Utahns from all walks of life honored for Heroism

Posted at 6:31 PM, Apr 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-11 09:46:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Red Cross honored Utah heroes at a ceremony that featured a variety of faces, including a man in a bear suit, a World War II bomber pilot, and people who responded to emergencies in and out of uniform.

St. George School Resource Officer Matt Schuman was celebrated for noticing a sick student was suffering from something much worse than the flu.

"She went into a seizure. She fell to the ground and I caught her as she fell. She immediately went into cardiac arrest at that point," said Schuman, who then performed CPR, reviving the student twice before an ambulance arrived.

Keenan Pearson lost his leg when he chose to push a fellow motorist out of the path of an oncoming car. The car then hit him.

"I feel like I was really lucky in that situation because I feel like I got hit by that car for a really good reason," Pearson said.

The Red Cross provided biographies of all of their honorees.

Colonel Gail Seymour "Hal" Halvorsen - Lifetime Achievement
Famous World War II Air Force Hero Continues Service
Colonel Halvorsen is a retired command pilot in the United States Air Force, well known as the original Candy Bomber, or the "Rosinenbomber" in Germany, and a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal. He piloted C-47s and C-54s during the Berlin airlift ("Operation Vittles") from 1948–1949. Halvorsen grew up as a farm boy in Utah and Idaho before earning his private pilot's license in 1941.He joined the Civil Air Patrol and later the United States Army Air Corps in 1942. During World War II, he was assigned to fly transport operations in the South Atlantic Theater.

After the war, Halvorsen earned the nicknames "Uncle Wiggly Wings" and "Berlin Candy Bomber" for his flights with the Berlin Airlift over fields in East Berlin. He wiggled the wings of his plane before dropping candy bars and gum tied to handkerchiefs to cheer up the children on the ground.

Halvorsen was featured in the movie “Meet the Mormons” and has been in many national news feature stories. On July 4, 2015, he parachuted sweets in Orem to celebrate Independence Day, releasing the cargo of 1,000 chocolate bars attached to tiny parachutes into the hands of the children below. More than 50,000 people stood in 100-degree temperatures to watch the drop.

Aldo – K9 for Unified Police Department – Animal Rescue
Remembering 'Aldo': Champion K9 with Unified Police Department
(Posthumous) In May, Unified Police said their final goodbyes to a fallen police dog. Aldo was shot and killed in the line of duty. Titled the "Best Dope Dog" in the state of Utah during a narcotics competition, Aldo was a champion at finding drugs. He was also the most seasoned dog on the Unified Police Department's K9 Unit. He served alongside with his handler, Luis Lovatofor just over five years and was six years old.

On April 27th, Aldo was shot and killed while serving a search and arrest warrant in Millcreek. "It's been pretty hard on all of us," said Officer Benjamin Ricks. Officer Benjamin Ricks was there that night and heard the gun go off. He said they had no indication there was an armed man, or they would have taken a different approach.

"A lot of people say dogs are a big part of the family but I think they are more than that," said Ricks who was trying not to get emotional. "We spend a majority of our time with each dog because we work through the night. We spend far more time with our UPD K9 dogs than we do with our family," said Ricks.

Monty Sorenson – Blood Services Gift of Life
Biology Teacher Leads Effort to Save Lives
Monty Sorenson from Cedar City is a high school teacher and serves as the blood donor coordinator for the Red Cross. He represented one of the first high schools in Southern Utah to reach out to the Red Cross inviting us to do blood drives at Canyon View High School.

Mr. Sorenson hand picks two or three all-star students from his Biology class each year to coordinate the blood drive at the school. Since 2002, Monty has been directly responsible for the collection of 2085 pints of lifesaving blood. Unlike most high schools in southern Utah, Monty and Canyon View High School hold three blood drives every year. At each event, he pushes for Power Red donations (similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine is used to allow you to safely donate two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning your plasma and platelets to you). It is very rare to get more than four Power Red procedures at a high school; Monty’s team averages six at each blood drive.

What is more impressive is the size of Canyon View High School compared to some of the larger schools in Utah. Enrollment is around 1,000 students. By comparison, most of the larger schools in the state will collect between 55-65 units. Monty and CVHS Students on average collect 80 pints and have even collected 102 pints at a single drive in 2015! He does not
let the student body size stop him from hosting some of the most successful high school blood drives in the entire state of Utah. Monty will be retiring at the end of the school year.

Utah Jazz Bear – Community Service
Mascot Donates Countless Hours of Community Service
The Utah Jazz Bear was introduced to the NBA in 1993 and is known nation-wide as one of the best mascots in all of sports. He is involved in supporting numerous charitable causes and community events. The Jazz Bear also focuses on fostering healthy lifestyle choices at some 40 assemblies he performs annually at schools along the Wasatch Front. All this is done at no charge.

The Utah Jazz Bear brings holiday cheer to hundreds of underprivileged children in Utah every December through his community initiative “Bear Hugs for Kids”. The program provides annual holiday outings that offer low-income youth the opportunity to purchase gifts for Christmas.

For the past 13 years, the Jazz Bear has participated in the annual Mascot Bowl, a charity football game that benefits “Bear Hugs for Kids” and “Firemen and Friends for Kids”, where Jazz Bear continues to join the all-star mascot team for action-filled nights, alongside other celebrities.

Underneith his famous persona, the person plying Jazz Bear is a combat veteran, having served as a forward observer in Operation Desert Storm. His "13 Fox Trot" unit bravely scouted ahead of the front line, spotting and calling artillery to help protect and guide the troops behind them. After returning from war, he considered a military career but eventually found his way to the Utah Jazz as their mascot. The Utah Jazz Bear's contributions to the community are endless. Along with the 50-plus home games he attends, Jazz Bear makes about 250 out-of-arena appearances. About 95 percent of his visits are for philanthropic purposes. "I enjoy what I do. I like being able to take the costume and the character and give back to the community. I just feel part of the community. I feel part of the team."

Noor Ul-Hasan – Global Citizenship
Community Activist Serves Protects Family Values
Noor Ul-Hasan immigrated to California from India at age 2, became a Utahan in 1989 and is well known throughout the Salt Lake Valley as a Muslim leader, community activist, non-profit organization co-founder, radio host, busy public speaker, wife and mother.

Noor’s interests are in protecting conservative family values shared in her Muslim faith, as well as the LDS community and other faiths. Reflecting shared values to help others, she has served the Cottonwood Heights Board of Adjustments for thirteen years, has helped organize the Utah Women’s United march, “10,000 strong”, to the State Capitol on the first day of the 2017 legislative session.

Along with her husband, she is one of the founders of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, which was created for visiting athletes during the 2002 Winter Olympics. They have kept the Roundtable going and now have 150 members from numerous faith-based and other organizations. Noor recently became part of Refuge Justice League of Utah, founded by the law firm of Parker & McConkie and 70 Pro Bono local attorneys who help refugees with issues even more critical since the recent presidential election. She is the organization’s Outreach Coordinator and is signing up community, school and religious organizations to help get to those in need.

Noor is the co-host of KRCL 90.9 FM’s Radio Active program, a community program that reviews local current events, such as the current weekly updates of the legislature. She also does a lot of public speaking at colleges and universities, high schools, LDS Wards, and anywhere where people would like to know more about what Islam is, and women in Islam.

Noor is a wife and mother of two who believes in family values. As we are taught, I stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves.

Leigh Otis and Amanda Jennings – Preparedness
Two teachers save life with CPR and AED
Two teachers, Athletic Trainer Leigh Otis and Weber State University Student Trainer Amanda Jennings, used CPR and an AED at the school with the help of emergency dispatchers to revive a student who collapsed into cardiac arrest during a workout in gym class. Their selfless acts and quick decision making played a huge role in the overall successful outcome of this Layton High School student.

Connor Moss, 17, was working out as part of Northridge High's fitness program. When he went into a hallway to cool off, he lost consciousness and collapsed to the ground. Leigh Otis along with another co-worker performed CPR on Moss and used a portable defibrillator to revive him. "We had a lot of students who were very shaken up" by the incident, Otis said. "I'm probably still in a little bit of shock. … It's what we're trained to do, so I'm just glad I was there." "The doctor verified that they did, in fact, save the student’s life. His heart had stopped. "If they hadn't been there with the equipment and knowledge they had, he probably would have died," the student’s mother, Suzanne Moss, said. "I just want to thank (the women) for what they did for my son. They saved his life."

Four man crew - Unified Firefighters – First Responder
Firefighters rescue woman after stumbling into man allegedly hanging her
Firefighters responding to reports of a grass fire in Parley’s Canyon may have saved a woman's life after they happened to come across a man who they say was trying to hang her. Unified Fire Authority crews had been dispatched to a report of smoke at the mouth of Parley’s Canyon. They drove up the canyon a little ways but couldn't find anything. As they were turning their vehicle around at the Quarry Exit off I-80, "they found a car blocking their passage through the underpass. So they backed up a little bit to see what was going on," one of the firefighters said.

What the four-man crew on the fire engine spotted was a man pulling a rope that was strung over a metal pipe with the other end of the rope around the female's neck. She was crying and attempting to grab at the rope that was around her neck. The pipe was about 15 feet in the air on the side of the structure. It appeared to the firefighters that he was trying to hoist her by her neck and hang her. He then forced the woman into his car in an attempt to avoid the firefighters. They successfully rescued the woman from the car and into their fire engine, and then detained the man until Utah Highway Patrol troopers arrived a short time later.

"They took action where they saw it needed to be," said Sgt. Randy Riches with the State Bureau of Investigations. "They didn't hesitate. They rushed right in. They're the real heroes in this thing. Without them, who knows what would have happened to her?” One of the firefighters who helped with the rescue said, "Risk a lot to save a lot. It's one of our credos, and I think it holds very true in this situation." Sgt. Riches added, "I guess it's better to be lucky than good sometimes. Had it not been for the smoke call and had they gone one more exit, they never would have found her. Pretty amazing story."

Matt Shuman – Law Enforcement
Officer revives student who collapsed; saves choking baby on his way home from work
A Dixie Middle School student reported to her teacher that she was not feeling well in gym class. The teacher sent her to go rest in the nurse's room and instructed the student to call her parents. Officer Schuman, a resource officer with Washington School District in southern Utah, was in the office and stayed with the student to make sure she was doing okay until her parents arrived. The student was exhibiting flu-like symptoms. When the student's father arrived and spoke with school administrators and Officer Schuman, she collapsed to her knees. After resting for a moment her father said he would take her to Instacare and felt that her symptoms were just part of the flu that had been going around her family.

Officer Schuman was not convinced and felt that something more was wrong. He wanted to call for an ambulance and the student’s parent agreed. The student then collapsed, being caught by Schuman before hitting the ground and proceeded to have a seizure.

After the seizure, she went into cardiac arrest losing both her pulse and her breathing. Officer Shuman and a local parent began CPR and revived the student. After a few moments of coming back to consciousness, the student again went into cardiac arrest. Officer Schuman once again began CPR until the EMT services arrived on scene. Medical services then used a defibrillator twice to obtain a regular pulse. Then she was rushed to the local Dixie Regional Medical Center and eventually transferred via LifeFlight to a hospital in Las Vegas.

But, that wasn’t the only heroic act Schuman would engage in that day. Later that same day Schuman was heading home after working at a school wrestling match when he heard a dispatch call regarding a 9-day-old infant who was choking.

Schuman recognized he was only a few homes away from the scene, so he responded to the call and began working to remove the obstruction from the child’s airway. The information release states, “He was successful in saving this child’s life as EMTs arrived and continued care.”

Keenan Pearson – Good Samaritan
Utah man hailed as hero after losing leg while pushing a stranger out of harm’s way
Recently, a husband and father from Summit County risked his own life to save a stranger when he pushed a woman out of the way of an oncoming car. Mr. Pearson, a good Samaritan, ended up losing a leg in the process. "He just gave himself for someone he didn't even know, and he didn't even think about the consequences. He just did it," said his wife, Rebecka Pearson.

It was around midnight along I-80 in Parley's Canyon. Keenan Pearson and another driver had both slid off the road. Keenan was helping the woman in the other car when a third driver also lost control and went barreling right toward them. "The way that the patrol officer says, he threw her out of the way and then he took the full impact," Pearson said. Keenan's right leg was badly injured. He was rushed to the hospital.

Rebecka remembers receiving a phone call from the doctor. She said it was like waking up to a nightmare. Despite such a devastating injury, Rebecka said her husband remained selfless. "One of the first questions he asked once he was conscious enough was, is the girl okay that he threw? And I was like, 'she is fine.'" Rebecka is worried about her family's future, considering Keenan was the only one with a full-time job and they have two young children to take care of. "He asked where daddy was and I was like, 'daddy's got a big owie right now,' and he was like get a Band Aid, and I was like, 'he is getting a really big band aid.'" As for the other two people involved in the crash, both walked away with minor injuries.

Cesar Galeana – Youth Good Samaritan
“I thought he was going to die”, 7 year old recalls saving drowning toddler from pool
Cesar Galeana is only 7-years- old, so saving a toddler from a pool was no walk in the park. “He was heavy” Cesar said of the 2-year- old boy he saved from the pool at the Village at Rivers Edge Apartments. But Cesar was ultimately able to save the boy from drowning, West Valley police say, and the toddler was able to survive.

Cesar said he was walking to his cousin’s house to play video games about 2 p.m. when he noticed the young boy struggling and splashing in the pool. “I was worried, because I thought he was going to die. So I ran and saved him.” The apartment complex has since used zip ties to close the small gap in a gate that police believe the toddler was able to squeeze through and the pool is temporarily closed, officials there said. Nobody else was in the area when Cesar walked by. After rescuing the toddler, he went to find an adult. “I’m like, What should I do? What should I do? I ran, got the (gate open), got him out, put him on the (ground and) told the office it was a drowning.”

Cesar stuck around as emergency responders arrived and treated the toddler. “You did a good job. You did good,” Cesar remember them telling him. The 2-year- old has made a full recovery.

Young Adult Good Samaritan - Crystal Larsen
Teen girl spends all her time training guide dogs for the blind
A Clearfield teenage girl's love for dogs has turned her into a leader, helping those who can't see. Crystal Larsen, 16, volunteers her time to train guide dogs. She has been doing this since she was 10 years old. "After I got more and more puppies, I just fell in love and I will never stop," Larsen said.

It started when Larsen wanted a dog, but her parents didn't. She looked into fostering dogs and came across the Guide Dogs for the Blind, an organization out of California. "One day, we are hoping these dogs will be eyes for someone that is visually impaired," Larsen said.

Her job is to train them with all the basic commands, like "sit, down, come, wait, stay, kennel, go to bed, let's go, and do your business." In the past six years, Larsen has trained six dogs who have graduated and gone on to help the blind.