Fire Lieutenant Michael Copeland and firefighter/paramedic Robert Prieto of Des Plaines are the 2012 Red Cross Firefighter Heroes

On  the evening of December 23, 2011, Des Plaines Fire Department Engine Company 62 responded to a report of a structure fire in a townhome.

Engine 62 was the first arriving fire department unit and Lieutenant Michael Copeland and Firefighter/Paramedic Robert Prieto noted there was a basement fire in the structure. Bystanders were screaming that a baby was still in the basement. Despite the fact that stairs leading from the basement were on fire and smoke levels were increasing, Michael and Robert advanced to the basement, placing themselves at risk, and began searching for the victim.

During the search, Michael and Robert found an older woman unconscious and moved her upstairs to other responders. Returning to the basement they found the baby, also unconscious, under a pile of clothing. The woman had tried to shield the baby from the fire by placing it under the clothes. Both victims (grandmother and grandchild) were resuscitated by other crewmembers on the scene and transported to a hospital. Today, the well being of the patients is very good.


“As with all the members of the Des Plaines Fire Department, the integrity of Michael and Robert is of the highest caliber,” said nominator Alan Wax, Des Plaines Fire Chief. “They possess much pride in their profession and a passion to be the best. The aggressive actions of these personnel clearly saved the lives of these two fire victims.”

Angelo Cordoba of Chicago is the 2012 Red Cross Emergency Medical Assistance Hero

On October 24, 2011 Chicago Fire Department Ambulance 23 was called to help a 36-year-old pregnant woman who was having trouble breathing. When paramedics arrived, they found the woman on a bathroom floor unresponsive. Shortly after patient contact was made, the woman went into full cardiac arrest. Knowing the baby’s life was at stake (the woman was pregnant in her third trimester), paramedics – namely Angelo Cordoba, Fire Paramedic – began CPR and Advanced Life Support care on the patient. Paramedics arrived on the scene to assist and they worked on the patient together, continuing CPR, until the patient was transferred to a hospital with a pediatric unit.

At the hospital, a surgeon performed an emergency cesarean section on the deceased woman in the emergency room, in front of the ambulance crew. The baby, weighing 4 pounds, 11 ounces was taken from the womb and began to cry. Hospital staff members have said that if it weren’t for the paramedics performing CPR on the mother, her baby would have died along with her.

“The question of how well CPR works, how effective it is when done properly are both questions answered in this miracle,” said nominator Doreen Rottman, one of Angelo’s peers. “CPR is a life-saving technique that we are taught to do properly and are expected to follow through as such. This ambulance crew (including Angelo) did that and today there is a new life that has a chance to make a difference.

Angelo and his crew worked on this patient like it was their child inside of her womb. “I really believe this is a bittersweet story,” Doreen said. “The mother died, yes, but a life was saved because CPR-certified people believed in what it could do – save lives.”

Ericka Lauderdale, Daniel Cole and Raymond Emory from Chicago are the 2012 Red Cross Adult Good Samaritan Heroes

One night in May of 2011, Daniel Cole, Raymond Emory and Ericka Lauderdale were working on a friend’s car in Chicago. Suddenly, Ericka noticed flames coming out of a home nearby. 

Raymond, Daniel and Ericka reacted to save a girl they saw trapped in the burning house. Daniel hoisted Raymond through a window and into the fire. Raymond then handed the girl to Daniel outside of the house. Daniel then jumped a fence to find two more victims in the backyard. Both men moved the victims over the fence where Ericka, a nursing assistant, performed CPR on a boy, keeping him alive. Without the acts of all three heroes, the family would not have survived.

“Known as a Three Stooges-esque group, the three are known around the community for being good people,” said nominator Essie Beauman, grandmother to Daniel. “The community looks up to them and they are very active in their roles. They are a close group of friends who would do anything for each other and their community.”

In the face of a disaster, Daniel, Raymond and Ericka reacted instinctively. “They were willing to put themselves in harm’s way to respond to disaster,” Essie said.

Diane Latiker of Chicago is the 2012 Red Cross Community Impact Hero

Listening to young people and gang members, accepting them with open arms, welcoming them into her home without judgement, being a positive supporter and ‘mother figure’ no matter what a youth’s problems and worries are: this is what makes Diane Latiker of Chicago a hero.

While raising eight kids of her own, Diane started a nonprofit organization called “Kids Off the Block” in her living room, which has grown to help over 1,500 kids in the community. The organization’s mission is: “To provide at-risk low income youth positive alternatives to gangs, drugs, truancy, violence and the juvenile justice system.”

“She inspired me to get out of gangs,” said nominator Gerald Sprattlin who calls Diane a mentor. “Many of those that she works with are gang members because there is nowhere else to go for protection and inspiration. Many of these individuals carry guns and may have even murdered people while in gangs. Diane has been a non-judgmental presence and second mother to each of them. Personally, she has given hope to my life and I am forever grateful. The neighborhood that I am from gave me no hope, but Diane has helped me to see past that.”

