The 100 Club of Buffalo would like to thank everyone who joined us at Samuel’s Grande Manor on Friday, April 21st for our 64th Hero Awards Dinner. It was a great time celebrating and paying tribute to the heroes of Western New York. Thank You to MaryAlice Demler from WGRZ, 2 On Your Side, for serving as the emcee for this year’s event, and helping us honor and share the stories of each of our heroes. If you missed the event, you can watch footage from it here.
Continue reading for a recap of the stories of the remarkable individuals who were acknowledged during the 64th Annual Hero Awards Dinner.
Aaron Salter Jr
Aaron Salter Jr. was a Buffalo police officer for nearly 30 years. After retiring, he worked as a security guard at TOPS Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue. Salter was on duty May 14, 2022 when a heavily armed gunman approached the grocery store. Salter quickly warned customers and co-workers to flee to the back while re remained in the front of the store to protect them. Salter confronted the gunman and fired multiple shots. Salter’s shots failed to penetrate the gunman’s armored vest and when the gunman returned fire, Salter was hit and killed.
Ten lives were lost that day and had Aaron Salter Jr. not been on duty and bravely stepped forward to confront the shooter, many more lives could have been lost. Aaron Salter Jr will always be remembered as a hero who put his life on the line to protect others without hesitation. The 100 Club of Buffalo was honored to recognize Aaron Salter Jr. with a Hero Award for his bravery during the tragedy that took place on May 14, 2022. Aaron’s sister proudly accepted the award on behalf of her brother.
Firefighter Rob Orlowski, North Tonawanda Fire Department
After receiving a call for a building on fire, Rob Orlowski from the North Tonawanda Fire Department quickly arrived at the scene. Rob entered the building in search of any potential victims. Firefighter Orlowski discovered a semi-conscious, 34-year-old woman lying on the floor. The woman, a patient at the facility, suffers with cerebral palsy.
Without hesitation, Firefighter Orlowski rescued the victim from the burning building and provided essential emergency medical care, treating her for second and third degree burns on her face while awaiting paramedics to arrive on scene. Firefighter Orlowski not only saved the woman’s life, but also ensured there were no people left inside. The 100 Club of Buffalo was proud to present Firefighter Rob Orlowski with a Hero Award for his bravery and life-saving work. Rob’s dedication to keeping his community safe is an inspiration to us all.
Reynaldo Beckford, Security Guard, Hispanics United Methadone Clinic
It seemed it was an ordinary day at the Hispanics United Clinic on the West Side of Buffalo, where Reynaldo Beckford worked at a security guard. The, suddenly an armed man entered the premises with a fully loaded AR-15 and began firing shots inside the office.
In the face of danger, security guard Beckford immediately cleared the area of occupants and then tackled the gunman, who was still armed with the AR-15. With the help of another security guard and a bystander, Beckford was able to take down the suspect and restrain him on the sidewalk outside the clinic. His quick actions prevented any loss of life. The 100 Club of Buffalo was honored to present Reynoldo Beckford with a Hero Award for his bravery and dedication to protect others.
Jay V. Withey
The 2022 Buffalo Christmas Blizzard was a generational storm that will be remembered for years to come. The strong winds, freezing temperatures, and heavy snowfall kept Western New Yorkers confined to their homes – for those lucky enough to find shelter. Tragically, some individuals were unable to secure a warm shelter, were stranded in vehicles, or outside.
We are grateful to the first responders and crews from the City of Buffalo, County of Erie, New York State and surrounding towns that worked hard throughout the blizzard to clear the roads, and helped assist in emergency situations. We are also grateful to live in the City of Good Neighbors where so many people helped their neighbors and total strangers throughout this epic winter storm. One of these remarkable individuals was Jay Whitney.
During the storm, Jay was stranded when roads became impassable at the height of the blizzard. With almost no options, Jay located a nearby school and broke a window gain entry and escape the harsh weather conditions. Despite the risk to his safety, Jay ventured back into the storm to rescue other stranded individuals, ultimately saving 24 people and two dogs. Jay led the group into the school and also located food to sustain the group until help arrived or the storm passed. Jay truly exemplified the spirit of the City of Good Neighbors. Jay’s bravery serves as an inspiration to us all. We were honored to present Jay Withey with a Hero Award for his heroic actions.
Officer Will Strehlow, Lackawanna Police Department, and Officer Matthew Leitzel, West Seneca Police Department
When a major fire broke out in a building on Ridge Road near the boarder of West Seneca and Lackawanna, Officer Will Strehlow of the Lackawanna Police Department and Officer Matthew Leitzel of the West Seneca Police Department were dispatched to the scene.
The officers arrived to find the building which housed a restaurant and several apartments on the second floor, completely engulfed in flames and with no access in the front. Despite the dangers, the officers quickly moved to the back of the building, found a ladder, and assisted multiple occupants down from the second floor to safety where they waited for paramedics and firefighters to arrive. Without the quick and courages actions of Officers Strehlow and Leitzel, residents of the building may not have escaped the fire. The fire was so severe, the building was a total loss.
