The word “angels” was mentioned several times at the awards gala.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens used it to refer to the nearly 100 volunteers who help people in crisis through the Trauma Intervention Program, which held its 15th-annual “Heroes with Heart” awards dinner last week.
“You’ve heard the term ‘angels’ tonight, and that’s the term that comes to mind,” said Hutchens, who along with Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman is co-chair of the gala. “You are truly angels that reach out and have lasting impact to people…not just for one night — that difficult time — but their entire life.”
But the volunteers and managers who are part of TIP, a Vista-based non-profit that operates nationwide and has been active in Orange County for 21 years, prefer to focus on the first-responders and hospital staffers who summon them to scenes of trauma 24/7 throughout the year.
And that’s what “Heroes with Heart,” held Wednesday at the Anaheim Hilton, is all about.
Hutchens and other notable O.C. officials were among 350 people who joined TIP on Wednesday to recognize 20 individuals for going above and beyond their duties as police officers, coroner investigators, firefighters, doctors and nurses in interacting with people experiencing the worst moments of their lives.
The older woman who just lost her husband of 50 years.
A youngster whose parent unexpectedly passed away.
The young child dying alone in a hospital room.
First responders and hospital staffers deal with these and countless other traumatic situations daily, and the “Heroes with Heart” ceremony is a way to honor individuals whose compassionate work usually is not publicly acknowledged.
The 21 winners of the 2016 “Heroes with Heart” awards were culled from a field of more than 300 nominees submitted by TIP volunteers, trained individuals who devote up to 500 hours a year providing emotional first aid to people in the immediate aftermath of a crisis.
TIP of Orange County serves the County of Orange, 21 cities and eight O.C. hospitals. So far this year, TIP of Orange County volunteers have assisted 6,000 residents. TIP volunteers are trained community members and are not affiliated with a church or law enforcement.
“When we need help, we call TIP,” Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes, who introduced the 2016 winners, told the audience. “The volunteers in this room — you have no idea of the gratitude we have for what you do.”
TIP managers and volunteers would say the same of the first responders.
State Farm, which awarded a $10,000 Good Neighbor Citizenship Company Grant to TIP, was among several sponsors of the “Heroes with Heart” gala.
Here are the 2016 winners:
Assistant Sheriff Linda Solorza, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
“Assistant Sheriff Linda Solorza is TIP’s Hero With Heart. She is there with us every step of the way as we operate and grow our organization. We frequently ask Assistant Sheriff Solorza for help in a variety of ways. She responds immediately to our requests for help and always says yes. She speaks at our volunteer graduations, contributes to articles being written about TIP, serves as our Go-To person in the Sheriff’s Department, and helps us in countless other ways. TIP is a better organization because of the commitment of Assistant Sheriff Linda Solorza to our cause and to our organization.” — Wayne Fortin, TIP founder
Captain James Fonseca, California Highway Patrol
“Captain Fonseca has been a TIP supporter from his first day on the job as the captain at the CHP station in San Juan Capistrano. I worked with Captain Fonseca on a tragic crash involving a teenager. On the scene I saw the compassion and kindness he showed toward the family. He answered their tough questions and also made sure his officers and TIP volunteers were OK. During his tenure at the San Juan Capistrano CHP station, Captain Fonseca has been a great friend of TIP. He speaks at our training academies, participates in our advisory meetings and is always a phone call away with help we need. All of us at TIP truly appreciate Captain Fonseca’s support of the TIP program and the kindness he shows to others day in and day out. We appreciate your friendship!” — Mindy Daffron, TIP manager
Anthony Cherin, M.D., CHOC Children’s Hospital
“On Dec. 31, 2015 I was called to CHOC to be with a young child who was dying alone. There I encountered Dr. Tony Cherin. He is an amazing, kind and loving doctor. He greeted me by saying, ‘This sweet angel should not be alone.’ Over the next few days, the caring and compassion that Dr. Cherin displayed was so heartwarming.” — TIP volunteer Sharon Richards
