Human Services and Opinion and Youth Development and Philanthropy

Hall of Fame stories teach lessons

March 2, 2009
Judging acts of heroism for the American Red Cross Hall of Fame program is always an education and inspiration.

It's powerful stuff to read about professionals going above and beyond the call of duty and about ordinary citizens stepping outside their comfort zones on impulse to save a fellow human being.

This year, it struck me that a couple of the stories were worth sharing with young people. These aren't lessons in courage and heroism. One story is about a bad decision; the other is about a good one.

One of the hardest things to learn in life is that actions have consequences, not just immediate ones but sometimes long-term and far-reaching ones.

Here's a story that demonstrates that. It falls under the heading, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

The story involves four teen-age girls from New Castle who left school on a Friday afternoon and decided to go for a joy ride in the country.

According to news reports, they were driving a PT Cruiser at 75 mph on a hilly stretch of road known locally as Roller Coaster Road, and they admitted to police they were trying to get airborne.

Well, they did, then they lost control of the car, swerved off the road, and struck a one-ton concrete pillar. The car flipped, landed on the driver's side in somebody's front yard, and caught on fire.

Lucky for the girls, two people who lived in the house, Mary Smiley and her daughter Storey, ran out and began battling the flames. The Smileys were able to get one of the girls out and, with the help of Henry County Sheriff's Deputy Landon Dean, were able to keep the fire from spreading until more help arrived.

The other three girls eventually were extracted from the car, but I doubt they'll choose to go on any more joy rides anytime soon.

On the other hand, take the case of Jason Cherry, a 7-year-old boy who was playing with some friends around a fire in an outdoor fire pit last fall. Another boy on the scene, a 13-year-old, decided to kick a container of gas toward the fire.

You guessed it: That's not the good decision I was talking about. Some of the gas hit Cherry and caught his clothes on fire.

If not for the actions of 11-year-old neighbor Anthony Hubbard — who jumped a fence, knocked Cherry down, and put out the flames — this story's outcome could've been far worse.

Hubbard used his own version of stop-drop-and-roll training to save his neighbor, who was treated for second-and third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body and was eventually released. He underwent multiple treatments in his recovery.

Cherry's mom and authorities say he likely would have died if not for the fast thinking and immediate action taken by the soft-spoken Hubbard. This young man will be one of this year's Hall of Fame inductees.

It's tough being a young person these days, and it's easy as an adult to look at situations like these and see where spur-of-the-moment decisions made things turn out incredibly bad ... or incredibly good.

For the last four years, the Red Cross has announced and recognized its Hall of Fame winners at local high schools before the student body. What a great idea, because it provides a rare opportunity for young people to hear stories like these.

This year's event will take place at Plainfield High School March 19. Maybe in some small way, the stories the students hear that day will influence the decisions they make down the road.

For more information about the hall of fame, check out www.redcross-indy.org.

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Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com. >
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