Heidi Behr’s helping angels honor local heroes at annual steak night


Riverhead Polish Independent Club was bursting at the seams Thursday evening as more than 100 people packed in for the sixth annual “Steak Night” to benefit “The Heidi Behr Memorial Scholarship Heidi’s Helping Angels.”

At the event, the organization commended a group of local firefighters who helped to rescue an rescue an unconscious man from a burning home on Middle Road in January.

Riverhead firemen Ex-chief Steve Beal, Ex-Captain Kevin Burgess, Ex-Captain J.R. Renten and Firefighter Anthony Chiramonte battled waist-high, vision-obscuring smoke to bring the man to safety. 

“We are very honored though we were just doing our job,” Mr. Burgess said. “It is very nice to have the community look at us like this and recognize us for doing our job.”

“You did it quick enough and you made it out on time and for that we thank you,” said Heidi’s Helping Angels President Ron Schmitt.

 The organization is named for Ms. Behr, who was one of two emergency medical technicians killed in a tragic 2005 ambulance crash while they were transporting an elderly patient to the hospital. She was 23-years-old at the time and left behind a young son, Jared.

Bill Stone, who was a paid EMT and lived in Ridge, also died in the crash.

Heidi Behr's parents John and June. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
Heidi Behr’s parents John and June. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

To date, $36,000 in scholarships have been awarded to deserving students in the community in Ms. Behr’s memory, with preference given to EMTs, firefighters and police. This year, the organization has also given $1,000 to two families that have lost their homes in fires and $200 to three young people who rescued a man who fell in the Peconic River.

“Oh my gosh, year after year you just think its going to dwindle down,” Heidi Behr’s mother June. “There are 33 tables jammed in this room tonight and it just grows and grows. You see the same people but then you always see new faces too. It is bittersweet.”

Former Town Supervisor James Stark was also honored posthumously for his efforts to honor the memory of Heidi Behr in 2009.

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz paid tribute to him, saying that “Jimmy was a director and an organizer. He was a catalyst with energy and spirit. Riverhead was Jimmy Stark. Jimmy said we are going to make this work.”

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Photo caption: Heidi’s Helping Angels President Ron Schmitt (far right) and vice president Charles Thomas honored firefighters, (from left) Ex-Captain Kevin Burgess,  Ex-Chief Steve Beal and Ex-Captain J.R. Renten (not pictured Firefighter Anthony Chiramonte), who rescued an unconscious man from a burning home in January. Credit: Barbaraellen Koch