LEWISTON — Three local people who were involved in lifesaving efforts over the past year were recognized by the Central and Mid Coast Maine Chapters of the American Red Cross on Tuesday at the 16th annual Real Heroes Award breakfast.

Among the seven people recognized March 5 were Adam Salve of Durham, who works with the Auburn Fire Department, Gail Hart of Harpswell Neck Fire Rescue, and Dean Paterson, a registered nurse who lives in Freeport.

“We salute these Real Heroes whose extraordinary courage, kindness and unselfish character help people in need and benefit their communities. They embody the humanitarian spirit that is at the heart of the American Red Cross,” said Johanna Lloyd, chairwoman of the Real Heroes Committee and a member of the chapter board of directors, in a press release.

Salve, who received the first responder’s award, has been a firefighter with the Auburn Fire Department since 2017. Before that, he served as a volunteer for the Cape Elizabeth Fire Department, where he was trained in water rescue.

That training came in handy on April 24, when Salve rescued Maxim McFarland from the Androscoggin River in Auburn after the 9-year-old went into the river to try to locate his 5-year-old brother, who had fallen in.

In an interview held Sunday, Salve called the situation “intense” and said he was very concerned about Maxim’s well-being in the fast-flowing river.

“I was worried about not making it to him in time before he went completely underwater,” Salve said.

“I swam out to him directed by the crews on shore, once I had a hold of him firefighter Joe Gabri had taken a canoe out to meet me,” Salve said. “We put Max in the canoe and brought him back to shore to the awaiting paramedics from Auburn Fire Department.”

Salve said it is difficult not to think of his own son during any call that involves children.

“I have one child in the same age group as Max,” Salve said. “All calls that involve children around his age make it hard not to relate to how the parents must feel.”

Salve said he appreciates the award and recognition from the Red Cross, but wants the community to know he couldn’t have saved Max without the other first responders who helped during the rescue.

“It is an honor for me to be recognized for this award for doing my job,” he said. “It is also hard to be singled out of a group of amazing men and women that all worked incredibly hard  for Max that day.”

It quickly became evident during a phone interview Sunday that Hart, the Emergency Medical Services chief of Harpswell Neck Fire Rescue, has dedicated thousands of hours of her time volunteering since she joined the department in 2011. It took little time for her to climb the ranks and become chief in 2013. A retired kindergarten teacher, Hart is also a hospice volunteer in the community.

After moving to Harpswell Neck from Massachusetts in 2008, Hart said she noticed a need in the community for her in-home hospice experience, and she became certified as an EMT in the process.

“With such an aging population, I saw the need to step up and help out,” she said. “I have also always had an interest in the medical field and I help out because it is who I am. It’s not like I am working, it’s just a natural feeling to do this; volunteering just feels right to me.”

In addition to her volunteering efforts, Hart offers holistic healing as a certified Reiki master.

“My holistic healing work helps me stay in the present moment when I am responding to a call so it really helps me with the work I am doing,” she said.

Like the other recipients, Hart said she’s humbled by the Public Services award she received and said she wouldn’t be able to do the work she does without the people who serve with her.

“I feel like a part of a team and I really appreciate the effort of all the other volunteers because it isn’t my single effort, it’s a group effort and we couldn’t do it without each other.”

Paterson, the recipient of the Services to the Armed Forces award, said she took action after becoming alarmed at the number of veterans who were taking their own lives. In 2012, 22 veterans died by suicide per day nationwide, according to figures in a report from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The suicide rate among middle-aged and older adult veterans is still quite high. In 2018, approximately 65 percent of all veterans who died by suicide were 50 or older. Paterson’s concern caused her to reach out to her close friend Joy Johnson and, from their conversations, Embrace a Vet was formed. Paterson has been working with the organization since the beginning.

“These people served our country, we knew there was something we had to do about the dire situation these veterans were in,” Paterson said. “It was right that with my medical background I step up to this.”

Embrace a Vet offers comprehensive programs to veterans who live with post-traumatic stress or brain injury including Paws for Peace, a program that matches veterans with service dogs. The organization holds an annual four-day residential retreat for veterans as well as an annual Mother’s Day retreat for caregivers of veterans. Both retreats are located at Camp Kieve Wavus on Damariscotta Lake. Additionally, Embrace a Vet offers a support group for caregivers that meets once a month in Brunswick.

Paterson said she’s grateful to the community that nominated her, adding, “I absolutely love what I do and after these veterans go through our programs some of them come back to me and tell me that they are on half of the medications they used to be on or they may not be taking any at all,” she said.

“That makes me want to do a fist pump in the air when I hear that.”

Patti McDonald can be reached at 780-9123 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @pmcdonaldme.

Adam Salve has worked with the Auburn Fire Department since 2017. Before that, he served as a volunteer firefighter for the Cape Elizabeth Fire Department, where he was trained in water rescue.

Gail Hart, chief of Harpswell Neck Fire Rescue, has been volunteering with the department since 2011.

Dean Paterson, left, has volunteered with Embrace a Vet since the program started in 2012. She is shown here with Tracy Shaw, executive director of Embrace a Vet.

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