2020 Heroes: The American Red Cross Honors Everyday Extraordinary Individuals

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring fourteen extraordinary individuals from the Chicago and Northern Illinois area for their outstanding acts of heroism, dedication and service to the community.

The 2020 American Red Cross Heroes include the following class of exceptional individuals.

Georgina Adan, Patty Gonzalez & Maricela Wesby, of Chicago are the Blood Services Heroes. Georgina, Patty and Maricela understand how precious blood donations are for patients fighting for their lives. In 2017, Maricela and Patty lost their 15-year-old niece, AnaVictoria to leukemia. Her illness and the impact of blood donations on her young life, motivated the women to organize blood drives to help patients like AnaVictoria. Together, the three women have coordinated 17 blood drives at their workplace, Northern Trust, and have collected almost 700 units of blood, helping hundreds of patients.

Jahmal Cole of Chicago is the Community Impact Hero. Despite growing up in poverty, Jahmal was determined to build a better life for kids facing the same challenges that he encountered. In 2014, Jahmal founded My Block, My Hood, My City, a non-profit organization that partners with schools to expose underprivileged youth to a world outside their neighborhood. Through the ‘Explorers Program’ My Block, My Hood, My City takes young people on field trips in Chicago and across the country to experience different cultures, careers, people and businesses including culinary arts, STEM, finance, volunteerism and more. Each exploration allows them to see the vast range of opportunities available, providing a vision of life beyond the neighborhood. My Block, My Hood, My City also partners with community organizations to beautify neighborhoods and create more positive surroundings for young people and residents.

Kaleem Malik, M.D. of Burr Ridge is the Disaster Services Hero. When not serving patients in disaster zones, Dr. Malik works as an emergency room physician for the DuPage Medical Group. A physician for 25 years, Dr. Malik is also a volunteer for Humanity First USA, a non-profit organization that provides medical disaster relief to vulnerable global communities. Over the past 17 years, he has responded to countless disasters. Most recently, Dr. Malik led one of the first international teams of medical professionals sent to the Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. This response put to the test all of Dr. Malik’s disaster relief skills, as his team worked extremely difficult conditions to restore to working order a badly damaged medical clinic on Abaco island.

Lauren Trylovich of Chicago is the Emergency Medical Assistance Hero. Last October, Lauren, an emergency phone operator and paramedic at the Chicago Office of Emergency Management, answered a call from a woman whose sister was unresponsive. After inquiring about the sister’s condition and assessing the critical situation over the phone, Lauren realized that lifesaving CPR needed to be performed immediately. With no time to waste, she calmly gave CPR instructions over the phone to the caller, who had never been trained in CPR. Because of Lauren’s careful and clear instructions, the caller successfully administered CPR until emergency help arrived, saving the life of her sister.

Lieutenant David Chmelar and Firefighter/Paramedic Chad Tinsley of St. Charles are the Firefighter Heroes. On June 30, 2019, Chmelar and Tinsley responded to a rescue on the Fox River. Three people were stranded on a disabled boat that was getting dangerously close to the dam. The situation became dire, as a severe storm and strong winds kept pushing the disabled vessel towards the dam, and the boat’s anchor wasn’t holding. Chmelar and Tinsley immediately jumped into action. Despite the challenging weather conditions, they were able to reach and rescue two adults and one teenager trapped on the disabled boat. Less than a minute after the rescue, the boat went over the dam and capsized. Thanks to Chmelar and Tinsley, three lives were saved that day.

Fritzie Fritzshall of Chicago is the Global Citizenship Hero. A survivor of the Holocaust, Fritzie has dedicated her life to combatting hatred, racism and intolerance. As President of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, she is ensuring future generations learn about the Holocaust so that history will not repeat. At the age of 13, Fritzie, her mother and two brothers, were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and only Fritzie survived. In 1978, when a neo-Nazi group threatened to march in Skokie, Fritzie made it her mission to educate children about this dark time in history. She has dedicated her life to tell her story and the stories of the many others who did not survive. Today, Fritzie is a leading public voice of conscience in Chicago.

Robert King of Chicago is the Good Samaritan Hero. As Robert was driving home from work last April, he noticed an accident on Lake Shore Drive. Robert pulled over to check on those involved, including a green and white ambulance that had been “t-boned.” One of the men in the ambulance asked King if he could drive them to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, to which he immediately agreed. Once the hospital staff was in his car, King learned that among his passengers was a transplant doctor and inside the coolers they were carrying precious cargo; organs that they had secured from a recently deceased patient. The organs were awaiting patients already prepped for surgery at Northwestern Hospital. King’s selfless act helped save more than one life that day.

Detective Phil Hemmeler of Palatine is the Law Enforcement Hero. Last summer, Detective Hemmeler was having lunch when he heard on his two-way radio of a nearby car crash in the mall where he was eating. The detective rushed to the scene where he saw a car had crashed and was wedged into the brick wall of an empty retail space. To complicate the situation further, the force of the impact also had set the vehicle on fire. The car was penetrated so far into the wall that it proved impossible to pull the driver out. Concerned that the flames would further engulf the car and driver, the detective was able to use a tow strap from a bystander and attach the strap to his police vehicle to pull the car out of the building, saving the man’s life.

Rochelle Crump of Hazel Crest is the Military Hero. Rochelle, an Army Veteran who served in the Women’s Army Corps during Vietnam (ERA), has dedicated her life to helping women service members and veterans. Having witnessed the difficulty facing female veterans upon returning home, in 2005, Rochelle founded the National Women Veterans United (NWVU). In 2015, the organization opened the only Military Women Veterans Center in Illinois. The NWVU provides support services such as navigation of the VA benefits system and wellness support programs to address health needs. The organization’s volunteers also assist with housing, homelessness and help veterans wanting to open their own business. The goal of the NWVU is to make sure female veterans get the assistance they deserve and ensure female service members are remembered in history. 

Iván Escobar, R.N of Chicago is the Nurse Hero. On September 28, 2019, Iván, an emergency room nurse, was in a car with his teenage son going to pick up his mother for a family party when he heard shots fired. At the same time, Iván noticed a white SUV come to a sudden stop as a result of the shots. He decided to check on the car’s occupants and quickly found that the driver had been shot between the eyes. Iván’s emergency response skills kicked in and he grabbed a teddy bear he found in the car to help stop the bleeding. Also, in the car, were the man’s wife and three-year-old daughter, three innocent bystanders on their way to a party. Iván continued to put pressure on the wound and stayed with the man and his family until paramedics arrived. The man was able to make a full recovery.

Rosie Quinn of Chicago is the Youth Hero. At the age of two, Rosie was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease alopecia which resulted in the loss of her hair. Dealing with constant questions from strangers, Rosie learned to embrace her baldness and her difference. In 2016, Rosie and her mom founded the non-profit, Coming Up Rosies, which encourages children affected by alopecia and other illnesses to embrace their differences and find confidence. Rosie creates ‘Smile Kits’ which contain supplies to create artwork, which Rosie and her mom then print on scarves and capes. These items are returned to the original designer so they can wear them with pride. Since 2016, Coming Up Rosies has donated 1,500 smile kits to 20 hospitals and rehabilitation centers in Chicago and the nation.

For the past 18 years, the Chicago & Northern Illinois Red Cross has honored each class of heroes at its Heroes Breakfast, typically attended by nearly 1,000 individuals. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Chicago & Northern Illinois Red Cross is unable to host this event in person but will honor this class of heroes via traditional and social media coverage.

We invite you to follow us @chicagoredcross on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to learn more about the stories of these Everyday Extraordinary Heroes in the weeks to come.

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