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Local Heroes With Heart Honored at The Diamond

Friday night's event at The Diamond honored 14 emergency responders and one service organization for heroism in saving lives.

Alex Garcia III is a shy 13-year-old and not very tall but -- honored along with a CHP captain from the Temecula office -- he brought nearly 200 peace officers, firefighters, paramedics, 911 dispatchers and others to their feet Friday night.

The eighth annual “Heroes with Heart” awards dinner was sponsored by the Trauma Intervention Programs (TIP) Southwest Riverside County Chapter and was spearheaded by the local branch's Executive Director, Gina Magee.

Her husband, Lake Elsinore City Councilman Bob Magee, performed the honors as emcee.

The event was held at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore and honored 14 individual emergency personnel and one service organization (see complete list below) for going beyond the call of duty to save lives.

Alex, from Lake Elsinore, was the man of the hour at the gala.

In June, the Terra Cotta Middle School student asked permission to go swimming at his apartment complex's pool. His mother was reluctant to let him do so because the family was celebrating a sibling's birthday and they were expecting company.

“She didn’t want me to go, but she let me. And it was weird, because I felt like something was going to go wrong,” Alex said.

Once at the pool, he watched as his adult neighbor jumped into the water with a body board.

“His head kind of snapped back and he hit it on the board,” Alex explained. “I asked if he was okay and he didn’t respond.”

Alex had taken a junior lifeguard class in Orange County, so he went into rescue mode. The teen worked to get the man to the side of the pool, but the injured swimmer couldn’t grab onto the ledge.

“His arm was like spaghetti,” Alex said. “I didn’t know if he was alive.”

He got the man to the pool steps and as Alex and his mom waited for medics to arrive, they could see the man was clearly injured.

“He went in and out of consciousness,” explained Araceli Garcia, the teen's mother.

The story had a happy ending. Although the man suffered a broken neck, he recovered and escaped paralysis, Araceli said.

“He’s in physical therapy but he can walk and go back to work,” she said.

In the eyes of those in uniform, Alex is a hero; they gave him a standing ovation Friday night, and Sheriff Stan Sniff personally thanked the teen for his gallant act.

Alex was in good company; thirteen other people and one service organization – the Lake Elsinore Marine Search and Rescue – were also honored Friday. Each received a certificate of recognition signed by state officials and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

Most of those honored Friday were police officers, fire officials, 911 dispatchers or paramedics.

Christopher Brown, a paramedic with American Medical Response, was one of the honored guests.

He was off duty earlier this year when he checked on a local elderly man who had required AMR services in the past.

The senior citizen -- he had no local family -- confided that he had some chest pain. Brown immediately called in the forces, and medics determined the man was having a heart attack.

“It’s a gift,” Brown said of the opportunity to save lives, but he thanked the TIP volunteers. “You are my true heroes.”

Brown has seen TIP volunteers in action. The volunteers serve as liaisons between officials and the family, friends and witnesses on scene. (Click here to read more about TIP.)

The TIP service is free, and the non-profit organization survives on donations and the willingness of community members to serve. There are currently about 45 volunteers, but Gina Magee said the organization always welcomes more helpers.

For more information on volunteering, contact Magee at 951-226-6793 or click here.

List of those honored Friday night:

Capt. Ernie Sanchez – California Highway Patrol – Temecula

Deputy Orlando Castaneda – Riverside County Sheriff's Department – Temecula

Adriane Campo, MD – Rancho Springs Medical Center

Julie Ideta, RN – Rancho Springs Medical Center

Fire Engineer Sean DeGrave – Murrieta Fire Department

Detective Victor Carrillo – Murrieta Police Department

Randy Merrill – Riverside County Sheriff's Department - 911 Dispatch

Kathy Martinez – Riverside County Sheriff's Department - 911 Dispatch (Martinez was also honored with the Deputy Kent Hintergardt "Top Cop" award.)

Deputy June Cox – Riverside County Sheriff's Department – Lake Elsinore

Deputy Gabriel Constantin – Riverside County Sheriff's Department – Lake Elsinore

Deputy Michael Mosca – Riverside County Sheriff's Department – Lake Elsinore

Deputy Tyrel Burch – Riverside County Sheriff's Department – Wildomar

Alex Garcia III -  Lake Elsinore

Volunteers of the Lake Elsinore Marine Search and Rescue

Christopher Brown – Paramedic with American Medical Response (Brown was also honored with the Chief Phil Armentrout "Top Firefighter" award.)

Detective Victor Carrillo – Murrieta Police Department

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