AUGUSTA (WJBF) – The American Red Cross of East Central Georgia honored local heroes during its annual Heroes Breakfast at First Baptist Church of Augusta on Tuesday. Congressman Rick Allen (R-GA) was among the hundreds that turned out to pay tribute to those being honored for their actions during the past year.
Organizers say the goal is to encourage all of us to know we can help save a life or do something heroic. The American Red Cross’s mission statement is that it “prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
This year local heroes were recognized in eight different categories. Here are their stories as told by the Red Cross:
Good Samaritan Hero – Sarah Prosser
“On November 30, 2021, Sarah Prosser was driving on a busy four-lane highway in Aiken when she noticed a toddler running on the median in the direction of oncoming traffic. Instinctively, Prosser began blowing her horn to alert nearby drivers. She quickly and safely stopped her vehicle on the shoulder of the road and, putting herself in harm’s way, ran to the median of the road and picked up the child.
The driver of an oncoming vehicle also pulled over, expressing her gratitude because she had been unaware of the child running towards her until she heard Prosser’s car horn. Aiken City Public Safety officers soon arrived at the scene and took custody of the child and conducted a search for the parents.
Prosser was later contacted by an officer, letting her know that the child’s mother had been located. The officer praised Prosser for her quick response, saying that without her action the child may have been seriously injured or killed.
Prosser says humbly, ‘I am just thankful that I was in the right place at the right time and paying attention to my surroundings.'”
Fire Rescue Hero – Savannah River Site Fire Department Battalion F6
“The Savannah River Site Fire Department Battalion F6 safely and quickly extricated an incapacitated worker from the SDU-8 tank – a newly constructed mega-volume tank 43 feet high, 375 feet in diameter, and built to hold approximately 33 million gallons of salt-stone.
The worker suffered a head injury while removing scaffolding from inside the tank, rendering him non-ambulatory and requiring responders to perform a high angle rescue. The sheer size of the tank made the extrication a complex and technical incident requiring an enormous amount of effort and resources to remove the worker safely. To get to the injured worker, responders had to ascend the 43-foot tank, traverse the 187-foot tank top, and then descend scaffolding 43 feet to reach the bottom of the tank. Once the injured worker was reached, he was securely wrapped to prevent further injury and lifted to the top of the tank utilizing rescue rope and a mechanical lifting system constructed on scene by the rescue personnel.
Once the worker was on the top of the tank, he was then lowered 43 feet off the side of the tank to ground level. On scene construction personnel were utilized to assist in the extrication of the worker and to operate a crane set up for this purpose.
Once on the ground, the worker was placed in an ambulance for transport to a nearby hospital for evaluation and treatment. The scale of the incident required two Fire Companies consisting of two fire engines, two ambulances, a ladder truck, a rescue unit, and several support vehicles. In total, 17 people responded to the rescue and transport. It was a shining example of teamwork, command, and control with many heroes working towards a common goal.”
Law Enforcement Hero – Assistant Police Chief Phillip “P.J.” Hambrick
“On August 6th, Wrens Assistant Police Chief PJ Hambrick was off duty when he overheard the Wrens Fire Department and EMS being dispatched to a residence in reference to an unresponsive child. Hambrick immediately proceeded to the location of the child, arriving within two minutes.
Upon exiting his vehicle, he was met in the yard by a female who was holding the child who appeared limp and motionless. Hambrick heard the child making a faint gurgling sound as he took her and ran to his vehicle. Hambrick placed the child on the rear seat and began attempting to clear the child’s airway while also providing back thrusts. Hambrick was able to dislodge a large amount of mucus and matter from the child’s airway, and the child began breathing again. Hambrick continued clearing the child’s mouth while making sure her airway remained clear.
A few moments later, Wrens Fire Department personnel arrived on scene and Hambrick assisted them with placing the child on oxygen until EMS could arrive. This is the third such incident in the past six months where Hambrick has taken life saving measures.
The Wrens Police Department states, ‘To say that we are proud of Assistant Police Chief Hambrick and his service to our citizens is a huge understatement. He continuously goes above and beyond in his duties and the Citizens along with the Wrens Police Department are fortunate to have him serving our community.’
About receiving the Red Cross Law Enforcement Hero Award, Hambrick says, ‘Thank you so much for the opportunity and recognition. It truly means a lot. Many of us have been put in situations that only allow a split second to react. I am just glad I made it there and had the training, knowledge, and drive to do my job.'”
Nurse Hero – Elizabeth Curry
Elizabeth “Liz” Curry is a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, with over 30 years of experience. One night, as she watched the death toll and fighting escalate in Ukraine on the news, she told herself she needed to do something. Three months later, she was on her way to help patients in L’viv, Ukraine.
‘When the war started, I just felt so bad for the people,’ said Curry. ‘I wanted to do something to help.’
Curry had been looking for a medical group to travel with since the Russia/Ukraine conflict began in late February. It wouldn’t be her first time in the country. In 2004 she went with a friend to help and give supplies to staff. She remembers the Ukrainian people as appreciative, always hoping to give back to any guests.
Liz found her group through a Facebook post from Dr. Bill Novick, CEO and Medical Director of Novick Cardiac Alliance, asking for fearless nurses to go to Ukraine. Liz applied, knowing there was a big chance she would not be selected. She heard back three days later that she’d been selected to go. In early June, Curry flew with the group into Krakow, Poland before heading towards Ukraine. Once they got through the Ukrainian border, the group went to work.
