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American Red Cross awards Buffalo Bills trainers highest honor for on-field heroics

WASHINGTON, D.C. – For their heroic, lifesaving efforts, the American Red Cross has awarded six athletic trainers from the Buffalo Bills the Certificate of Merit, the highest honor given to those who use skills learned in a Red Cross course to save a life. These Lifesaving Awards, which are signed by the President of the United States, the honorary chair of the organization, are given in recognition of the lifesaving power of immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).

During a ceremony in May, the athletic training and medical staff of the Buffalo Bills were recognized with Lifesaving Awards for actions taken in January, when millions of Americans witnessed Bills player Damar Hamlin collapse on the field from cardiac arrest during a football game. When their Emergency Action Plan was triggered, this group immediately called upon their training and preparedness to mobilize the necessary resources and procedures.

“The actions of those receiving these awards have reverberated throughout the country, creating an inspiring movement to learn CPR,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. “Through CPR and AED training, more Americans will have the confidence to act when moments matter.”

“These individuals acted expertly and without hesitation with millions of eyes on them to save Damar’s life,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy. “They are deserving of this unique honor and the NFL will celebrate their lifesaving actions as well by promoting CPR education and training nationwide.”

The Certificate of Merit was presented by Jack McMaster, president of Red Cross training services, to the athletic training staff of the Bills: Nate Breske; Marissa Figueroa; Kelsey Harkins; Denny Kellington; Joe Micca and Tabani Richards.

In addition, the Red Cross recognized the entire staff that made a difference that day with Certificates of Extraordinary Personal Action, which recognize those who step up in an emergency to save a life. Awarded these were Dr. Leslie Bisson; Mark Carrier; Chris Clark; Joe Collins; Dr. Desaree Festa; Dr. Marc Fineberg; Dr. Mark Kim; Dr. Zachary Musial; Kori Reblin and Dr. Tom White.

“Damar Hamlin’s injury underscored the urgent need to ensure that a greater number of people in communities across our country are properly trained to administer CPR and use an AED,” said Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26). “I would like to congratulate members of the Buffalo Bills’ training staff on receiving awards from the American Red Cross. Their swift actions not only proved to be lifesaving, but also inspired communities and schools across the United States to provide CPR training and update their AED equipment, which will save lives now and long into the future.”

“We will be forever grateful for the Red Cross and the certification training that you do to help people know what to do when an emergency situation arises,” said Certificate of Merit awardee Breske, head athletic trainer for the Buffalo Bills.

Every second counts during sudden cardiac arrest, so it is important for everyone to be trained in how to perform CPR and use an AED. Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time without warning, but it usually occurs in adults. Each year, more than 436,000 people die of sudden cardiac arrest in the United States. More than 4.6 million people are trained in Red Cross lifesaving programs every year.

“These individuals did all the right things to ensure a successful outcome,” said Erin Thornton, the Red Cross Instructor who trained the Certificate of Merit awardees. “When emergencies happen, it is vital to rely on your training, and this group responded immediately. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The presentation of the awards coincides with recent announcements from The Smart Heart Sports Coalition, of which the Red Cross is a founding member, advocating for evidence-based policies, delivery of effective CPR and immediate access to AEDs that will prevent fatal outcomes from sudden cardiac arrest among high school students. Several NFL teams, along with other sports leagues and partners, are holding training events in June.

A video highlighting the event is available. To find a CPR/AED class, visit To nominate someone for a Lifesaving Award, visit

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.