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American Red Cross to Honor Kent State Student and Alumnus for Courageous Acts

Posted March 12, 2012 | Foluke Omosun
enter photo description
Kent State student Eric Johnston saved a 9-year-old girl
from drowning in the Cuyahoga River last summer.
Johnston will be honored for his act of bravery by the
American Red Cross of Summit and Portage counties.

(Photo provided by the American Red Cross)

The American Red Cross of Summit and Portage counties will honor Kent State student Eric Johnston, 21, Kent State alumnus Jared Atkins, 23, and University of Akron alumnus Paul Marschik, 24, for acts of bravery that saved lives.

All three will be recognized at the 2012 Real Heroes Breakfast event on April 14 at 9:30 a.m. at the Bertram Hotel and Conference Center in Aurora. The Real Heroes Breakfast event recognizes individuals who have demonstrated humanitarian spirit consistent with the Red Cross’s mission. Honorees showed acts of courage and selflessness in times of emergency, averting tragedies.

Johnston, a senior music education major, will be honored for saving a 9-year-old girl from drowning in the Cuyahoga River last summer. Johnston also was recognized last year at the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland’s annual Hero Awards Luncheon.

“Once I had gotten in the water, I could see the girl and could tell that she was still very much alive and conscious," Johnston says. “I just started coaching her to swim toward me as I continued to make my way toward her. I was more relieved than anything once I was in the water because I knew that she was going to be able to make it out okay.”

Atkins, who graduated with a B.B.A. in managerial marketing and a minor in management in 2010, and Marschik, who studied fire protection and is a certified emergency medical technician, are being honored for saving 81-year-old Kent State Professor Emeritus Constance Mellott from her burning home. The friends were driving by Mellot’s home this past fall when they noticed flames coming from her windows. They called 9-1-1, while looking for signs of life in the burning house. They found Mellot on the floor yelling for help and were able to get her out. She has since made a full recovery from burns she sustained from the fire. Marschik and Atkins never thought they would receive an award for their acts of heroism on that fall evening when they rescued Mellot.

“It is humbling to be awarded. You don't really expect to receive something when you're doing the right thing. I'm honored though,” says Atkins. “We were driving by when we noticed the fire. It was just starting to flare up kind of bad, so no one had been notified, and we were the first on the scene.
We assumed there was someone inside, and I went around the house looking for a way in before locating the professor."

"It is definitely an honor to be awarded, but at the same time I feel there is no need for the award as I was only saving a life.” Marschik says. “Once we became aware that someone was still trapped inside, neither one of us hesitated to rush in and save the person. Instincts and perhaps young foolishness kicked in.”

Toby Ann Weber, CEO of the American Red Cross of Summit and Portage counties, praises all three men for sacrificing their own personal safety to help others in times of great need.

“What is notable about both of these stories is that Paul, Jared and Eric all put their own lives at risk to save someone else,” Weber says. “These young men were pulled from their everyday activities to find themselves confronting an emergency. They had a choice — they could keep going or step forward to help. Fortunately for those whose lives were saved, Paul, Jared and Eric each made the choice to help. Most of us will never be called upon to run into a burning house or wade into a fast-moving river to save someone else — for this reason we are honored to recognize these ‘everyday’ heroes.”

For more information about the American Red Cross of Summit and Portage counties, visit