On March 11, the Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Association held its Annual Awards Banquet at Maneeley’s in South Windsor. Chief John Spencer, serving as emcee, began the festivities with opening remarks, recognizing some important milestones of the organization this past year. These include the delivery of a new ambulance (long delayed due to the pandemic) and that the SVAA became one of the only ambulances with on-board ultrasound equipment which providers have now been trained to use. Also acknowledged was the fact that nine individuals completed the course offered by the SVAA, and became Advanced EMTS (AEMTs), able to perform functions (e.g., administering IV fluids, cardiac monitoring and endotracheal intubation) that non advance EMTs are not permitted to perform. First Selectman Colin Moll graciously thanked the association and its members for their expertise and efforts helping so many.
After dinner the meeting turned from the accomplishments of the organization to those of many of the extraordinary individuals, primarily volunteers who dedicate their time and effort to help those in our town who may be facing one of the worst times of their lives. Sometimes they can turn it into one the best. Such was the case when Jacob Audet and Todd Cushing were called after a planned in-home birth, with a mid-wife present, required medical attention. Soon after their arrival it was determined that there simply was no time to get the expectant mother to a hospital, and the crew assisted the mid-wife with the delivery of a baby girl, then Suffield’s youngest resident.
Many of our readers probably were not even alive forty years ago. But that is when Stanley “Sonny” Osowiecki and William “Bill” Borchers began their service to the SVAA and our community. Forty years! Although William was unable to attend, he was represented by his daughter Kelly McCormick, as both Bill and Sonny were recognized with formal proclamations of thanks, presented by our First Selectman, from both the town and the State of Connecticut, as arranged by Tami Zawistowski. The SVAA also presented each with a rocking chair as partial thanks for their long service.
The Perreault Award is given to any member other than the Chief of Service or the President of the Organization, who demonstrates service beyond the ordinary. Receiving this award, for the second time, was Lt. Kirsten Carr. Starting as an explorer in 2012, Kirsten has already logged 2,000 hours, with the most hours for a non-Suffield resident in the 2019, 2021 and 2021. In 2022, she was promoted to lieutenant, performing the thankless task of scheduling. In 2022, she was also among those completing AEMT training.
The Directors’ Award, which is decided and awarded solely by the SVAA Board of Directors, was an easy decision this year. Jack Muska, who had volunteered service to the organization since 1996, and spent many years on its Board, continued his outstanding service working on the Ambulance Committee inspecting the new ambulance and planning for future ambulances. He also managed the replacement of a roof at the Zak Ambulance Center, attending countless meetings to ensure that the safety of the crews entering and leaving in ambulances remained a priority. During the construction phase Jack was at the building several times a day, picking up debris and the inevitable stray roofing nail that had fallen into the parking lot where, if not promptly picked up, could result in a flat tire for an ambulance on its way to a call. A job well done.
The Officers Award recipient was Jennifer Ferguson, the organization’s office manager, who, while not a provider, keeps members and officers on track. You know the type. She lends a helpful ear and advice whenever needed. A true unsung hero.
The Rising Star Award, awarded to a new member rising quickly through the ranks and stands out among their peers. This year’s recipient was Cameron Wood. The Zak Award, for a member demonstrating service to the public in addition to the SVAA was given to Jennifer Michalman. A provider and Board member, Jenn is well known to many children in Suffield as “Miss Jenn”. In 2022, she returned the role of Lieutenant focusing on community relations and was a constant presence in the community organizing and attending numerous community events to build rapport with the community before the SVAA services are needed.
Paramedic Brianna Berry received a Chief’s citation. Known affectionately as the “Black Cloud” because her calls always seemed to involve the most critical cases, she received the citation for her extraordinary performance. The Chief noted that in his 15-year career he probably was called upon to give Adenosine, a drug used to treat irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) among other reasons, three or four times. Berry had to administer the drug six times this past year.
The Chief’s Citation was awarded (in addition to the baby delivery crew) to Eric Thepsiri, Michael Volodzko, and Lilly Grigley for their critical call handling of a most difficult medical situation.
Lt. Don Miner (in-town) and Jaclyn Ellis (out of town) were recognized for the greatest number of hours volunteering on the ambulance. Don had 714 hours on the ambulance, in addition to numerous hours responding as first responder on scene, training and serving as a duty office. Ellis had 1,350 hours volunteering on the ambulance in addition to many hours volunteering at community events and training. Ellis was also the recipient of the Dependability Award for always being willing to cover shifts (often with short notice) and attending special events.