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Blackford County Youth Receive 2012 Red Cross Hall of Fame Awards


Courtesy of the Hartford City News Times
By Seth Reddington, NT Staff Reporter

The four lifeguards known for their courageous acts in response to a local fire in July 2011 were recognized as honorees at the 2012 Red Cross Hall of Fame Awards ceremony in downtown Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon.

Blackford County residents Alyssa Bergdoll, Nate Borgenheimer, Jordon Turner and Emily Willmann were one of four groups or individuals that received awards for what the American Red Cross labeled "everyday people doing extraordinary things."

The group of lifeguards was being honored for events that occurred this past summer, as a normal day by the Hartford City Memorial Pool evolved into a series of courageous, adrenaline-filled events.

Employees of the pool, they spotted smoke seeping from a nearby building, Hartford Park Apartments, 300 W. Wabash Ave., Hartford City, and immediately ran to the aid of those on the property.

By the time the fire department had arrived to provide aid, the youth had managed to clear six people from the building. A total of 14 residents were said to have been affected by the fire.

The foursome, along with friends and family, took part in an American Red Cross ceremony featuring a series of videos that shared the accolades of that day.

The video opened with Bergdoll walking the grounds of the site.

"I remember seeing the smoke very quickly," said Bergdoll. "None of us really took the time to think. Before we knew it we were running toward the building."

"We were all running in our sandals," said Turner. "We found out later it is about 200 yards from the pool to the apartments. By the time we arrived we were all running in our bare feet."

Borgenheimer explained that they heard mumbling and saw figures through the windows of the building.

"It was pretty clear that they didn''t know what was happening yet," said Borgenheimer. "We didn''t hesitate. We started knocking on their windows and eventually broke them in to help the residents.

"We laid down blankets on the frames so that we could get the men and women out safely, and the others were going back and forth to get first-aid kids for those who''d been hurt," noted Borgenheimer.

The conclusion of the video received a lasting applause and forced many of the attendees to tears in the crowd of over 100.

Lee Ann Mengelt, program outreach coordinator for American Red Cross, visited the grounds after the fire and began gathering information.

"I interviewed survivors of the fire shortly after the event in Hartford City," said Mengelt. "I was assessing the needs of those affected, and with every person I spoke to I kept hearing them refer to ''that kid'' or ''that boy'' in their stories.

"After a while I had to stop them and say, okay what kid are you referring to? Do you mean the fire department?" said Mengelt.

"One survivor finally explained to me that it was the kids from the pool helping out," noted Mengelt. "I couldn''t believe my ears."

Mengelt remarked that the acts of the lifeguards showed clarity and maturity, and that they seemed to respond without hesitation.

"What they did was just extraordinary," said Mengelt. "Sometimes you hear in larger communities of people just watching when things like this happen. That''s not at all what happened that day.

"These people exemplify the best of Hoosier spirit," noted Mengelt.

The four individuals received awards for their valiant efforts and contribution to their community.

As many of the honorees in the ceremony preached, it was simply a matter of being prepared.

All four of the lifeguards credited their health/physical education and Red Cross training instructor Kim Fear at Blackford High School for preparing them for anything and everything.

"We owe a lot of it to her," said Borgenheimer. "She taught us to be prepared and be ready to act. We were ready."

Fear was in attendance at the event, and she was recognized for her contribution to the students.

Emcee Scott Sander, anchor with DayBreak Morning on WISH-TV Channel 8, closed the event with a showing of gratitude to all those involved.

"This is Hoosiers doing what Hoosiers do best," he said. "They saw a need and then addressed it. We appreciate everything they''ve done."

Other honorees were Tim Balz for rehabbing and customizing motorized wheelchairs for a fellow student and other people in need; Connie Rufenbarger for co-founding and being the driving force behind the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center; and Mark Bowen, Debra Evans, Rob Klinestiver, Doug Lackey, Chris Lockman, Toby Pauley, Natalie Prater and David Wood for working together to help a little girl who was severely injured at the Indiana State Fair stage collapse.

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