, Salem, MA

March 20, 2014

Altruism at its best

Red Cross honors its local heroes at breakfast today

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They are sometimes seasoned professionals, but just as often, their only credential is passionate concern. And heroism can take several forms, from sudden, physical courage to commitment over time.

No matter how their heroism was expressed, the American Red Cross recognizes local heroes every year at a breakfast. This year’s is being held this morning at DoubleTree by Hilton Boston North Shore in Danvers. Here are this year’s local heroes.

Enduring Hero: Neiland Douglas

Beverly native Neiland Douglas started his career in city planning in Pittsburgh and New York and later helped the National Council of Churches respond to the needs of the poor. Douglas returned to Beverly in 1973, and as a member of Beverly’s First Baptist Church, he has been a force behind its development of the Turtle Creek and Turtle Woods affordable apartments for seniors, and Harborlight House, an affordable assisted-living center. He spearheaded the development of Beverly House, one of the region’s first community homes for the mentally handicapped, and helped River House, Beverly’s homeless shelter, gain financial stability. Douglas has also championed the YMCA’s Cabot Street renovation and Sterling Center expansion, and the refitting of the Briscoe and Edwards schools.

Community Hero: Jeanne Hennessey

Jeanne Hennessey, the former owner of Lorraine Roy Designer Collections in Danvers, uses her fashion expertise and business acumen to organize successful fundraisers for the Huntington’s Disease Society and the breast cancer program at Mass General’s North Shore Cancer Center, among other charities. She has been active with the Danver’s Education Enrichment Partnership, which she founded to raise scholarships for teachers and professional groups such as the North Shore Women in Business.

Community Hero: Brian Gonsalves

Brian Gonsalves, a paramedic at Atlantic Ambulance Service, was concerned that the size and complexity of school buildings in his hometown of Peabody could confuse emergency workers and slow their responses. On his own time, he developed guides that use satellite imagery to indicate access routes and numbered school doors to help responders orient themselves. Gonsalves discussed training procedures for schools with the superintendent and plans to prepare guides for other school systems in this area.

Community Hero: Herman Ocasio

Martial arts instructor Herman Ocasio has not only taught area youth to defend themselves, but has helped them discover the rewards of helping others through neighborhood cleanup campaigns, toy drives and fundraising efforts. For 16 years, Herman and his students have won special renown for their work on a Thanksgiving food drive, which has served more than 4,000 needy families in the Haverhill area. Known as the Turkey Brigade, they not only raise money for this program, but package and deliver holiday food baskets.

Education Hero: Joanne Seaman

At Manchester Memorial Elementary School, school nurse Joanne Seaman is known as an “advocate and second mom” to students. While providing health care to all, she is extra attentive to medically fragile students. She also works behind the scenes to help children from families in need. Seaman gets local organizations to provide funds, scholarships and services, and personally collects money to ensure the children’s backpacks are filled with supplies. She even uses her own money to provide students with gift certificates for haircuts and holiday presents.

Military Hero: Dr. Douglas Peterson

In a 15-year career as a combat surgeon, Dr. Douglas Peterson of Beverly served his country in the most difficult forward conditions in Afghanistan. He also participated in a humanitarian mission to Indonesia, treating victims of the 2003 earthquake and tsunami. After returning to civilian life, Peterson put his experience with traumatic injury to use serving as a team physician for the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins and New England Revolution. Today, he provides orthopedic care with a strong emphasis on sports medicine to patients throughout the North Shore.

Workplace Hero: NxStage Medical Inc.

Lawrence-based medical products company, NxStage has staged many drives in support of local agencies that serve the disadvantaged, including, in the last year alone, Project Home Again, Lazarus House and St. Ann’s Home Giving Tree. NxStage has also assisted national charities like Habitat for Humanity and helped the American Red Cross with its blood drives and its efforts to prepare corporate employees to act as volunteers in disasters.

Youth Hero: Lauren Healey

Environmental activist Lauren Healey, a student at Newburyport High, has maintained plantings along the Clipper City Rail Trail and monitored local soil conditions. She designed recycling equipment at her school lunchroom and organized local composting events. Healey has represented Newburyport on the Essex County Regional Environmental Board and served as a student member of the city’s working group for clean energy. Her design for a green roof covered with soil and plants won an award at the state science fair last year, and she is helping build a display facility for the city.

Mission Into Action Heroes — North Shore Boston Marathon Response

The Red Cross is recognizing 12 individuals who assisted in the response to the Boston Marathon bombings last year.

Capt. Dennis Levasseur of the Salem Fire Department, a spectator that day, responded to the first bomb by evacuating people from the stands. After the second blast, he moved barriers to allow access to ambulances and first responders.

Jonelle O’Connor, a Lynn resident and nurse director at North Shore Medical Center, identified herself as a nurse to a police officer, and they moved through the crowd together while O’Connor assessed injuries, determining victims’ medical needs.

Kathy LeClair, a TD Bank employee, helped the BAA hand out medals to runners who could not finish their race because it was shut down.

Eight-year-old Bailee Militello of Gloucester ran a lemonade stand that raised $1,000, which she used to buy toys and gift cards for children who had been injured by the blasts.

Beverly Fire Department Deputy Peter O’Connor, Lt. Eric Fowler, Lt. Ryan Laracy, Lt. Mathew Kowalski, Lt. Donald Philpot, and firefighters Michael Halloran, Jonathan Palm and Scott Perkins were volunteering at security posts near the finish line when the first bomb detonated. They administered first aid to the many people injured along Boylston Street and continued until all victims were safely removed.