Through all the challenges and long, grueling nights, the group performed operations on five children and took care of two more who were already at the hospital. Curry says the team of all different races and backgrounds jumped in to make a difference. Everyone knew their role and acted as if they’d been on the same staff for years.
‘It was a wonderful experience. I don’t know who benefitted more from us being there, them or us,’ says Curry. ‘We all just love the people there, you just love being able to go there and help.'”
Animal Rescue Hero – Steve Wall
“Friends say that Steve Wall is an example of the enormous difference one person can make in helping homeless animals who have nowhere to turn.
Although he works full time for a local tech company, Wall uses weekends and vacation days, and his own money, to transport homeless and sick dogs to safe havens. He has single-handedly saved over 25 local strays with transports to homes and rescue agencies in 7 states.
On a recent mission, Wall saved a starving and sick, pregnant dog who was found by a farmer in Sylvania and brought to Augusta for emergency help. Wall took a day off work and drove the sweet dog roundtrip (in one day) to a rescue in Knoxville, TN. To ensure that this pregnant dog would be as comfortable as possible on the trip, Wall used his own money to rent a van with a memory foam mattress.
The mission was a success, and the dog delivered 8 healthy babies within a week.
The mama dog and her babies will be spayed/neutered and given loving homes; their certain suffering turned around because Steve dropped everything to help them. Wall says his payment is simply the joy of saving dogs who would otherwise die or live in misery.”
Military Hero – Private First Class Ashton Ring
“PFC Ashton Ring aspired to be an actor, taking drama in high school and taking parts in school plays.
Ring is from a small town in Tennessee. This past December there was drama at home, but it wasn’t an act – it was devastation.
‘I got a phone call at about 2 in the morning,’ Ring said. ‘That night I think 11 tornadoes struck around my hometown in the areas of Samburg and Mayfield, Kentucky.’
Ring thought of the family and friends left behind.
‘I lost stuff, my friends lost stuff, a lot of my family lost stuff, so I wanted to help them out.’
So, Ring stepped into the role of soldier, and put things in motion to help those affected. After collecting supplies and donations at Fort Gordon, Ring loaded up his truck and headed home.
Ring says, ‘We have a lot of acronyms in leadership, but sometimes you can replace those letters, and H is a big one. H means honor, but it can also mean hope. When people see this uniform, they can also see hope.'”
Medical Team Hero – Joseph M. Still Burn Center
“Seventeen-year-old Jayden Catoe and his brother were involved in an accident this past fall that resulted in tremendous burns for Jayden, covering about 60 percent of his body. Since last October, he has been at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital of Augusta, an affiliate of Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America.
Not well enough to leave the Burn Center in time for his high school prom, the staffs of Burn Center ICU and Physical Rehabilitation and Doctors’ Hospital Pediatric Unit decided to bring prom to Jayden. The lobby at the Burn Center was transformed into a perfect prom with black, gold, and silver prom decorations, food, music, and even a red carpet.
Jayden asked Burn Center ICU nurse Kaitlin Williamson to be his date for prom.
‘I took care of him a lot, and it was super sweet that he thought to ask me,’ Williamson said. ‘Being in the unit can feel isolating at times, and recovery can be difficult, so I made sure to joke with him often and lift his spirits during our time together!’
On May 20th, in the decorated lobby of the Fred Mullins M.D. Tower at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, a tuxedo-clad Jayden and his prom date, Burn ICU nurse Kaitlin Williamson, were crowned King and Queen of the prom and danced the night away in true prom fashion.”
Community Hero – Props and Heroes
“Props and Heroes began twelve years ago when Franklin Strausser, Jr., at the age of 15, was deeply disappointed by the Halloween costumes for sale in stores.
‘The quality of normal costumes was just … not great,” he says.
So, with the help of online forums, Strausser began creating his own costumes and props. He quickly discovered an online market for his work, and his costume business took off, right out of his home with his grandmother teaching him how to sew. Strausser now makes all the costumes from materials that he personally selects with all details hand drawn, painted, and as accurate as possible.
Props and Heroes is a family business, with Frank, his father, brothers, and fiancee all participating. The biggest joy in their business is when the family members wear the costumes to visit children’s hospitals or raise money for charity organizations.
‘We absolutely love making kids smile. It’s the best feeling in the world. As cliché as it is, we want to
bring smiles to people.’
The dedication to their charity work stems from Strausser’s lifelong struggle with muscular dystrophy, resulting in years of physical therapy and being in and out of hospitals. He says his experiences enable him to relate deeply to those he helps with his costumes. Strausser hopes that Props and Heroes will not only teach others the craft of making costumes, but that they will also find hope and strength within the fictional characters that they love.
‘Heroes in general are very important to us,’ he said. ‘They mean that it’s going to get better. In the comics, superheroes have as many problems as ordinary people do, and you can still look up to them. It’s the same thing here. We get to put on a suit and be a superhero for these kids. There’s just no better feeling.'”
WJBF NewsChannel 6 news anchor Mary Morrison served as co-emcee of the event.
You can nominate a hero to be recognized next year by clicking here.