Community heroes to be recognized at annual Heroes with Hearts dinner and fundraiser


Heroes aren’t born, they’re created. They are the life-force of everyday citizens doing kind acts, not expecting to receive any benefit. They are those who make it a priority to go out of their way to help someone in need.

Trauma Intervention Program of Southwest Riverside County hosts their annual Heroes with Hearts Awards Dinner and Fundraiser to recognize the acts of law enforcement, the fire department, the medical field and everyday citizens. TIP will host this year’s 14th annual Heroes with Hearts Awards Dinner and Fundraiser Saturday, Oct. 5, at Pechanga Resort Casino.

Kathleen Cohen, deputy coroner for Riverside County, received a call regarding a Target employee that had been killed returning home from work.

“He had just finished his shift at work and was on his way home. It was a single vehicle traffic fatality,” Cohen said. “I noticed several grocery bags all over the side of the road. The items were destroyed. I had gone to his place of employment to confirm his home address and was told what a model employee he was and how he was the sole breadwinner for the family.”

Cohen has been with the Riverside sheriff’s department since 2007 and was promoted to deputy coroner in 2008.

“Our line of work is very emotional. You never become hard or desensitized. We deal with death on a daily basis. See things that most people never see their entire life,” Cohen said.

Cohen notified the family.

“After I notified his mother, I realized how little they truly had,” she said. “I went back to the store and purchased what I could remember I had seen on the roadway and a few other items. I didn’t go overboard and took them back to his family. It wasn’t anything huge, but I knew it would help them. They just lost someone so important to their family, it was the least I could do.”

Cohen was awarded the “Top Cop” award by TIP Nov. 2, 2018, for her service to the community.

“Our yearly Heroes with Hearts Awards Dinner is to recognize first responders that have gone above and beyond the call of duty and have shown extraordinary compassion for their client or people they are called out too,” TIP CEO Magda Stewart said.

There will be several awards given out that night, among others: Top Cop, Top Fire and The Founder’s Award. The Founder’s Award was created in memory of TIP’s now retired founder, Wayne Fortin. The Founder’s Award was implemented this last year. Volunteers of TIP or peers can nominate an individual for the award.

“Our event is not just a way to recognize those who have gone above and beyond, but it’s also a way for us to interact with our first responders on a happier note, for a couple of hours,” Stewart said.

Fire apparatus engineer-paramedic Brian Neely was nominated with his partner firefighter-paramedic Brian Chase for responding to a call regarding a homeless individual who needed help.

“The gentleman I happened to run into that day initially came in as a person on the side of the road possibly needing medical attention,” Neely said. “After talking with him and seeing what the situation actually was, the man had turned out to be just sleeping, tired and hungry.”

Neely and Chase took him to McDonalds.

“I told him to order what he wanted,” Neely said. “He initially only wanted two items; I told him again to get whatever you want. After thinking about it, he only ordered another item, possibly embarrassed to accept the offer. I put myself in his shoes since I could be in them. I began to order him more items to give him some sort of relief so he didn’t have to feel like he was taking advantage of the offer. He was very grateful and smiled almost tearing up.”

After they had helped the individual with a meal, they contacted their dispatch center to find out about getting him into housing.

Neely has been with Cal Fire since 2002 and has worked in Palm Desert, Temecula and Menifee. Currently, he works with the Perris battalion.

“Never forget why you wanted this career,” Neely said. “We could be in his shoes at some point in life. Remember to treat people the way you would want your family to be treated. Sometimes people need medical attention but sometimes it’s just to listen or help in another way.”

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Lexington Howe can be reached by email at