Chris Carlton’s work for the American Red Cross is plenty heroic: She has served tirelessly on the Silicon Valley Chapter’s Board of Directors for seven years, including two years as board president; she is currently serving as chair of the board’s Development Committee; she has generously supported the Red Cross with financial donations, qualifying her to be a Tiffany Circle member; she has served on the Tiffany Circle Council; and several years ago she even helped draft Culture Initiative values for the Pacific Division.
With that kind of a Red Cross portfolio, it’s easy to see why Chris was selected to receive the chapter’s Clara Barton Award for 2018. The award, named after the founder of the Red Cross, recognizes a volunteer for service in a series of leadership positions held over a number of years; it was given to Chris at the chapter’s Volunteer Recognition Dinner at Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos last spring.
While Chris is proud of her Red Cross efforts, she is the first one to say that her devotion and dedication to the organization stems from the actions of the real hero of this story: her son, Evan.
Evan’s heroism occurred nearly 10 years ago, as he and a girlfriend were returning home from a San Jose Shark’s game. Waiting for a train at the nearby Diridon Station, the couple struck up a conversation with a man and his grandson. “My son turned away for a minute, and when he turned back, the man was on the ground,” Chris says. “The gentleman was turning purple.”
Without hesitation, Evan asked anyone within earshot if they knew CPR; no one responded. “So he just took it upon himself to attempt to revive the man,” Chris says. “Evan started doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and another person nearby subsequently joined him to start chest compressions.”
When the paramedics arrived, they attempted multiple times to restart the man’s heart with a defibrillator. Eventually, they took the victim away in an ambulance.
Evan returned home that fateful night, believing that the man he had tried to save had not made it. “He was pretty depressed about it,” Chris recalls.
Then, some two months after the incident, the family spotted an article in the San Jose Mercury News. In the column, the writer was relaying a message from a reader who was recovering from a heart attack suffered at the train station after a Sharks game. The survivor was looking for a young man he had been speaking to — and who had led the effort to save him that night. He was looking for Evan so he could thank him.
Evan’s family responded on his behalf, and shortly after that, the man (“Paul”) and Evan met. Following their exchange, Paul decided to nominate Evan for a Red Cross Award. Not surprisingly, the nomination was well received by the local chapter, and in 2010, Evan received a Good Samaritan Hero Award. (See this video featuring Evan and Paul.)
Paul was fortunate that night: Evan had worked as a lifeguard for several years, so he was skilled in CPR; and the person who assisted Evan was studying to be an EMT. “It was the two boys, basically, who worked hard to save the man’s life,” Chris says.
Her son’s lifesaving efforts did more than fill Chris and her husband with justifiable pride: The incident spurred them to both get recertified in first aid and CPR themselves. Their Red Cross training put them in touch with chapter personnel, and eventually Chris was asked to join the local Board of Directors.
“Many years ago, I had taken a first aid training class from the Red Cross,” Chris says. “I also taught a first-aid class for a while, but then my career [in high-tech in Silicon Valley] got very busy so I just had to drop it.”
But, since reconnecting with the Red Cross, Chris Carlton has more than made up for her gap in service. While her volunteer work can be time-consuming, it comes with real benefits, says the former HR executive.
“I get to work with people who are on a humanitarian mission,” Chris says. “They are down to earth, put other people first, and are willing to do whatever it takes to help others.”
In other words, she gets to work with people like her own son, Evan.