An 85-year-old woman wakes up in the middle of the night to discover that her husband of 50 years is dead.
A family is notified by police about the murder of their son.
A woman is killed in a car accident, leaving her family distraught in a hospital waiting room.
While first responders and medical personnel are doing their jobs in the aftermath of such tragic occurrences, nearby family members and loved ones are left traumatized and anguished.
That’s when trained volunteers with the Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) are called into service. These volunteers provide support and comfort to the individuals, who TIP founder Wayne Fortin calls the “quiet victims.”
“These individuals are experiencing their own personal 911,” said Fortin, speaking at the 17th Heroes with Heart Awards Gala, held March 28 at the Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove. “The bottom line is that we help people at the worst time of their lives.”
TIP volunteers arecalled into service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and arrive on scenes in 20 minutes or less, Fortin said.
“We give our volunteers an opportunity to make a real difference,” he said.
The annual Heroes with Heart Awards Gala gives TIP volunteers the chance to honor 20 first responders who they feel went well beyond their defined job descriptions to help loved ones and survivors.
TIP was founded in San Diego in 1985, and chapters have formed around the country ever since. TIP of Orange County formed in 1995 and has some 120 volunteers.
Honorees, along with their nominating volunteers, were:
Corporal Cornelius Ashton, Laguna Beach Police Department
“On Jan. 6, 2018 I was called to the home of a woman whose boyfriend had died. Corporal Ashton was so amazing with her! He was very calm and warm with her. He shared with her the story of his life and his challenges and encouraged her to make something of her life. Truly a great man!” – Karen Smith
Joshua Bobko, MD, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center
“On June 17, 2018 I was on a call where an elderly man died due to a full arrest. Dr. Bobko’s bedside manner, kindness and compassion interacting with the patient’s family helped them navigate a very traumatic situation in their lives. Dr. Bobko went beyond the conventional routes of medication and procedure to heal these people. When the family looks back on this event, they will have the memory of being treated kindly by Dr. Bobko.” – Marc Denton
Christina Burke, MSW, UC Irvine Medical Center
“On July 30, 2018 I was called to UC Irvine Medical Center to support the family of a woman who had been killed in a traffic incident. I worked with social worker Christina Burke. She was able to speak with the family in a caring, gentle manner at this horrible time in their lives. She was able to clearly and simply explain to the family what was happening and what was going to happen. Ms. Burke reassured the family that she, TIP and the hospital would be there to help them navigate this tragedy in their lives. Christina Burke is a super social worker!” – Marc Denton
Lt. Mike Chlebowski, Fullerton Police Department
“On June 4, 2018 I was called to a Fullerton residence to support the father of a young woman who died suddenly. There I worked with Capt. Chlebowski. I was extremely impressed with the empathy and concern he had for the victim’s dad. The victim’s service dog stood dutifully by her side and Capt. Chlebowski respected that space. I enthusiastically nominate Capt. Chlebowski for a Heroes with Heart Award.” – Lisa Whiting
Officer James Dowdell, Cypress Police Department
“On Nov. 14, 2017, I was called to support the family of a man who died at home. Officer Dowdell spent a lot of time with the family while we waited for the coroner. As time permitted, he helped the victim’s 6-year-old son build a Lego ninja set which comforted the boy and allowed the mother to deal with other things. Before he left, the officer asked them to call him if there was anything else he could do. Officer Dowdell’s compassionate presence made a real difference in the family’s ability to deal with their grief and went beyond the call of duty.” – Joe Henkes
Mark Farag, MD, UC Irvine Medical Center
“On Oct. 22, 2018, I was called to UC Irvine Medical Center to assist the family of a woman who suffered a stroke. There I encountered Dr. Farag. He was amazing with the family. He was kind, gentle, thorough and honest regarding the prognosis. He asked polite questions, did not seem to be in a hurry and stayed until he was sure the family understood what he was saying. I wholeheartedly nominate Dr. Farag for a Heroes with Heart Award.” – Kathy Malone
Hannah Huggins, RN, CHOC Children’s
“On June 16, 2018, I was called to CHOC to support a 4-year-old patient who had serious injuries and was alone. Hannah Huggins was wonderful with this young boy. She was patient and she stood bedside fanning the patient because he was sweating. She went above and beyond to help him sleep by playing music. It was very inspiring to see Hannah work.” – Erin Lind
Katherine Knowles, RN, Orange County Global Medical Center
“On Jan. 26, 2017, I was called to Orange County Global to support the family of a woman who died. There I worked with Katherine Knowles who is an extraordinary nurse. Each time she spoke with the family, she was so kind and caring and let them know she knew how difficult this was for them. She approached each interaction with kindness and compassion. Ms. Knowles is a great representative of the nursing profession!” – Kathy Malone
Steve Kriha, Firefighter/Paramedic, Orange County Fire Authority
“On April 23, 2018, I responded to a fire in the Silverado Canyon area. There I encountered Firefighter/Paramedic Kriha who was outstanding in assisting the victims of the fire. In one case he entered a home on two occasions to retrieve a purse and wooden box for a female victim. Both items were very important to the victim. Her purse contained family pictures and the wooden box the remains of a dog she had lost. The victim was very grateful to Firefighter/Paramedic Kriha for retrieving the items which were all she had left.” – Ernest Currie