Nathan Zug, Chaplain, Anaheim Fire & Rescue
“Chaplain Zug worked with me on a TIP suicide call and was an amazing partner. The next day he returned to support the family and reached out to the affected schools. After an emotional, long and draining call, our volunteer team needed support. Chaplain Zug was there to debrief our team. He has been a great support to our volunteers, and we are a better organization because of it.” — TIP Manager Kristi Batiste
Deputy Thomas Maxwell, City of Aliso Viejo Police Services
“On May 10, 2016 I was called to a residence in Aliso Viejo to support family members after the death of a loved one. I was incredibly touched when Deputy Maxwell, as he was leaving, gave our client a big hug and said when he got home with his family he would say a prayer for her family. It was the most sincere goodbye I have seen a first responder give one of my clients.” – TIP volunteer Susie Giovinazzo
Officer Brian Clasby, Laguna Beach Police
“On Oct. 1, 2015 I was called to a home in Laguna Beach to support parents of a man who died, after they received the death notification. Officer Clasby displayed such compassion to this grieving couple who had just been given a death notification. He did my job with perfection and made the couple feel cared for throughout the time he was there. Officer Clasby hugged both and made sure they knew he would come back to the home if he was needed.” — TIP volunteer Kim Scheubert
Officer Christine Dalena, Irvine Police Department
“On May 26, 2016 I was called to Hoag Hospital Irvine to support the mother of a man who drowned. Officer Dalena was very professional but sensitive to the family. She stayed with the family the whole time doing what TIP volunteers do. I enthusiastically nominate Officer Dalena for a Heroes With Heart Award!” –– TIP volunteer Taylor Liskow
Adam Collins, RN, UC Irvine Medical Center
“On Jan. 13, 2016 I was called to UC Irvine Medical Center to support the daughter of a woman in critical condition. Adam was outstanding in the way he communicated with the children of the patient. He was calm and reassuring while speaking honestly about the severity of the patient’s condition. Adam Collins was caring and professional in every interaction with the family.” — TIP volunteer Kathy Malone
Angela Agar, RN, Hoag Hospital Irvine
“On April 27, 2016 I responded to Hoag Irvine to support the family of a woman who died unexpectedly. Angela Agar was incredibly nice and kind, and did all the right things with the patient’s family. I was in awe!” — TIP volunteer Karolina Lorry
Daniel Patterson, RN, House Supervisor, Orange County Global Medical Center
“On Feb. 22, 2016 I was called to Orange County Global Medical Center to support the family of a man who died. Daniel Patterson came into the family room to ensure the family was totally informed; he escorted the family to the bedside to say goodbye, and he explained the hospital would hold the deceased until they decided on a plan. Also, Daniel gave the family his cell number and told them they could call any time. He was terrific!” — TIP volunteer Tom Walsh
Deputy Coroner Tiffany Williams, OCSD Coroner Division
“On June 7, 2016 I was called to support the wife of a man who died in Laguna Hills. This is my second call with Tiffany. She is so personable with the family and while she was there in an official capacity, her warmth and compassion came through. She explains things that the family might need to know. I strongly recommend Tiffany Williams for a Heroes With Heart Award.” — TIP volunteer Carol Kelly
Carmen Patterson, MSW, UC Irvine Medical Center
“On May 5, 2016 I was called to UC Irvine Medical Center to support the daughter of a young woman who died in surgery. Carmen Patterson was the most kind-hearted and compassionate social worker I have ever worked with. She stayed with this family from the time they were in the waiting room until she escorted them to their cars. Not only was this family extremely lucky to have Carmen with them on one of the worst days of their lives, but I felt blessed having her there as well.” — TIP volunteer Melinda Chester
Cara Domene, CNA, Placentia Linda Hospital
“On July 12, 2016 I was called to Placentia Linda Hospital to support the husband of a woman who died and his 3-year-old daughter. Cara was called in to support the 3-year-old. She immediately brought in juice, coloring books and found age-appropriate Netflix cartoons to watch. Never once did she leave the child’s side. I cannot say enough how spot on Cara was in dealing with the situation. She is a blessing in Placentia Linda.” — TIP volunteer Lisa Shaib
