Local heroes recognized, honored by the Red Cross

Meghan Gauriloff

Performing CPR on a 4-year-old boy and saving his life, traveling 14 hours to deliver supplies to hurricane evacuees, returning to a burning mobile home twice to save two people engulfed by smoke and flames were all local heroes’ acts honored at the American Red Cross of Portage County’s seventh annual Real Heroes Breakfast on Saturday.

The 13 community members came to receive awards for performing selfless acts and for making a difference in people’s lives at the breakfast at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine conference center.

Joelle Tedford, director of marketing and public relations for the American Red Cross of Portage County, said she was very pleased with how the event turned out.

“It’s one of those makes-you-feel-good events,” she said. “It’s wonderful being surrounded by people from our communities who have done truly heroic things.

“They’re very humble … every single one of them.”

Most of the local heroes insisted they did what anyone else would do in the same situation, including Diana Skok, business manager for the university’s chemistry department.

Being in the right place at the right time took on a whole new meaning for Skok last summer.

On June 24, 2005, Skok decided to walk home to have lunch with her husband on their patio at their home on Berkeley Street. She said her neighbors were out in their above-ground pool with their grandchildren.

All of a sudden, Skok said she heard screams and frantic cries for help, and she saw her neighbor, Lynn Moll, pulling her grandson’s limp body out of the pool.

Skok’s immediate thought was to call 911 while Moll held her grandson by the pool.

“But then it hit me – I know what to do,” she said. “I thought, ‘He needs air.’ It just kind of struck me.”

After they placed the unconscious boy on the ground, Skok said she began performing CPR on him. After about three or four breaths into his lungs, the boy let out a cry and began to cough.

Skok then set him on his side and rubbed his back, while the water eventually came out of his lungs. After a few minutes, the paramedics arrived and transported him to Akron Children’s Hospital.

“When he was letting out screams and cries, I knew he would be OK,” she said.

After saving the boy’s life, Skok returned to work and found out he was fine later that evening.

“I was probably just meant to be there,” she said. “I don’t go home everyday, so it was fortunate. He’s fine. It all worked out.”

Lynn and Jeff Moll, the grandparents of the boy, nominated her for the Real Heroes Award, Skok said.

“It’s nice,” she said. “I feel very honored to be receiving the award.”

Several members of Skok’s book club, Heartland Book Discussion Group, came to the banquet to lend support.

Jan Wojnaroski, member of the book club, said she still cannot believe Skok walked back to work after the accident occurred.

“It’s classic Diana,” she said. “She’s very humble.”

Brad Harvey of News Channel 5 presented the awards for the third consecutive year.

He asked the audience of around 250 people, “What is a hero? What does that term actually mean?”

After looking it up at dictionary.com, he picked the definition which he believed suited the term best: “A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.”

“In that definition, we find all of our honorees,” he said. “All the people we’re honoring have done extraordinary things.”

This year, the Real Heroes Breakfast raised over $46,000, the most in seven years. The money raised will go towards Red Cross services in Portage County. Since the event began seven years ago, it has raised just over $250,000, Tedford said.

She said even though the event is the organization’s main fundraiser, it is all about the heroes.

The event, which was sponsored by Robinson Memorial Hospital, goes right along with the mission of the Red Cross, which is to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies, she explained.

“The main purpose is to recognize people from the community who have performed truly heroic acts,” Tedford said. “They are a great example for all of us to lead out lives.

“The courage and the compassion they each have is really heartwarming.”

Contact social services reporter Meghan Gauriloff at [email protected].