Eagle County’s first responders are honored at ‘Night of Excellence’
Winners include police, paramedics, firefighters and others
Doug Schwartz is proof that there’s really no such thing as off duty for first responders.
Schwartz, of the Etown restaurant in Edwards, Thursday presented a Distinguished Service award at “A Night of Excellence,” a dinner and ceremony honoring Eagle County’s first responders.
Schwartz told a story of an Etown patron who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest one evening. Shelly Belknap, an oncology nurse at the Shaw Cancer Center, was also at the restaurant that night, as was Stephan McGaffick of the Beaver Creek Ski Patrol.
Both jumped into action, with Belknap performing CPR and McGaffick running to grab a nearby automated external defibrillator, or AED device. The device worked as it should, shocking the patron’s heart back to life.
Working together, the two kept that patron alive until help arrived.
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That patron turned out to be Schwartz.
“You don’t expect to be called to duty when you’re out to dinner, Belknap said, adding her thanks to McGaffick. She also thanked Vail Health and Starting Hearts, a local nonprofit that has put AED devices all over the valley.
Belknap also thanked Schwartz, “who decided to stick around.”
The honor of service
All 14 of the awards given Thursday honored those who believe pubic service is an honor, and take that honor to heart.
Amelia Van Dyke, Parker Armberg and C.J. Castle of Eagle County Paramedics were honored for their work getting a very sick patient from Vail to Denver.
Plenty of patients every year take that ambulance ride. But this call required the crew to get their patient to Denver while hooked to a ventilator, with nine medication infusions delivered on the way.
A crew from the Colorado Department of Transportation was honored for work in evacuating people from Glenwood Canyon when mudslides last summer closed Interstate 70.
John Harris of the Eagle County Road and Bridge Department accepted the award for his people keeping motorists safe while the mostly-dirt road over Cottonwood Pass was the main route between Gypsum and Glenwood Springs.
Beyond keeping that traffic safe, a county crew also responded to a 2 a.m. call to aid a motorist, traveling with two small children, who had taken a wrong turn and ended up at LEDE Reservoir.
Harris thanked his team, a common theme among award recipients from police and fire agencies to department of transportation recipients and the crew from the Eagle County Public Health Department Disease Prevention and Control Team.
A night of gratitude
Those who presented the awards also expressed their gratitude.
Presenting a Leadership Award to Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority Deputy Chief Richard Cornelius, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin talked about his gratitude to those who serve.
Chapin talked about Vail firefighter Scott Bridges, who was badly injured in 2019 when he was hit by a car on an icy morning while trying to help other accident victims in a multi-car pileup along I-70.
“The people in this room are the ones who come to the rescue,” Chapin said.
“I’m not the one should be up here,” Chapin added. “I wish more people could see nights like this,” he added.
Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said while the valley is full of people who have stepped outside their comfort zones to serve the community, those honored Thursday are the ones who run toward danger.
“Giving is what it’s all about,” van Beek said. “There’s a strong sense of duty” among those people, he added. “It’s more than a slogan … it’s a lifestyle.”
The lead sponsors for the Nov. 18 awards for the valley’s first responders included:
Starting Hearts and the local Rotary Club.
Town of Vail
Town of Gypsum
Sweet Leaf Pioneer
Davis Partnership Architects
Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate