Two ex-military men of long service, four dogs and two police officers were among the heroes honored Friday by the
Southwest Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross for saving a life, handling an emergency or contributing to
overall community well-being.
The third annual Breakfast of Champions - held at the Durango Elks Lodge - recognized significant acts of
selflessness in 2009 and previous years. The honorees are everyday people who acted because it was the right thing to
do, people who shrug off recognition or thanks, said Cindi Shank, the chapter's executive director.
Today's award winners are a small sample of the nominees we hear about," Shank said. There are many people in the
community who do similar good deeds."
The Military Lifesaver Award went to Everett Whitehead.
Whitehead, for 27 years a maintenance worker, ranger or safety officer at National Park Service venues - including
Mesa Verde National Park - and a certified emergency medical technician, was cited for bravery in Afghanistan in
On his last night in Af-ghanistan as a Special Forces medic, Whitehead was ready to board a helicopter to return home
when an Afghan civilian stepped on a land mine in a field adjacent to the airport. Whitehead, accompanied by another
soldier, used his belt and a rifle sling as tourniquets on the man's severed legs. The man became a double amputee
The Adult Lifesaver Award was given to Jeremy Linch and Nick Stasi of the Durango Police Department.
Linch and Stasi helped evacuate a block of condominiums at the Piñon Heights complex on Avenida del Sol when a fire
broke out Nov. 22. The officers kicked down the door to unit 422 where the fire had started, probed the smoke-filled
room with flashlights and pulled to safety a disoriented man who was on his hands and knees groping for an exit. By
that time, the fire had taken over the unit, preventing them from rescuing the man's roommate, who died. Linch was
not able to attend the ceremony.
The Red Cross Trained Lifesaver Award was given to Portia Kamps, who could not attend the ceremony.
Kamps, head athletic trainer at Bayfield High School, was at a track meet April 21 in Bayfield when soccer goal posts
toppled onto an athlete waiting to compete, fracturing a lumbar vertebra. Kamps stabilized the victim, went through
concussion and spinal injury protocol, then assisted paramedics.
In conjunction with the award to Kamps, the Red Cross created the Courage Award for Alyssa Shelton, the athlete
injured by the goal posts.
Alyssa, 17, a junior at Durango High School, is partially paralyzed but continues to improve. Alyssa is able to walk
at times with a cane. Alyssa, who continues therapy in addition to her studies, was cited for her tenacity and grit
in the face of adversity.
The Animal Lifesaver Award was shared by Imp and Rory, a pair of Samoyeds owned by Ginger Jenks, and two papillons -
Nellie and Oprah - owned by Gayle Gardner. The owners take their therapy pets to assisted living facilities to raise
the spirits of, and spark conversation among elderly residents.
The Community Hero Award was taken home by Warren Kerzon, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel.
Kerzon, a combat pilot in Vietnam and an instructor at the test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, also flew the
high-altitude NF-104 Starfighter. Kerzon was cited for his work as a Red Cross case worker for military families and
for being one of three volunteers who provide 24-hour telephone answering for the agency.
The Friend of the Red Cross Award went to Todd Gibson, owner of the Derailed Saloon for commitment to the Red Cross
mission. Gibson approached the agency as soon as he and his wife, Lisa, arrived in town in January 2009 and pledged
to hold four fundraisers a year to benefit the agency.