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Valley residents named 2016 Red Cross heroes

Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern falls through roof of burning garage

In video posted to the Facebook page of Soonji Lee, Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern is seen falling through the roof of a burning garage of a home near Manchester Shopping Center in March 2015. Dern spent months in the burn unit of Community Regional
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In video posted to the Facebook page of Soonji Lee, Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern is seen falling through the roof of a burning garage of a home near Manchester Shopping Center in March 2015. Dern spent months in the burn unit of Community Regional

The American Red Cross of the Central Valley announced its 2016 Red Cross heroes ahead of its Heroes for the American Red Cross gala in April.

Each year, the local Red Cross chapter hosts the event to honor Valley residents who’ve acted courageously and selflessly.

“These individuals have acted courageously by reaching out to help others in times of need, or have helped make the community better through their acts of service,” spokeswoman Jessica Piffero said. She described their actions:

Samantha Baez, Youth Hero — Baez, 13, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 11 and is still in treatment. Baez has had a toy drive for the Oncology Department at Valley Children’s Hospital for the past two years.

Baez was also chosen to be “Girl of the Year” by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for her brave and generous actions. Before Baez was diagnosed with leukemia, she was the class president at her school and scheduled a car wash fundraiser after she heard about a student from another local school battling leukemia. Baez herself was diagnosed with the same disease a week after the event and eventually ended up in the room next to the boy in the hospital.

Pat Douhan, Veteran Hero (posthumous) — Douhan was a Navy sonar operator on the USS Hull in the South Pacific during World War II. He was swept overboard from the USS Hull after it capsized and sank during a typhoon on Dec. 18, 1944. Douhan survived for three days in shark-infested waters until he was rescued.

Douhan was also a bugler and played taps for the 202 shipmates who died when the USS Hull sank. He returned to California after World War II and volunteered for the Madera chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars as a bugler and played taps at countless service member funerals across the Valley until he died on May 29, 2015.

Douhan is survived by his wife Kay, sons, a daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Jose Sanchez, Good Samaritan Hero — Sanchez saved three people, including a baby, from a fiery car crash near his home on Aug. 28, 2015.

Jenifer Alcorn, Community Partner Hero — Alcorn is a retired, world champion professional boxer known for her military-style training for various levels of fitness and promoting mental toughness and correct exercise selection to achieve goals.

She has volunteered in WestCare’s Women’s unit teaching yoga and cardio-kickboxing after touring WestCare’s Residential Treatment and Rehabilitation. Students in the class have raved about their own personal celebrity teacher and have expressed how they’ve gained self-confidence, self-worth and accomplishment.

Fresno County sheriff’s Deputy David Raquenio, Law Enforcement Hero — Raquenio saved Bryce Diaz, who suffered severe internal injuries after he was thrown out of his car that crashed down a mountainside near Squaw Valley on Jan. 1, 2015.

Raquenio used his prior military training to stabilize Diaz and even carried him up the cliff face knowing he could seriously injure himself as well. Bryce is now recovering after several surgeries.

Fresno Fire Department, Fire Rescue Hero — Fresno firefighters Justin Beard, Michael Alvarez, Michael Boardman, Wiley Erikson and Cory Kalanick saved Capt. Pete Dern after he fell through the roof of a burning building while fighting a house fire on March 29, 2015. Dern suffered second-degree and third-degree burns to a large portion of his body, including his legs, back, hands, neck and scalp.

Gretchen D’Souza, Inspirational Hero — D’Souza, 24, is a medical student from Clovis who was paralyzed on Dec. 26, 2014, after a DUI driver ran a stop sign and hit the passenger side of a car she was riding in. She shares her story and spreads awareness on drunken driving.

Lemoore Naval Air Station Search and Rescue Unit, Military Heroes — The helicopter crew of Lasso Three rescued a 79-year-old survey worker who went missing on May 4, 2015, near Squaw Dome in the Sierra National Forest. A crew member had to be lowered to rescue the man because of rough terrain and a thick forest canopy.

Central California Animal Disaster Team, Animal Rescue hero — The CCADT works alongside the Red Cross to set up animal shelters during disasters, such as the Rough Fire. The organization not only takes in pets like cats and dogs, but its members also work with law enforcement to assist with large animal and livestock evacuations.

Paul Schlesinger: 559-441-6659, @PaulSch_Photog

2016 Red Cross Heroes gala

When: Saturday, April 30

Where: Landmark Aviation at Fresno Yosemite International Airport

Tickets: $100 or $1,000 for a table of 10

Details: 1940s World War II-era theme with vintage automobiles and planes on display; live entertainment. Cocktails and silent auction begin at 5:30 p.m., dinner and honors at 7:30 p.m.

More information: redcross.org/centralvalleyheroes; Director of Development Amy Smith at 559-455-1000, ext. 6501; or amy.smith2@redcross.org

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