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Red Cross Honors Manhattan Beach Residents as 'Hometown Heroes'

May 18, 2024 05:46PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Vesta Sung, left, and Nathalie Sung. Photo via American Red Cross Los Angeles Region.

Manhattan Beach residents Vesta and Nathalie Sung were honored by the Red Cross this week for their "heroism and humanitarian service" during the devastating Maui wildfires.

The mother and daughter duo were among the 16 individuals feted by the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region for their "acts of heroism and humanitarian service" at the 19th Annual Hometown Heroes ceremony.

Vesta and Nathalie were vacationing on Maui last August when they made a harrowing escape from the deadly wildfires. They found refuge at a newly established shelter that was being run by just one overwhelmed volunteer. Vesta, a trained Red Cross volunteer with experience in managing relief centers, and Nathalie, who had been trained as an essential worker during COVID, jumped in to help organize and manage the operation while also being evacuees themselves. They eventually stayed in Maui for two weeks working at the shelter.

(Vesta and Nathalie Sung say goodbye to fellow volunteers on their last night in Hawaii. Photo via Vesta Sung.)

"It is moving to be included among these inspiring Hometown Heroes," Vesta Sung told MB News. "Maui is a second home to us, so it was fortunate that Nathalie and I could fill a need at that time, and I'd like to think anyone would have done the same. However, the true heroes of the Maui fires are those still on the island, fighting to recover and rebuild every day."

This is the 19th year of the Hometown Heroes awards. The awards honor everyday citizens who, through their heroic actions, made a positive difference in their communities through acts in either emergency response, disaster preparedness and prevention or exemplified the Red Cross mission in similar ways. 
The honorees are good Samaritans from diverse backgrounds and skill sets, who all share the courage to jump in and help when lives were in danger.
"These heroic Angelenos embody the Red Cross mission, weaving their courage into the fabric of our communities,” said Amy Papageorges, executive director for the American Red Cross Greater Long Beach and South Bay Chapter, in a statement. “With each life saved, these humanitarians showed extraordinary compassion and selflessness. Their actions speak volumes, demonstrating our community’s finest virtues."

"I was struck by the common thread of all the awardees being 'prepared, ' which allowed them to jump in, to know they could help, and then to be more brave than fearful in that moment," said Sung. "I think that's what Nathalie and I did, and we'll never forget it."

Other honorees included:
Ariel Castro, an athletic trainer at Ganesha High School in Pomona, who demonstrated life-saving skills when a coach collapsed during a football game. Utilizing CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED), Ariel's quick actions saved the coach’s life.
Madison Atkinson, age 15, who showed incredible bravery by using CPR to save her three-year-old family member from drowning. Her swift action and composure underscored the importance of CPR training.
Nicole Morris, who, while on vacation with her husband and three children, came to a family’s aid following a near-drowning incident. Her intuition and compassion supported the family during the crisis.
Raheem Morris, who, while vacationing with his family in Las Vegas, sprang into action during a poolside emergency. His quick actions helped save a drowning child’s life.
Andrew Oleksyn, an emergency room physician, who stepped in to help with CPR chest compressions and administer AED treatment when a child was pulled from a Las Vegas hotel pool blue in the face from a near-drowning incident.

Officer Cody MacArthur and Officer Nicolas Chacon, who, following a 14-hour work shift, displayed extraordinary bravery when they rescued a family trapped in a burning vehicle. Despite perilous conditions, their selflessness and quick actions saved lives, embodying true heroism. 
Ryan Chiu, a cardiac surgeon, who was on a brunch outing near the Long Beach Art Museum when he aided a runner’s collapse. His swift actions followed by successful heart surgery ensured the runner's recovery and exemplified his commitment to humanitarian service.
Officer Andrew Gazdik, who performed a successful Heimlich maneuver to save his wife’s grandfather from choking incident.
Retired Officer Jorge Grajeda, who responded quickly to help save a child’s life following a near drowning incident. Initiating CPR and coordinating with others, he ensured timely medical attention, exemplifying selflessness and courage.
Rudy Paniagua, who pulled a drowning child from the Palm Club Pool in Irvine then coordinated with fellow hero Jorge Grajeda to ensure that the child received emergency medical support.
Victor Manuel and Nabeel Karadsheh, who acted quickly when a school crossing guard was faced with a life-threatening injury following a two-car collision in the intersection where they worked. Applying a tourniquet and calling 9-1-1, the team’s swift response emphasizes the importance of community readiness.
Lynda Palmer, who was honored for her service as a Red Cross volunteer, supporting armed forces personnel and their families. Her past military service reflects her commitment and compassion to making a lasting impact on people’s lives.

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