Over 650 people rose from their seats applauding, using the complimentary tissues provided on their tables to dry their eyes as the Guerrero family of West Springfield recently accepted the Hometown Hero Award on behalf of the deceased mother and wife.
Angelica Guerrero was posthumously honored with the Hometown Hero Award, along with five other recipients at the American Red Cross 2012 Hometown Heroes Award Ceremony at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield March 15. Guerrero died during the tornadoes of June 1st while using her body to shield, and save the life of her teenage daughter.
“It’s just nice to have people care about us” said Angelica Guerrero’s 15-year-old daughter, Ibone Guerrero; the daughter she saved when their house collapsed during the June 1st tornadoes. When asked how she felt about receiving the Hometown Heroes Award in her mother’s memory, Ibone Guerrero summed it up in one word; “honored.”
“I think the stories really resonate with people” said Director of Communications and Special Events for the American Red Cross, Dawn Leaks. “Especially Angelica Guerrero, they really empathized with the family and wanted to come out and really show their support.”
Along with Guerrero, Shane Chase, a 13-year-old boy from Ludlow, was also honored with the award for his participation in voluntary work with the clean-up of the aftermath from the June 1st tornadoes. Chase, his older brother Mckinley and his father Alan, saw the damage that the tornadoes did in Monson and wanted to do something to help the folks affected by it.
“I just wanted to help people, honestly” said Chase during his presentation provided by 22News during the ceremony. Alongside his family, Chase traveled to Monson all summer long with their chainsaws and would cut the trees and limbs that had fallen in people’s yards.
Michael Laferriere, a Monson native who nominated Chase for the award said in his presentation “how do you say thank you to work like this? I mean thank you is not really enough. The kid deserves everything he can get.”
Chase and his family have been to Monson to continue their volunteer work almost every weekend. Chase plans to make it another full time commitment this summer as well.
According to Leaks, the committee for choosing the representatives of the Hometown Heroes Award took their time to honor all those from various communities that were affected by the various storms that happened in 2011. “That in itself made it unique” said Leaks. “I think this made it not only our tenth anniversary, but just a really special event.”
Other recipients of the award include Edward Rosienski Jr. and Edward Rosienski III of West Springfield, the Holyoke Police Department Narcotics/Vice Division, Demetrious Faust (another 13 year old boy) of Springfield, and Marcus Blatch and Jose Reyes of Springfield.
“It’s humbling” said Dennis Egan, Retired Narcotics Detective of the Holyoke Police Department, “especially to be up there with all the other award winners.”
Egan, along with the rest of the Narcotics/Vice Division of the Holyoke Police Department received the award based on their tradition of holding a community wide toy drive and spending Christmas Day dressed as Santa Claus and elves handing out presents to underprivileged children. “It’s the poorest city in this state, and for a lot of kids, these are the only gifts they’re going to get, so we feel good about that.”
The Hometown Heroes Award recipients have changed and saved lives to the people of Western Massachusetts. Their heroic stories are emotional and inspiring.
“We keep little packets of tissues on the table deliberately because we know people are going to cry” said Leaks. “It’s just a heartwarming event and you just feel good after you leave and you can run on that high for a couple of weeks.”
Photos by Noelle Richard and Kimberly Kern
Noelle Richard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @noellejrich
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About the authors
Students in Steve Fox's Investigative Journalism & the Web class at UMass-Amherst have teamed up with the Globe to take a close-up look at the painful process of rebuilding from the June 2011 tornadoes that killed four and devastated communities in the Springfield area. Their work will also appear in the Boston Globe. Steve joined the journalism faculty at UMass-Amherst in 2007 and has 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at The Washington Post's award-winning website.