Ambassadors

Erik Estrada

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Erik Estrada won the hearts of fans across the world during his six years on the TV series, “CHiP’s.” Mr. Estrada has made numerous TV/motion picture appearances since his time on the hit TV show, yet the role he enjoys most is that of a role model to children throughout the world (www.erikestrada.com). By receiving this award, he will be helping many children with autism by spreading the word about this lifesaving program to others, in addition to helping adults with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and related cognitive conditions.

Chief Executive Officer of Project Lifesaver International, Gene Saunders, said, “Mr. Estrada is very supportive of law enforcement and of the services Project Lifesaver offers to clients and agencies, and we thought he would be a perfect ambassador to represent our cause and carry our mission.”

Year Recognized: 2009

Jack Jacobs

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If Jack Jacobs wanted a challenge, he certainly had one in 1966. He had a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, a wife and a daughter, and no money. He had been through ROTC, and his plan was to enter active duty to earn a regular paycheck, then attend law school when his three year Army commitment was finished. He volunteered immediately for airborne duty –
A year later, Lieutenant Jacobs was in Vietnam as a adviser to a Vietnamese infantry battalion in the Mekong Delta. He had wanted to deploy with his unit, the 82ND Airborne Division, and when he asked the Army why he had been chosen for the frustrating job of adviser, he was told it was simply because he had a college degree.

On March 9th, 1968, Jacobs was with the lead companies off his South Vietnamese battalion as they searched for the Vietcong. Suddenly, a large enemy force, hidden in bunkers only fifty yards away, opened fire with mortars, rifles, and machine guns. With no place to hide, many South Vietnamese soldiers were killed or wounded in the first few seconds.

A mortar round that landed just a few feet away sent shrapnel tearing through the top of Jacob’s head. Most of the bones in his face were broken, and he could see out of only one eye. He tried calling in air strikes, but the intense enemy ground fire drove off the U. S. fighters. Shortly afterward, the lead company commander was badly wounded, and the South Vietnamese troops began to panic. Jacobs assessed the situation and realized that if someone didn’t act quickly, everyone would be killed. The words of Hillel, the great Jewish philosopher, jumped into his mind: If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

He assumed control of the unit, ordering a withdrawal from the exposed position to a defensive perimeter. He dragged a wounded American sergeant, riddled with chest and stomach wounds, to safety, then returned to the fire-swept battlefield to rescue others. Each time he returned, he had to drive off the Vietcong, and single-handedly killed three and wounded many others. Despite from being weak from blood loss, he went back time and time again, bringing to safety thirteen fellow soldiers before he tried to take a brief rest – and discovered he couldn’t get up again.

During the helicopter ride to the field hospital, he lost consciousness several times. Days later at another hospital, doctor’s pieced his skull and face together. Though he would undergo more than a dozen surgical operations, he never regained is senses of taste and smell.

Back in the United States, Jacobs was assigned to Fort Benning, where he became the commander of an Officer Candidate company. About a year after the action, he received an order to report to Washington, and on October 9, 1969, at a ceremony at the White House, President Richard Nixon awarded him the Medal of Honor.

After completing graduate school at Rutgers University, where he earned an M. A. in international relations, Jacobs asked to return to Vietnam. The Army granted his request on the condition that he remain out of harm’s way. When he returned to Vietnam in July 1972, though, he immediately got himself assigned to the Vietnamese Airborne Division in the thick of fighting in Quand Tri. He walked away unscathed when the helicopter taking him to his unit was shot down, but he was subsequently wounded again.

Ultimately, he retired as a colonel after 20 years on active duty—quite a bit longer than the three years he had originally planned.

Year Recognized: 2010

Haley Moss

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Haley Moss was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and made international headlines for becoming as the first documented openly autistic attorney admitted to The Florida Bar. She received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2018, and graduated from the University of Florida in 2015 with Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Criminology.

Following her admission to the Bar, Haley learned that less than 1% of lawyers reported having a disability. When she was an associate attorney practicing in healthcare and international law, Haley realized her impact in the field of inclusion as a sought-out public speaker across the nation. To help revolutionize the practice of law, Haley founded her own company to lead the charge of working with businesses and law firms to hire and retain autistic and neurodiverse talent.

Haley is the author of “Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About” and “A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About.” She also illustrated and contributed to the anthology “What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew.” Her writing about autism, neurodiversity, and disability has appeared in publications such as The Washington Post, ABA Journal, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, FastCompany, and more. Haley also co-hosts the Spectrumly Speaking podcast, which is dedicated to women on the autism spectrum. In addition, she has forthcoming scholarship on lawyers with disabilities, disability’s intersection with standardized testing, as well as on crimes against disabled children.

Haley has been featured in major media such as the TODAY Show, Forbes, CNN, USA Today, Yahoo!, and People, to name a few.

