When Eileen Castro stopped on the freeway to help a woman who'd been in a crash, she thought of her dad, who had helped someone in a similar situation when Castro was younger.
The driver was having a seizure and vomiting. Worried the woman might choke, Castro, 34, shoved a wallet into her mouth to help her. When the woman stopped breathing, Castro performed CPR. The woman survived.
Castro's actions led to a Real Heroes Adult Good Samaritan Award Thursday from the Kern County chapter of the American Red Cross. She was one of 10 local people and one organization honored with Real Heroes awards, now in their 13th year.
"There was a time when I was moving to Bakersfield with my father and there was an accident when a trailer caught fire and he stopped to help," Castro said. "So I thought, 'What can I do to help?'"
Castro's son, Josh Thomas, 15, nominated her for the award. He is a volunteer with the Kern County Red Cross and started the Red Cross Club at Bakersfield High School.
Thursday's awards, held at the law offices of Young Wooldridge, were a prelude to an April 5 dinner that's a major fundraiser for the Kern Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Christian Lozano, 16, was the youngest award recipient. He was given the Youth Role Model award for saving an 11-year-old girl from drowning near Ventura Pier on June 28.
That day, he saw her call for help, swam 1,700 feet to reach her and then fought 15-foot waves to bring her back to shore.
"Nothing was going through my mind," Christian said. "I just wanted to go save her and my adrenaline was pumping."
Lozano hopes to enlist in the Marines and later join the Coast Guard as a rescue swimmer.
The oldest awarde recipient was Stephen D. Curtis, 81, with the Spirit of the American Red Cross award. In addition to driving a Red Cross emergency vehicle for 65 years, he has volunteered numerous times to assist in areas ravaged by floods, fires, earthquakes and hurricanes.
"A hero is just an everyday person who goes above and beyond to help someone else," said Amy Smith, executive director for the Kern Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Others awards given included:
*Fire Rescue Hero -- Paul Abarquez was a rookie Kern County firefighter when he pulled a woman from a burning home in Tehachapi on June 30. After hearing screaming from inside the residence he ripped off the siding, saw her bare feet and pulled her out by her ankles. Despite significant burns, the woman survived.
*Health Care Hero -- Dr. Robert Jones started a small hospital in rural Tanzania five years ago. He travels there twice a year at his own expense for stays of up to three weeks and has performed more than 400 operations. He has traveled to Haiti four times since the 2010 earthquake. He was absent Thursday because he was on a medical mission in Mexico.
*Animal Rescue Hero -- Linda "Trixie" Hodges runs Unity Thrift and Outreach Animal Rescue in Taft. The organization has rescued, spayed, neutered and relocated more than 1,500 abandoned dogs and cats, and found homes for them all over the U.S. and Canada.
*Law Enforcement Hero -- Kern County Deputy Brad Bays was involved in apprehending a murder suspect, who fired several shots at the deputy. Nevertheless, Bays helped in the arrest of the suspect, preventing several bystanders from possible injury.
*Law Enforcement Hero -- California Highway Patrol Officer Bill Menta rescued a 66-year-old woman Nov. 21 from a car sinking during a rainstorm. The car had floated off Highway 58 and the woman was trapped as water rushed inside. Menta pulled her out through a window.
*Community Partner Hero -- Honor Flight Kern County is a nonprofit that transports veterans to Washington, D.C. to their respective service memorials at no cost. It has flown more than 300 local veterans as a way to recognize their important contributions to the country's freedom.
*Fallen Hero -- Tech. Sgt. Mark Smith, 30, of the U.S. Air Force died Aug. 5 in Okinawa, Japan while on a training mission prior to redeploying to Afghanistan.
*Fallen Hero -- Tech. Sgt. Herman "Tre" Mackey III, 30 of the U.S. Air Force, was one of three members of the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron who died in a May 3 military refueling plane crash.