American Red Cross to honor real-life heroes
Musicians and young boy among the 26 lower Fairfield County honorees
When most people think of real-life heroes, the first thought that usually comes to mind are those men and women who wear a badge, such as police officers and firefighters. They are heroes for sure, but heroes come in all forms, shapes and sizes.
This will be evident when the Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross honors three from Fairfield later this month at the Lower Fairfield County 2010 Heroes Breakfast. The youngest honoree, 8-year-old Thomas Stasko, stands under 5 feet tall but is as brave as any hulking firefighter. Back in September, without thinking about his own safety, he rushed into neck-deep water at Lake Mohegan to save his dog, Buster, a 90-pound, 4-year-old boxer. After the dog fell in, Thomas made his way down 10 to 12 feet of wet rocks. It had been raining. His mother was a nervous wreck. Irene Stasko was going to try to make the save herself, but before she could tell Thomas to stay back and watch his younger brother, Thomas had already made his way to the river.
Lyn Fine-McCarthy, senior development and community relations officer for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross, said Thomas is more than deserving of his Good Samaritan (Youth) Award.
"He didn't think for a minute that anything was going to happen to him. He needed to get to his dog," Fine-McCarthy said. She added, "It's one thing for an adult to run into a pond -- an adult who can take care of him or herself in the water -- but this was a little kid, who saw his pet struggling. He didn't care [about the danger]."
Thomas pushed the dog closer to shore, where his mother was waiting to grab him. Buster, whose eyes were now bloodshot, collapsed on the bank of the river but eventually showed improved signs of health. Thomas, who had his first swimming lesson at age 2, told his mother that if he hadn't saved his dog, he would cry for the rest of his life.
The two other heroes that hail from Fairfield are harmonica player Jerry Vigorito and Rob Fried, who plays bass guitar. Instead of performing feats of physical strength, they use their musical talent and their connections to raise money for various causes through music. Band Together -- which has a core musical collective of about 40 musicians, but has an extended family of another 85 -- had its first show in 2006 at The Grange in Weston to assist Habitat for Humanity.
Its most recent show -- show No. 15 -- took place this past January at the Fairfield Theatre Company (FTC) and raised money for victims of the earthquakes in Haiti. In four years, Band Together played an integral role in helping local charities, including the American Red Cross, raise more than $450,000. Band Together's next show -- a Motown-themed event which will include a performance by Ronnie Spector -- will take place on April 1 at the Westport Country Playhouse. Money raised will benefit Save the Children's Haiti fund.
Vigorito and Fried will be receiving the Community Impact Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross at the March 25 heroes breakfast.
"Winning this Impact Award and being acknowledged as a hero by the Red Cross, Jerry and I are going to look back on this and we're going to feel that this is one of the most important things in our lives," Fried said. "We want to enjoy life but we also want to feel a deep sense of purpose."
Vigorito and Fried are successful businessmen but money is not the be-all and end-all for them. They formed Band Together because they wanted to contribute to the community, to the area, in some way. And, they hope, it will get them one step closer to Heaven.
Band Together can modify its events based on what a specific charity wants. Want jazz? No problem. Want Motown music for your event? No problem. Want rock or blues? No problem.
Sacrifices are made to help others who need a helping hand. Show rehearsals sometimes keep Fried and Vigorito from seeing their families as much as they would like.
"The women in our lives realize this is a passion and to take that away would just kill us," Vigorito said. "You have to have an understanding family."
Vigorito said he is humbled by the Community Impact Award honor. Something like this, he said, "never was our intention, never in our sights."
He added it's about more than music.
"Music is really just the avenue we have taken to do God's work. We were given a talent, we were given a purpose to be here, and this is it," Vigorito said, who admitted he feels a little awkward whenever he sees the electronic billboard by Interstate 95 that promotes the duo as Community Impact Award winners.
His goodwill has inspired similar work from his daughters. One is in Georgia on spring break helping to build Habitat for Humanity homes while the other is raising money for breast cancer by selling headbands.
"That's leading by example. That's walking the walk," Vigorito said. He noted he's having a lot of fun while helping charities raise funds.
"When you help other people it makes you happy," he said.
Fried said Band Together actually encompasses more than the musicians who lend their support. "It's all of us, the community, the charity itself, the sponsors, the band."
Fried, Vigorito and Stasko are three of 26 individuals -- spanning 13 towns/cities -- that will be recognized at the heroes breakfast. Fine-McCarthy said it was tough for the nominating committee to decide who to honor.
"Every story is a compelling story," she said.
The ninth annual event will be taking place at the Trumbull Marriott at 7:30 a.m. on March 25. The hotel, Fine-McCarthy said, is under-writing the cost of the awards. Anyone interested in tickets ($35) should call 1-860-770-7331 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org