American Red Cross Community Courage Awards

Once a year, the American Red Cross invites the community to an awards luncheon to honor ordinary people who have stepped up in heroic ways to help someone in need. This year’s event was held June 22 at the Kravitz Center in West Palm Beach. Awards were given to 14 recipients in 11 categories: good Samaritan female, good Samaritan male, good Samaritan youth, fire-rescue, education, medical, marine rescue, military, law enforcement, animal rescue and special luncheon honoree.

Submissions started pouring in several months ago when the effort to gather nominations of courageous people in our community was announced. The finalists were chosen by a committee of four — Diane Smith of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and representatives from The Palm Beach Post, 97.9 WRMF radio and WPBF-TV Channel 25.

With each award presented, a touching story detailing the honoree’s courageous act appeared on a large screen. Recipients or their representatives accepted their awards on stage and said a few words of thanks.

Some of the more memorable moments came when Cpl. Burt Richards and Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson’s parents took the stage to accept separate awards, evoking wholly different emotions from the crowd.

Richards, a World War 2 veteran, joined the Jewish War Veterans last year to successfully campaign to make Veteran’s Day a national holiday in the county’s schools so that students can be educated on the special day’s meaning, and take time to honor fallen soldiers. Richards’ personality came to life in the short clip shown before he took the stage, as he showed off photos of himself with famous actors. A member of the Screen Actors Guild and an actor in his own right, Richards said in his vivacious speech that this award was “better than getting an Oscar, Emmy, Tony or Golden Globe.” He then thanked his wife of 63 years. His zeal for life and his good humor were punctuated by the flashy red-and-black suit he wore for the occasion.

In an opposite wave of emotion, the parents of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson were honored with several standing ovations from an appreciative crowd, many of whom – like WPBF-TV 25 news anchor Felicia Rodrigues, the event’s mistress of ceremonies — could be seen wiping tears from their cheeks. Wilson was killed in March by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, and his family was honored for the supreme sacrifice.

The most unique story of an ordinary person thrust into a crisis involved Tammy Camp, a worker at a Shell service station in Lake Park. Camp noticed a pregnant woman had come into the store to use the restroom. Upon exiting, the woman was bloody and carrying what she told Camp was a dead infant, whom she planned to put in the trunk of the car. Before long, Camp had convinced the woman to let her have the baby, who was alive and choking. A survival story of the best kind, the baby was saved and the Red Cross award for good Samaritan female was given to Camp for her quick thinking and persistence.

The day’s event was sponsored by several local businesses, as well as Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Proceeds from the tickets will go to benefit the programs of the American Red Cross.

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