Thank you, officers for your commitment to serving and protecting the community. The 100 Club of Buffalo was honored to present you both with a Hero Award.
Officer Jake Michienzi and Officer Hao Tran, Buffalo Police Department
While on duty, Officer Jake Michienzi and Officer Hao Tran witnessed an individual shoot an elderly man multiple times near the intersection of Broadway and Fillmore.
Without hesitation, the two called for assistance and pursued the armed suspect. During the pursuit the suspect fired at the officers striking their vehicle – with one bullet entering the vehicle and striking Officer Michienzi’s holster. Despite the gunfire, the Officers continued to pursue the suspect on foot.
The suspect aimed his weapon at the officers and in response, the officers shot and wounded the suspect. Michienzi and Tran provided immediate medical attention and took the suspect into custody. For their bravery and dedication to protect and serve, the 100 Club of Buffalo was proud to present Hero Awards to Officer Michienzi and Officer Tran of the Buffalo Police Department.
Firefighter Brian Renowden, Buffalo Fire Department
On multiple occasions, Firefighter Brian Renowden has demonstrated incredible bravery. This past year, Firefighter Renowden again went above and beyond by saving a fellow firefighter who was trapped under a collapsed roof in a building fire.
Despite the danger of the collapsing structure and the risk from smoke and flaming roof materials, Firefighter Rednowden successfully rescued the trapped firefighter.
Firefighter Brian Renowden’s selfless and heroic actions are a true testament to the courage and dedication of all firefighters. Thank you for your bravery and commitment to serving the community. The 100 Club of Buffalo was honored to present Firefighter Brian Renowden of the Buffalo Fire Department with a Hero Award for his outstanding service.
Officer Anthony D’Agostino, Officer Christina Ihle, and Officer Ann Devaney, Buffalo Police Department
May 14th, 2022 will remain a tragic day that forever impacted the community of Buffalo, and the nation. Buffalo Police Officers Anthony D’Augustino, Christine Ihle, and Ann Devaney were the first officers to respond to the scene at TOPS Supermarket on Jefferson Avenue. When arriving, the Officers were aware that the suspect was armed and shooting civilians. Acting quickly, the Officers approached the armed gunman with guns drawn, and ordered him to drop his weapon. Despite the uncertain circumstances and not knowing whether the suspect would turn his modified rifle on them, the Officers faced the threat and continued to command the suspect until he finally dropped his weapon and surrendered.
The courage and professionalism exhibited by the Officers when confronting the armed gunman played a pivotal role in neutralizing the threat and preventing further tragedy.
The officers brave actions and remarkable composure in the face of danger is truly heroic. Their collective efforts prevented further lives from being lost in this tragedy. The 100 Club of Buffalo was honored to present Hero Awards to Officer Anthony D’Augustino, Officer Christine Ihle, and Officer Ann Devaney of the Buffalo Police Department.
John G. Garcia, Sheriff, Erie County
In 2010, while serving as Commander of the Crisis Management Team for the Buffalo Police, John Garcia responded to a call where a suspect had barricaded himself and was firing shots at responding officers, SWAT and firefighters.
Despite the danger, Garcia attempted to negotiate with the suspect and resolve the situation without incident. The distraught individual instead shot at Garcia with his shotgun, hitting Garcia in the face and upper body. Garcia was quickly evacuated by the Buffalo Police SWAT team to ECMC for emergency medical treatment.
Garcia’s bravery and selflessness in risking his life to protect the community is truly heroic. The 100 Club of Buffalo was honored to present a Hero Award to John Garcia, now the Sheriff for Erie County.
The Buffalo Bills Medial Team
We’ve all seen first responders portrayed on primetime TV dramas. Rarely are real first responders on primetime TV. On January 2nd 2023, when the Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during Monday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bills medical team was thrust into the spotlight. Their immediate response and quick action was critical in saving Hamlin’s life.
The medical team’s effort to administering CPR and restore Hamlin’s heartbeat on the field played a crucial role in preventing a tragic outcome. The events which played out in front of a national TV audience serves as a reminder of the importance of having professional, well-trained medical professionals present at sporting events,
The Bills Medical & Athletic Training Staff includes: head athletic trainer Nate Breske, assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington, physical therapist Joe Micca, assistant athletic trainer Tabani Richards, medical director Dr. Leslie Bisson, team internist Dr. Tom White, team internist Dr. Mark Kim, team orthopedist Dr. Marc Fineberg, director of sports performance Joe Collins, team sports psychologist Dr. Desaree Festa, athletic training intern Marissa Figueroa, team chiropractor Dr. Zachary Musial, coordinator of player services Kelsey Harkins and equipment assistant, Kori Reblin.
The 100 Club of Buffalo was proud to honor the Buffalo Bills medical and athletic training staff with a Hero Award.