Det. Joe Morales, Costa Mesa Police Department
“On Feb. 12, 2018, I was called by the Costa Mesa Police to be involved while they notified parents of their son’s murder. Never in my 10 years with TIP have I witnessed a more compassionate first responder than Det. Joe Morales. During his investigation, every time the parents would fall apart, he put his hand on their shoulder. When they calmed down, he started the investigation again. He was so compassionate, concerned, sympathetic and caring. Det. Morales impacted the most horrific grief, the murder of a child, with more compassion than I have ever witnessed.” – Cathi Hartwell
Deputy Coroner Thomas Nguyen, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
“On Oct. 31, 2017, I was called to Irvine to support the family after a sudden death. Deputy Coroner Nguyen was extremely helpful to the Vietnamese family, speaking to them in their native language. In addition, I was very impressed with the care and warmth with which he interacted with the family. He was responsive to all of their needs.” – Dick Oakley
Officer Crystal Norbut, Irvine Police Department
“On July 14, 2017, I was called to Hoag Irvine to support the wife and 5-year-old son of a man who suffered a heart attack. The family was visiting from Canada. Officer Norbut was the first to arrive on the scene and began CPR until the medics arrived. The man survived! Officer Norbut stayed with the wife and daughter at the hospital. At one point the 8-year-old began shivering. Her clothes were wet because she had been at the beach. Officer Norbut went to Target and bought clothes for the child as well as a Lego Star Wars Fighter ship. Officer Norbut stayed throughout the call and escorted the family to their hotel for the night.” – Rick Nicolai
Mike Robles, RN, Kaiser Anaheim
“On Jan. 14, 2018, I responded to Kaiser Anaheim to support the wife of a man who had died. Mike Robles was extremely helpful to the family of the deceased. He clearly explained hospital procedures and met every family request (removing a breathing tube, helping remove jewelry, and ensuring the mortuary brought a flag to cover the deceased.) With Mr. Robles aid the family seemed at ease with their loss.” – Vicki Johnpeer
Danika Ross, West Anaheim Medical Center
“On Oct. 10, 2018, I was called to West Anaheim Medical Center to assist the family of a young man who died. There I met Danika Ross, the unit secretary, who was very busy answering phones and admitting new patients but managed to be extremely helpful to the family I was assisting. She thoroughly explained what was involved in organ donation and she allowed family members to be present while their loved one was being prepared for the morgue. Finally, she helped them to say their one final goodbye. Ms. Ross is an exceptional member of West Anaheim’s staff.” – Carolou Munson
Officer Sam Sa, Newport Beach Police Department
“On Oct. 17, 2017, I was called to support the family of a young man who died suddenly. Officer Sa’s absolute kindness and sincerity and his treatment of everyone was so heartfelt. He didn’t rush away. He waited patiently until it was the time to say goodbye and leave the family in our hands. This is my second call with officer Sa and he is definitely a cut above the rest.” – Mardi Frum
Officer Thomas Salcido, Anaheim Police Department
“On July 7, 2018, I was called to support the family of a woman who died in the home. There I encountered Officer Salcido. He was the most compassionate and caring officer. He made a strong connection with the husband and son. Officer Salcido told them he would stop by to check on them in a few days. He was amazing!” – Karen Smith
Deputy Mario Saldivar, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
“On June 25, 2017 I was called to Dana Point to support the family of a son who died. Deputy Saldivar demonstrated extraordinary compassion to the witnesses of the accident who tried to revive the child and did CPR. He went out of his way to check on the distraught witness and reassured him he did everything possible to save the child. I don’t think Deputy Saldivar had any idea what an impact his words had. At the end of the call he tearfully hugged the witness and suggested he hold his children close.” – MaryEllen Lowrey
Capt. Rob Stuart, Anaheim Fire & Rescue
“On Aug. 4, 2018, I was called to support a driver who accidentally hit and killed a pedestrian. The driver’s family arrived on the scene. Capt. Stuart’s main concern was to remove the family from the freeway to process what happened and to be protected from the gruesome scene. He made sure to introduce us to the family and talked to the family answering their questions before he left. Overall, Capt. Stuart was very kind to the family and spent more time with them than he had to. A superb fire captain!” – Erin Lind
Deputy Carlos Vega, OCSD
“On March 8, 2018, I was called to Stanton to support the parents of a child who had died. There I worked with Deputy Carlos Vega. He was an amazing deputy. At one point, the mother of the child collapsed in Deputy Vega’s arms and cried. He held her for at least 30 minutes, comforting her and not saying anything, just holding her. My job as a TIP volunteer would be much more difficult without my partnership with Deputy Vega.” – Manny Jurado
Amanda Venturelli, RN, Placentia Linda Hospital
“On June 8, 2018, I was called to support the wife of an elderly man who died. Ms. Venturelli was very empathetic with the family. She always made sure all the needs of the family were met and always reminded them how sorry she was for their loss. In short, Ms. Venturelli was extremely attentive and caring.” – Isabelle Tran
Officer Tanner McLeod, Orange Police Department
“On Jan. 1, 2019, I was called to Orange to support a family after a death. There I met Officer McLeod. He took the time to gently explain to the daughter what the next steps were and why it would be best for the family to wait outside while the coroner was there. He could have just said ‘wait outside’ but he didn’t. Throughout the situation, Officer McLeod dealt with the family with compassion and calm demeanor. He was an extraordinary Hero with Heart.” – Erin Lind