 200.
“My friend taught me it’s not about giving, it’s about receiving, and my grandma taught me that when somebody dies, they are always in your heart,” Jason told the crowd. They gave him the event’s first standing ovation. The second standing ovation went to the winner of the Law Enforcement Award, the late police Officer Robert V. Fumiatti.
Fumiatti was shot in the face while breaking up a drug deal in New Haven’s Hill neighborhood on June 13, 2002, and then died several years later after an apparent heart attack. Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr. nominated Fumiatti for his character, kindness and community involvement.
“The most amazing thing — he forgave his attackers,” Ortiz said in a video prepared by the Red Cross to honor the nominees.
The Medical Award went to a group of Wallingford postal workers who saved a colleague who collapsed when he experienced a severe heart arrhythmia July 21, 2007. Such heart problems can kill victims in minutes. The team included Ron Willoughby, Paulette Pierce, John Velardi, Isabelle Lacy, Francis “Frank” Vincent, Gregory Doran, Michael Bradshaw and Roy Rotnofsky.
FAll belong to the office’s Medical Emergency Response Team and administered CPR, electric shocks with a cardiac defibrillator, and oxygen until the town’s emergency medical service arrived.rank Meyer of West Haven won the 911 Dispatcher Award for walking a West Haven parent through the process to restore breathing of his 3-year-old child on Dec. 12, 2006.
Last, but not least, Lexie the poodle, and her owner, Deborah Baser of Hamden, won the Animal Humanitarian Award. Baser, a certified physical therapist, had Lexie certified in the pet partner program at Paws N Effect in Hamden. When she took Lexie to visit students at a regional high school for disabled children, the dog’s companionship inspired one speech-impaired boy to start talking in full sentences, presenters said.

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