Red Cross recognizes Pittsburgh heroes who stepped up to aid others

| Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Richard Spear first became interested in helping orphans as a boy watching Mickey Rooney in the movie, “Boys Town.”

“Many years ago, I thought to myself, ‘I have a good life compared to orphans,' ” said Spear, 71, of South Fayette. ”I was only 10 or 12 years old.”

About 60 years later, he has raised nearly $1.7 million to help orphans in Colombia and Haiti. On Thursday, he was one of seven people the American Red Cross honored at its fifth annual Heroes Breakfast in Consol Energy Center.

Spear said he first turned his attention to orphans in Colombia because it was more manageable than Haiti. Still, it was not easy.

“Colombia was frightening,” said the retired Duquesne University baseball coach. “At that time, there was major devastation throughout the city because of drug dealers and Communist guerrillas trying to take the country over. I was told not to leave my hotel room. When I did leave, I took a taxi that the hotel got for me.”

Three years ago, he said, he felt ready to take on the troubles of Haiti.

“When I first went to Haiti, I got off the airplane, and I could literally smell poverty,” he said.

He has improved three orphanages — two in Haiti and one in Colombia — and built another in Haiti. In addition, he paid for a Colombian orphan to go through medical school and three of her sisters and brother to get through college. The brother is now in medical school.

Spear is leaving on Monday for Haiti, where he will help an orphanage build a kitchen, dining room and an addition to the dormitory. He's preparing to build a dormitory at another orphanage. To help him, visit http://calicharityfund.org.

“I can't (relax),” he said. “I've worked constantly all my life.”

The Red Cross also honored Allegheny County deputy sheriff Sgt. Kevin Faulds.

He received the Professional Responder Hero award for subduing three men who endangered Downtown workers and passers-by during a gunfight on a Friday afternoon in April. Two of the men were shot.

“I had a job to do,” said Faulds, 37, of Whitehall. “My main concern was trying to stop the threat, making sure nobody else got hurt.”

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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