The room of nearly 400 people fell dead silent when the woman walked up to the microphone to tell a story of unbearable anguish — and eternal gratitude.
Jennifer Parnell drove all the way from Las Vegas with her young son to relive the horror of losing her older son, Anthony, 18, in a beach accident early this year.
For 10 unimaginably pain-paralyzing days in early February, Parnell waited for word about the fate of her son, who went missing while visiting Thousand Steps Beach in South Laguna.
Anthony Parnell, who planned to go into the military, was swept into a 4-foot-blowhole by a wave that knocked him off his feet while he and friends were walking on a 30-foot crevasse.
Helping Jennifer Parnell along her torturous journey were a devoted and caring lifeguard, several first responders, and volunteers with TIP of Orange County — folks who devote time to being with people experiencing the worst moments of their lives.
Celebrating its 20th year in Orange County, the Trauma Intervention Program (tiporangecounty.org) last week honored that lifeguard — Jason Young, the chief of OC Lifeguards — and 23 other first responders and nurses for showing “compassion in action’’ to survivors of life-changing crises.
“Thank you for keeping your promise to me,” Parnell said, referring to Young’s tireless devotion to find her son — and treating her and her family with dignity, respect and caring when the teen’s body finally was recovered.
Stories like Parnell’s echoed throughout the evening at TIP’s annual Heroes with Heart Awards Dinner.
Attendees included numerous local fire and police chiefs and their command staffs, doctors and nurses, politicians, and many of TIP’s 99 volunteers in Orange County.
“When we need help, when we need backup, we call TIP,” Assistant Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said. “It’s a tremendous, value-added benefit — a force-multiplier for us to have someone come and be able to deal with these situations and allow us to do our jobs.”
Cops, firefighters and hospital staff members summon TIP volunteers to provide emotional first aid to people roiled by trauma so the professionals can be freed up to perform their jobs.
Police officers and emergency workers may have the heart, but they don’t have time to help guide the traumatized through the shock, confusion and despair that erupts in the moments after a tragedy.
That’s where TIP volunteers come in.
They routinely spend hours on a single call.
“Think about it,” Assemblyman Don Wagner told the crowd Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Anaheim Hilton. “On the worst day of your life, a total stranger says, ‘Let me help.’ We in government can’t possibly match that.”
Police and fire agencies in Orange County, as well as hospitals, fund TIP.
Each volunteer is on call at least three 12-hour shifts per month and, with other regular meetings, donates about 500 hours per year to TIP — the equivalent of more than 12 work weeks.
The 24 “Heroes With Heart” award-winners this year were selected from 250 nominees.
TIP, established 30 years ago in Oceanside by Wayne Fortin, now is active in about 300 cities across the county.
So far this year in O.C., TIP volunteers have assisted 3,100 emergency responders and more than 4,800 residents.
In his remarks, Fortin singled out Orange County Fire Authority and Hoag Hospital Irvine Chaplain Jeff Hetschel for his work with TIP, as well as Sherlene Stepp, R.N., UC Irvine Health.
“Why we all do what we do in TIP and emergency service in simple: We just want to help people,” Fortin said.
The winners of the 2015 Heroes With Heart awards are listed below, with comments from the TIP volunteer or volunteers who nominated them for the honor:
Cyrus Dastur, M.D., Director, Neurocritical Care, UC Irvine Health (recipient of the Marianne Cinat, M.D., 2015 Heroes With Heart Award)
“In September 2014 I was called to UCI Medical Center to support the wife and children of a man who came to the hospital with a massive brain bleed. The wife and children had many questions such as, ‘Why can’t they fix him?’ A young daughter asked for a consultation with the doctor. Dr. Cyrus Dastur assembled his team and proceeded to patiently, thoroughly and honestly answer all of her questions. As a result, this confused daughter had the information she needed to begin accepting the fact that her father would not recover.”