She currently serves on the constituency board for the University of Miami – Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and the Board of Directors for Different Brains, is the Chair of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation Junior Board, and is a co-chair of the Miami-Dade Chapter of Florida Association for Women Lawyers diversity committee.

“Project Lifesaver is privileged to have Haley serving as one of our ambassadors. Both Haley and her parents have demonstrated great character by overcoming and flourishing in spite of the many obstacles and challenges they faced. They also clearly understand the importance of educating the community and caregivers of individuals who have cognitive disorders about the safety issues that exists for their loved one that wander”, said Gene Saunders, President and CEO of Project Lifesaver International.

Year Recognized: 2011

Candi Spitz

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Candi Spitz is a former Broadcaster/Host and Entertainment Manager who is married to Heavy Metal Guitarist, Dan Spitz, of the bands Anthrax and Red Lamb. They are the proud parents of 5 year old Identical Twin boys who are both Autistic. Since learning of their disability, Candi has become a vocal advocate for Autism Speaks. She serves as Autism advocate working in the community to raise awareness through public speaking engagements, Radio and TV appearances, Resource Fairs and various events.

As the newest ambassador Candi will join us in our efforts by heading up to establish a $100,000.00 Autism fund to provide transmitters to those families that need the assistance and can not afford them.

“Candi will is a great addition to our ambassador family and we are delighted to have her help us reach goals for the new Autism Fund,” said PLI, CEO & Founder, Gene Saunders.

Year Recognized: 2012

Scott Heckert

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SCOTT HECKERT NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST DRIVER BECOMES A PROJECT LIFESAVER AMBASSADOR

(Port. St. Lucie, FL, September 29, 2014) Over the past year the passion and hard work that Scott Heckert displayed for the sport of NASCAR motor racing has been obvious. The year has been a season of growth and success for Scott and his Turner Scott Motorsports team with two wins, qualifying for the pole position three times, one third place, and finishing in the top five, five times.

But racing is not his only passion. Scott has demonstrated a relentless dedication to help raise awareness of Project Lifesaver International (PLI) program and the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. On Friday, September 26th Chief Gene Saunders, PLI’s CEO and Chief Tommy Carter, PLI’s COS inducted Scott as a PLI Ambassador. Scott is only the fifth person to become a PLI Ambassador. Scott knows from personal experience about the challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Scott’s aunt, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has wandering tendencies, is enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program.

“We are truly grateful to Scott and the rest of the Turner Scott Motorsports team for their support of Project Lifesaver. It is an honor to see the Project Lifesaver logo prominently displayed during the 2014 NASCAR racing season on the #34 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevy. We greatly appreciate both Scott and the Turner Scott Motorsports support and we are privileged to be part of Scott’s amazing journey. PLI will continue to support Scott and his team throughout his career,” said CEO/Founder, Gene Saunders of Project Lifesaver International.

Year Recognized: 2014

Ron Yeaw

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A native of Media, Pennsylvania, Ron graduated from Penncrest High School in 1961. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honors in Economics from Grove City College in northwest Pennsylvania in1965. His 50 year professional career is highlighted by his 30 years of service in the Navy where he completed 3 operational platoon combat tours to the Republic of Vietnam with SEAL Team TWO. He subsequently filled such positions as Chief of Staff of the Joint Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, NC and Commanding Officer of both Underwater Demolition Team TWENTY ONE and SEAL Team SIX, the world’s premier commando force that killed Osama bin Laden and rescued Captain Phillips from the Somali pirates in the Maersk Alabama lifeboat. He served two tours in the Pentagon on the Special Operations staffs of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He earned a Master’s Degree in National Security Affairs from the Navy Postgraduate School, attended the Navy War College, and was the president of his class at the National War College. Ron retired as a Captain in 1995 after having been awarded 45 medals and ribbons including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Navy Legion of Merit, 2 Defense and 3 Navy Meritorious Service Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, 7 Vietnam Campaign Medals, 9 individual commendation medals with the Combat “V” for valor including 4 Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart for multiple fragmentation grenade wounds.

Following his Navy career, Ron served 7 years with the multi-million dollar Research Planning Corporation professional services firm in Falls Church, Virginia. His service included duty as a Program Manager, Director of the Marketing Department and Vice President of the Installations Operation Division.

Following his relocation to Florida, Ron concluded his professional career in 2015 following 13 years with the G4S Professional Armed Security Corporation including service as the Site Security Manager for two upscale gated residential communities.

In 2012 Ron was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of Penncrest High School and was inducted into the Rose Tree Media School District Hall of Fame. In 2017 Ron was presented with the Jack Kennedy Memorial Alumni Achievement Award by Grove City College.

He was recognized as a Project Lifesaver International Ambassador in 2017 and was appointed as the Director of Ambassador Relations in 2020.

