Monday, May 20, 2024

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Westport Rotary Honors Five for Heroism, Community Service

The Westport Rotary Club held its 45th annual Family Dinner Wednesday night and honored five individuals for heroism and community service.
Among them was Kevin Slater, 39, of Stratford, who pulled Robert Paniccia, a 17-year-old Staples student, from a burning car wreck Aug. 1.
Slater is a former Westport EMT and came upon the Hyde Lane accident on his way home from a summer school theater program where he is a technical director.
The two had not seen each other since that night. Paniccia gave Slater a big hug before the overflow crowd of more than 400 in the Bedford Middle School cafeteria.


Robert Paniccia gives a hug to his rescuer, Kevin Slater. WestportNow.com photo


Michael Garcia accepts award from Fire Chief Denis McCarthy. WestportNow.com photo

IӒm here to thank Mr. Slater, Paniccia said, addressing the audience from the podium as his rescuer, a broker at the William Raveis real estate Westport office, looked on.
ԓBetween the surgeries, recovering in the hospital, going to therapy, and catching up at school, I have been unable to meet you before tonight.
ԓI know we have spoken on the phone, but I am glad to be here tonight to thank you in person.
From what I have been told, it was a very scary scene, but you put your safety aside and rescued me from that burning vehicle. I donӒt know how many people would have done that.
Because of your unselfish act, I am able to go on with my life. Thank you for what you did for me.Ӕ
Paniccia, a member of the Staples soccer team, also thanked the Rotary Club and town emergency services for acknowledging Slaters act.
Slater will be honored by the town at a Dec. 17 brown bag lunch and has also been nominated for a Carnegie Hero Fund Commission medal.
Also honored by Rotary for heroism were Michael Garcia, the Westport/Weston YMCA aquatic director, and lifeguard Sabrena Lary.
They helped rescue an 81-year-old swimmer who suffered a medical emergency in the YMCAҒs pool June 16.
Lary was unable to be there for the ceremony so Garcia accepted the award from Fire Chief Denis McCarthy for both of them.
The Rotary Club presented community service awards to Westporters Jeri and John Skinner for their leadership in the Builders Beyond Borders program for the past decade.
The program offers high school-age youngsters the opportunity to participate in humanitarian construction projects in developing countries.
Rotary Club members served as waiters, cooks, and clean-up help. Proceeds from the event are awarded to charitable organizations.

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