— TIP Manager Kristi Batiste
Jason Young, OC Lifeguards
“In February 2015, I and a group of TIP volunteers were called to support the family members and friends of an 18-year-old male swimmer who went missingat Thousand Steps Beach in South Laguna. For the next few days during search and rescue attempts, I witnessed lifeguard Jason Young provide extraordinary support to the victim’s family members and friends. Jason kept the family notified all week about the lifeguards’ plans, and he was attentive to their every need.”
— TIP Manager Mindy Daffron
Officer Brent Malatesta, Los Alamitos Police Department
“On 11/17/14 I was called by Officer Brent Malatesta of the Los Alamitos Police Department to help a woman who had asked to speak to Officer Malatesta because he had responded to her residential burglary a few days earlier. I was very impressed with Officer Malatesta’s kindness. I could see that his validation of the victim’s crime experience and his willingness to listen to her made all the difference in her ability to begin coping with her victimization.”
— TIP Volunteer Renee Lutz
Elizabeth Vaughan, R.N., Placentia Linda Hospital
“On 8/13/14, I was called to Placentia Linda Hospital to support the wife of a man who had died suddenly. The wife was in shock and appeared lost. Elizabeth Vaughan, R.N., gave the wife outstanding personal attention. She walked her through everything that was happening and continually gave the wife choices about what she wanted to do. I think Elizabeth Vaughan is the most compassionate nurse I have encountered in my 15 years as a TIP Volunteer.”
— TIP Volunteer Barbara Amaya
Anaheim Fire & Rescue Crew
“On 1/21/15 I was called to a residence to support the daughter of a woman who had died. Once there I encountered the crew of Anaheim Fire and Rescue’s Station 11…Capt. Andy Ball, Engineer Roger Domen, Firefighter Denny Munson and Firefighter Jeremy Keith. When I arrived this crew was providing amazing emotional support and compassion to the daughter. Each crew member was expressing their condolences, and before they left each gave the daughter a hug.”
— TIP Volunteer Peggy Awalt
Officer Robert McKay, Anaheim Police Department
“On 10/30/14, I was called to support the daughter of a woman who had died at her residence. There I encountered Officer McKay with the Anaheim Police Department who was filled with kindness toward the whole family. He was helping in any way he could, including making phone calls on the family’s behalf. I was really struck by Officer McKay’s sensitivity while he did his job very professionally.”
— TIP Volunteer Mardi Frum
Jody Haynes, R.N., Saddleback Memorial Medical Center
“On 12/25/14 I was called to Saddleback Memorial Medical Center to support a woman whose husband of 51 years had died. Jody Haynes, R.N., was very kind and compassionate with this 93-year-old woman, and because of her persistence she was able to get the woman’s pastor to respond to the hospital. Jody also made arrangements to transport the wife back to Freedom Village where she lived. Because of the efforts of this kind nurse, the life of this distraught woman was made a little easier that day.” — TIP Volunteer Ernest Currie
Deputy Si Page, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
“On 8/25/14 I was called to a residence in San Clemente to support the wife and daughter of a 65-year-old man who died. I worked with Deputy Si Page of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department who displayed such compassion and care for the wife. He shared his own life, and put our client at ease the entire call. He was able to do his job and help the wife and daughter at the same time.”
— TIP Volunteer, Kim Schubert
Amanda Nickel and Michelle Conan, R.N., Los Alamitos Medical Center
“On 12/8/14 I was called to Los Alamitos Medical Center to support the husband and family of a 75 year old woman who had died. Amanda Nickel and Michelle Conan, R.N. were so compassionate and caring. They worked as a team always asking the husband if he needed anything while all the while consoling him. When it came time for family members to say goodbye to their loved one these two wonderful professionals made the deceased presentable and escorted family members in to say their final goodbyes.”
— TIP Volunteer Rachel Tighe
Deputy Coroner David Ralsten, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
“On 10/10/14 I was called to a residence to assist family members after a suicide. When I arrived Deputy Coroner David Ralsten of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department was questioning family members. He did so in a very patient and compassionate way. I have had a few TIP Calls with Deputy Coroner Ralsten. He is always so considerate, respectful, thorough and accommodating with family members of the deceased.
— TIP Volunteer, Stephanie Carpenter
Pauli Chela, R.N., UC Irvine Health Regional Burn Center
“On 8/28/14 I was called to UC Irvine Health Regional Burn Center to support the family of a 29 year old woman who had died. There I met Pauli Chela, R.N. Ms. Chela is compassionate, loving and caring. She took the time to comfort each family member in a very large family. After the patient died, Ms. Chela arranged for her to remain in the room and not be removed to the morgue so that arriving family members could say their goodbyes. I can’t say enough about Pauli. She is one of a kind.”
— TIP Volunteer Nannette Capriccio
Officer Mario Vaughan, Brea Police Department
“On 5/11/15 I was called to a home in Brea to support the family of a 50-year-old man who had died. There I met Officer Mario Vaughan of the Brea Police Department. He was very compassionate and sympathetic. He kept the family updated every step of the way giving them updates as needed. He even made sure the family was away from the scene when the deceased was removed.”
— TIP Volunteer Rachel Tighe
Valerie Horta, R.N., Healthbridge Children’s Hospital
“On May 30, 2015 I was called to a local hospital to support the family of an injured 13-year-old female. I worked with Valerie Horta, R.N. She was wonderful with the very upset parents, and kept her lovely attitude throughout the situation. She told the parents that she would help them with anything they needed, and at one point she even provided a warm blanket for the daughter. The parents were very fortunate to have Valerie Horta as their nurse that day.”
— TIP Volunteer Jackie Steele
Officer Matt Morton, Orange Police Department
“On 9/5/14 we were called to support the stepdaughter of a man who had died. We were greeted by Officer Matt Morton of the Orange Police Department. Officer Morton was very kind to the family. He offered water and tissues, and he apologized for interrupting them with questions he needed to ask. Throughout the situation Officer Morton was pleasant, thoughtful and kind. He certainly deserves a Heroes With Heart Award.”
— TIP Volunteers Carolou and Terry Munson
Officer Christopher King, Irvine Police Department
“On 2/26/15 I was called to support a teacher after one of her 2-year-old students was suddenly taken ill and transported to CHOC Children’s. The officer on the scene was Officer Christopher King with the Irvine Police Department. Throughout the call Officer King was understanding and encouraging. He reassured the teacher that she had done everything right. What I liked most was that Officer King was a real person and a dad who was touched personally by this situation, but he kept a professional demeanor throughout.”
— TIP Volunteer Mardi Frum
Mindi Isbell, Orange County Fire Authority
“Through Mindi Isbell’s amazing work with the Explorer Program, she has been instrumental in bringing men and women with heart into the Orange County Fire Authority. Ms. Isbell treats those in the Explorer Program with a level of care and compassion like they were her own kids.”
— OCFA Chaplain Jeff Hetschel
Shiloh Godshall, R.N., Orange County Global Medical Center
“In August 2015 we were called to Orange County Global Medical Center. There we met Shiloh Godshall, R.N., who was absolutely amazing. It was a very busy night but she took very good care of the patient’s family. They desperately wanted answers, and Shiloh took the time to patiently and kindly answer their questions. She went out of her way to ensure the family got everything they needed including constant updates from surgery.”
— TIP Volunteers Tracy McDonald & Ivana Villarreal
Officer Blake Clements, Costa Mesa Police Department
“On 6/3/15 I was called to support a crime victim in Costa Mesa. I was greeted by Officer Blake Clements. Throughout the call Officer Clements was kind and helpful to not only the victim but to me. At one point he used his cell phone to locate a locksmith for the fearful woman. Officer Clements is a true Hero With Heart.”
— TIP Volunteer Lauren DeVore
Officer Gilberto Jacobo
“On 12/13/14 I was called to the 55 Freeway to support a driver who had accidentally hit and killed a man who had jumped onto the freeway. CHP Officer Jacobo was fabulous. He helped watch over the client and he spoke Spanish. Officer Jacobo waited with us for the entire call until family members came to drive the client home.”
— TIP Volunteer Jackie Steele
Editor’s note: Hardesty recently became a volunteer with TIP Orange of County.