Diane is described as having an enormous amount of personal integrity in the work that she does. She is “fearless and loud,” Gerald said. “She vocalizes any disagreements or her opinions about what she finds atrocious behavior in her community.”

Diane lives out the mission of the Red Cross by preparing the youth of today for the challenges they face in life. She also works to prevent further violence in the inner city by inspiring people to think past their circumstances. “She responds to those in need,” said Gerald,” by providing a safe haven for those who want to get away from gangs.”

Paul Baffico of Lake Forest is the 2012 Red Cross Military Hero

A Vietnam War veteran, Paul Baffico of Lake Forest suffered from combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Throughout his 30-plus-year career at Sears, where he became President and CEO of Sears Automotive, Paul kept his PTSD symptoms a secret. Upon his retirement, Paul’s symptoms resurfaced and he faced them head-on, recovering fully.

Upon recovery, Paul became a certified peer-to-peer support specialist. He represents hope for others with similar PTSD issues and fervently mentors those in need.

Paul is Chairman of the Governing Council for the Veterans and Family Services (VFS) program (a volunteer position) and a monthly docent at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Through a five year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant awarded in November 2010 the VFS program provides behavioral health services and linkages for veterans and their families in need throughout Lake and McHenry Counties.

“As Chairman of the VFS Governing Council, Paul has tirelessly covered the Lake and McHenry County communities presenting the program and message of hope to many rotary clubs and community organizations,” said nominator Theodore Testa.

The program Paul designed educates citizens on problems that veterans, active duty personnel and their families face when they return to civilian life. Several programs have been developed or are in the process of being developed by volunteers, including writing seminars where veterans and active duty personnel write their stories, karate where veterans can channel their emotions to stress reduction, church and spiritual outreach and more.

“Paul has been able to secure the involvement of hundreds of volunteers to assist in the VFS cause,” Testa said. “He has served as the leader of this 90 percent consumer-driven volunteer effort addressing community change. I know of no one in my career as dedicated and determined to making a difference in this much-needed area of service.”

Sue Gomez of LaGrange is the 2012 Red Cross Nurse Hero

For over 32 years, Sue Gomez of LaGrange has been a champion for children attending schools in 17 western suburbs of Chicago. As a school nurse consultant, Sue has helped schools develop plans to meet the needs of the children she serves, especially those with special needs. By doing so, she has not only been an advocate for children, but she has developed high standards of care in schools in compliance with local and state regulations.

Sue’s care for special needs children extends beyond the classrooms and has been shown by innumerable home visits she has made throughout the years. During home visits, she assesses a family’s situation, always including the child’s parents or guardians as partners in the development of the child’s treatment plan. Parents develop a trusting relationship with Sue that impacts their acceptance of the school plan for their child.Not only is Sue instrumental in the development of individual children’s school plans, but she also shares her knowledge with school nurses, teachers and administrators in the 17 districts she serves.

In 2011 Sue was honored by the National Association of School Nurses for Excellence in School Nursing. Previously she was honored as the Illinois Association of School Nurses’ School Nurse Administrator of the Year. In 2010 she was nominated for an American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Hero award.

“Sue has touched the lives of countless children and their families through her compassionate care and humble dedication,” said nominator Debbie Clay, a colleague to Sue. “She continues to give of her time to provide other school nurses the continuing education experiences needed to address the issues we face as a nation during these tumultuous times.”

Elliot Rose of Campton Hills is the 2012 Red Cross Law Enforcement Hero

While working the midnight shift on August 28, 2011, Campton Hills Police Department, Officer Elliot Rose responded to a single vehicle motorcycle accident at Route 64 and Fabris Road in Maple Park. Though the accident was outside of the police department’s jurisdiction, Officer Rose responded. When he arrived on the scene, a motorcyclist had severed his leg and was bleeding heavily from the femoral artery. Officer Rose, a trained paramedic, knew he had to stop the bleeding immediately or the victim would die.

Working without a medical kit, Officer Rose improvised using a piece of gauze and an ink pen. Probing into the wound, he located the artery, using the gauze-wrapped pen to pull the artery out slightly and clamp it, stopping the bleeding. He then tended to the victim’s other injuries before paramedics arrived. Officer Rose also had the foresight to have a medevac helicopter dispatched to Delnor Community Hospital in Geneva to be waiting for the victim when he arrived so he could be transported to a trauma center. The victim was stabilized and flown to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

Officer Rose is a certified DUI instructor, is the leader of his police department in DUI arrests and he has certified all officers in CPR along with several surrounding agencies. Rose serves as the department’s grant officer and securing grants for squad videos, cameras, weapons and bullet-proof vests. His grant for automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for the department recently resulted in an officer saving the life of a heart attack victim. In addition to being the department’s range officer, Officer Rose serves on the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System Weapons of Mass Destruction team and the Kane County Sheriff’s SWAT team.