Ron and his wife Shelley currently live in Port St. Lucie, Florida which enables him to attend the organization’s headquarters weekly meetings. He is the proud father of twin children and 2 grandchildren.

Year Recognized: 2017

Mara Botonis

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After thirty years in healthcare, working throughout the United States in the senior housing industry, Mara’s life and career trajectory was forever changed when a close family member was stricken with Alzheimer’s. When the Grandfather that served as her primary paternal influence for over 40 years began losing access to the memories that made up his life story, she knew she had to do something to help. She had spent time in hundreds of communities with thousands of families while working in over thirty states during her three decade career in healthcare. Her everyday work at the national level alongside families coping with the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as countless medical and healthcare professionals specializing in these diseases, offered unparalleled opportunities to learn from their collective expertise.

Mara called in all of her favors and spent five years researching and working on her-at-a-glance care guide; “When Caring Takes Courage”. Her self-published book was produced with her husband’s support using their life savings and contains over 1,000 quick tips for family caregivers, compiled in a way that is practical and user friendly.

Mara currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina where she cares for her husband.

Year Recognized: 2019

Volunteer roles have included:

Alzheimer’s Association-Chapter Board Member
National Dementia Action Alliance-Access and Utilization Co-Chair
Project Lifesaver-Law Enforcement/First Responder-Alzheimer’s Educator
US Against Alzheimer’s-National Support Group Co-Moderator
Caregivers.com-Web Content Curator

Contributing writer for:

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s Care Quarterly
www.about.com
www.alz.live
www.alzheimers.net
www.alzheimersreadingroom.com
www.aplaceformom.com
www.commonsensecaregiving.com
www.huffingtonpost.com
www.senioradvisor.com
www.seniorcare.com
www.mariashriver.com

Recognized As:

Best –Selling Author, “When Caring Takes Courage”
A Maria Shriver Architect of Change
2016 Panelist for the Congressionally Directed Peer Reviewed Alzheimer’s Research Program
2015 Recipient of the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service
2015 National Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal Honoree-Outstanding Public Service
2015 Comcast Newsmaker-Alzheimer’s Advocacy
2015 Treasure Coast Healthcare Champion Finalist

Max Gail

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Max Gail, after spending the majority of his formative years trying to “make sense” of the world around him, began acting at the age of 27 in a number of small supporting roles in television shows and movies. He explains that he had never really thought about being a celebrity, but that notion flew out the door after gaining notoriety while portraying what is likely known to be his most notorious role: Detective “Wojo” Wojciehowicz on ABC’s hit sitcom, Barney Miller. Many believe that, unlike most other cop shows of its time, the hit-running show portrayed a more factual representation of community policing with just enough wit and comedic relief. Max portrayed the fun-loving “Wojo” for 8 seasons until the show went off the air in 1982.

Unsurprisingly, given the generation in which he was raised, he has always had a passion for and interest in environmental and social activism, for which he believes influenced much of his on-screen and on-stage work. Within a few short years after the conclusion of Barney Miller, Max decided to step back from his acting career to care for his young daughter after his wife lost her battle with cancer. After later remarrying and beginning to grow his family with more children, he decided it was time to return more prominently to his acting career. That decision was short-lived though, as he quickly noticed a shift that occurred in the industry during his absence, and decided that that was no longer his path. Again, deciding to take a step back from acting, and instead exploring his interest in activism; returning to his roots which were heavily influenced by world activist movements.

During this time, he founded LAP – Local Access Places (www.lap.org). The acronym itself took on many different meanings and metaphors, but the philosophy of the organization, stewed deep in the heart of his passion for social activism, was that being one as a community and society is stronger than the concept of individualism. The goal of the organization was to promote dialogue, through collaboration and integration, that brings people together because while each individual/group/culture is their own, they are more the same than one may think. Max still profoundly believes in this philosophy, and actively tries to spread this belief throughout communities, only now, instead of speaking on the topic during seminars, he has returned to acting, taking on roles that help create a dialogue for a number of issues.

Most recently, Max has taken on the award-winning role of Mike Corbin, the father of the long-term protagonist, Sonny Corinthos on ABC’s General Hospital. For more than 55 years, the soap opera has been taking its viewers on a rollercoaster of stories and plot twists, some a bit more suited for the drama while others depict real-life social problems and solutions, as is the case with Gail’s depiction of an individual succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease. With the significant and growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, this storyline and the portrayal of these characters have resonated with so many people who are also going through the same or at least similar struggles each day.

“Activism has always been heavily prominent throughout my life – something I have always been truly passionate about, and I am proud to be able to continue on this journey as a Project Lifesaver Ambassador, to open communications about the dangers of wandering.”

Year Recognized: 2019