When a game of "who can hold their breath underwater the longest" turned disastrous, a Parkton teenager became a hero.
Adam Smith, 17, didn't think twice when he heard frantic calls for help as a 16-year-old boy lost consciousness.
Smith dived off a large rock to save the stranger who was drowning off Waimea Beach, Hawaii, where the Smith family was vacationing. With the help of a Marie, he pulled the boy onshore and applied cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which he had learned through the American Red Cross three weeks earlier.
A year later, the track and field star and honor student at Hereford High School in Baltimore County officially become a hero.
At the sixth annual Red Cross Hometown Heroes Awards Breakfast at the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel yesterday, Smith and 15 others received awards and applause from more than 300 supporters. The breakfast raised $30,000 for the Red Cross disaster relief fund.
Hometown Heroes Chairman Eugene Williams introduced actor James Earl Jones and joked about wanting to have the actor's signature deep voice. Jones, who told of overcoming his speech impediment, said a poet who helped him overcome his stuttering was his hero. "If we are lucky, one day when a young person says who his favorite hero is, it'll be no surprise if that person is you," he said.
In Central Maryland, the Red Cross trains more than 2,000 volunteers to help victims of disasters. Some volunteers are firefighters and trained specialists, and others are just teen-agers.
Michele Kirschstein, winner of the Youth Good Samaritan Award, mentored and tutored 8-year-old twin brothers from Africa. Under her care, the boys have increasingly thrived academically and socially.
"Hopefully, especially for the youth, their peers will be able to see the great work they are doing and model themselves after the honorees," said Ruth Tyler, a Red Cross spokeswoman.
For Smith, who won the Health and Safety award for the Hawaii rescue, the call to leadership was natural, said Bob Hoguet, the Red Cross staff director of health and Safety.
"Everyone panics" in dangerous situations, Hoguet said. But Smith took it upon himself to get training to save lives. "Young people are starting to look for these roles," Hoguet said.
Other honorees include Lillian Humphries of Catonsville for outstanding community service; Steven and Joan Isack of Baltimore for mobilizing a large annual blood drive; Eva Pleasant of Harford County for longtime community involvement; Dr. Earl S. Richardson for academic success as president of Morgan State University; Baltimore County's Underwater Recovery Team for water rescues in disaster flood areas; and Marguerite Lohrmann of Catonsville, who created Helping Youth at Risk.
Also recognized were Master Dispatcher Larry A. Mindel of Howard County, for swift and effective emergency telephone communication; the Baltimore Fire Department's Dive Team and naval reservists for saving victims of the water taxi accident in March; Bob Willey of Harford County for volunteering as a firefighter; Baltimore police Officer William Hoover for saving the life of a fellow policeman who was shot during a drug arrest; Angela LaPrade-Neal of Baltimore for her commitment to law enforcement and providing guidance for teenagers; Dr. Thomas M. Scalea for treatment of trauma victims; and David Imre and Elise Babbitt of Baltimore for increasing the visibility of Holocaust survivors.