“Officer Rose’s actions embody the Red Cross mission,” said nominator Daniel Hoffman, Campton Hills Police Department Chief. “His personal integrity and moral character is beyond reproach. Officer Rose works countless hours on his own time to assist other agencies in need of training and equipment as well as volunteering his time for philanthropic endeavors such as Special Olympics.”

Benjamin Groeper of Chicago is the 2012 Red Cross Youth Good Samaritan Hero

On August 13, 2011 a man, apparently exhausted or otherwise impaired, fell face forward onto the tracks at the Lake Street Transfer Station of the CTA Blue Line while at least 40 people waiting for the train watched in panic.

Ben fearlessly reacted by jumping onto the tracks to save the man. People watching screamed, “Don’t go down there! It’s electric and you’ll get killed!” But Ben continued, staying clear of the third energized rail, hoisting the man’s unconscious body off the tracks. With help from onlookers, the man was pulled back onto the platform. Ben jumped back up to safety less than a minute before a Forest Park-bound train pulled into the station.

“Ben’s actions made me proud,” said Gregory Groeper, Ben’s father. “People at the station were moved and in addition to the man he rescued, thanked him for doing what others could not do.” Since the incident, Ben has spoken with his Boy Scout troop inspiring them to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice. The Chicago City Council passed a resolution and presented a certificate of honor to Ben in recognition of his selfless act.

Gregory describes Ben as trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, brave, a great son, a great brother and a man of honor.

“Parallel to the mission of the Red Cross is the mission of our family and of the Boy Scouts of America,” Gregory said. “Benjamin continues to exhibit his commitment to ‘being prepared’ in his everyday life through his work at school and in his capacity as a security aid at Soldier Field. He has been a guidepost for the youth in his troop, helping the adult leaders train and inspire them to follow his lead. He also serves as an inspiration to his siblings and cousins.”

Dennis Buckley of Chicago is the 2012 Red Cross Blood Services Hero

In 1999, Dennis Buckley of Chicago accepted a request to host a blood drive on the floor of the Chicago Auto Show and made it happen. Now in its 12th year, the blood drive has significantly impacted the Chicagoland community by collecting over 15,000 units of blood. Dennis worked as the director of marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association with the support of its board to showcase a blood mobile on the floor of the Auto Show. It is now one of the largest open community blood drive programs in the Chicagoland area.


This award will be presented posthumously to honor the continuing impact Dennis’ work has had on the Chicagoland community. His wife, Lauren will receive the award in his honor.

“One of the ways that the Red Cross carries out its mission to prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters is by collecting, processing and distributing blood,” said nominator Amy Gardner-Nummer. “While others were not initially receptive of the idea of a blood drive at the Auto Show, Dennis put his energy towards what he was known for and best at doing. He found a way to help and went above and beyond for others. Dennis was known by his family, friends and colleagues as someone who would always go above and beyond for others. Many stories of Dennis’ goodwill and good deeds have been told in his memoriam.”

Brian Anderson of Inverness is the 2012 Red Cross Citizenship Hero

In 2005, Brian Anderson of Inverness encountered the same homeless man each day at an expressway exit while on his way to work. One morning as he made lunch to take to work, Brian also made a lunch for the homeless man. Soon the two started forming a relationship. When weather turned cold, Brian bought the man a cup of coffee and took the time to learn about the man’s life. The man said that when it was really cold, he panhandled for money to ride the ‘L’ day and night. One day Brian didn’t see his friend in the usual spot so he went searching for him. During his quest, Brian saw many homeless people on the streets and turned to his faith to determine a plan to help.

Brian soon realized that he could use a 1,000-square-foot bungalow he and his wife, Laura owned and rented in Englewood to rehabilitate it into a food pantry. In March 2009, Shepherd’s HOPE Chicago was born, serving supplemental food to 60 families on the first day.

Shepherd’s HOPE Chicago feeds over 500 families per week during two four-hour days of operation. Since 2009, the facility has fed over 5,500 families. At the facility, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing and information is also provided once per month, bible studies are held once per week, and for the past two years Thanksgiving dinner food distributions and Christmas parties for children have been provided. Last spring, with the help of donors, Shepherd’s HOPE purchased a new building that will be developed into a community center. At the center, youth and adults will be educated about farming from an urban perspective, as open lots on the street will be used to grow fresh produce to eat, share and sell. Children’s educational needs will also be met through tutoring, as well as reading, computer and general educational development (GED) classes.

“When Shepherd’s HOPE opened, there were three drug houses on the street and violence occurred daily,” said nominator Lynne Sell, member of the Shepherd’s HOPE Board of Directors. “That is no longer the case. From the beginning, Brian realized it was not just about the food, but about establishing relationships that lead to personal and community transformation. Brian is a shepherd who has brought hope to an impoverished and devastated community.”