Donna Gertz, Manager, Security Guest Services, Disneyland Resort
“On June 21, 2016 I was called to the Disneyland Resort to support a family after the death of a loved one. For the next few hours I worked with security officer Donna Gertz. I was tremendously impressed with the compassion Ms. Gertz demonstrated to the family, especially two young children. Not only did she have a very calm and caring manner, Ms. Gertz took many actions which softened the blow for the family. She arranged a new room, provided DVDs for the children, and arranged for them to meet and greet their favorite Disney characters the next day.” — TIP volunteer Sharon Richards
Nathan Dockery, RN, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center
“On April 15, 2016 I was called to Saddleback Memorial Medical Center to support the wife of a man who died. Nathan Dockery spoke kindly and had a very sympathetic bedside manner. He was very helpful in making sure the wife could say goodbye to her husband and in helping with the donation program.” — TIP volunteer Karen Miller
Officer Carlos Gutierrez, Orange Police Department
“On Dec. 15, 2015 I was called to a residence in Orange to support the family of an elderly woman who died. Officer Gutierrez demonstrated deep concern for the clients. He called a mortuary, made arrangements and stayed with the family until the deceased was removed. Officer Gutierrez was determined to see the family through their painful few hours, and he certainly did.” – TIP volunteer Jake Nguyen
Officer Jason Chamness, Costa Mesa Police Department
“On Feb. 14, 2016 I was called to a residence in Costa Mesa to support the children of a woman who died. Officer Chamness established instant rapport with the kids. He had them call him by his first name. At one point one of the children began crying uncontrollably. I was unable to get her to listen to us. Officer Chamness, with delicate skill, was able to get her attention and calm her down. Officer Chamness made a lasting impression on these children. CMPD is a better department because of him.” — TIP volunteer Cathi Hartwell
Sgt. Brennan Leininger, Anaheim Police Department
“On Jan. 11, 2016 I was called to support the family of a young man who completed suicide. Sgt. Leininger was amazing. He was there from the beginning to the end of this call when he didn’t have to be. At the hospital he spoke with the family and explained what was happening while waiting for the coroner. The mom of the victim hugged and thanked Sgt. Leininger at this time. Throughout this situation, Sgt. Leininger showed compassion and empathy to this poor, grieving family, and this is why I think he deserves a Heroes With Heart Award.” – TIP volunteer Melinda Chester
Officer Robert Zeeb, Brea Police Department
“On July 9 2016 I responded to Brea to support an elderly woman whose roommate died. Officer Zeeb’s genuine compassion was displayed as he gently provided his emotional first aid. After he left the family said that their impression of law enforcement personnel was further strengthened by his actions.” — TIP volunteer Chris Merkle
Norma Vega, RN, UC Irvine Regional Burn Center
“On July 14, 2016 I was called to the UC Irvine Regional Burn Center to support a critically ill patient who had no family in the area. Norma Vega was very respectful of the patient. She turned him often, explaining what she was doing as she worked with him. Ms. Vega’s caring and patient respect were obvious in every movement and every word.” — TIP volunteer Kathy Malone
Kimberly Noble-Sahm, Orange County Fire Authority
“Ms. Noble-Sahm is the calm voice callers hear when they call 911 and are experiencing possibly the worst day of their lives. She calms the caller and dispatches the needed personnel, one call after another during her shift. In addition to her responsibilities as a Fire Communications Dispatcher, Ms. Noble goes above and beyond for her community and for others in her organization. She serves on the Board of Directors of Friends Against Drunk Driving and has spent countless hours helping young people understand the dangers of drinking and driving. Also, Ms. Noble-Sahm is a board member of the OCFA Benevolent Association, and she helps employees who need a loving touch after a cancer diagnosis, after the death of a loved one or during any crisis in their lives.”
Editor’s note: The writer is a TIP volunteer. For more information, visit TIPOrangeCounty.org