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First responders honored at Huntington Beach blood drive

Cliff Walker, with the Seal Beach Fire Department, speaks with Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta.
Cliff Walker, left, a firefighter based at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, speaks with Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta during an awards ceremony for nominees of the “Share Your First Responder” program on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

His name is a bit of a misnomer, because Cliff Walker loves to run.

The Irvine resident, 53, said he’s run more than 40 marathons, six half-Ironman competitions and one full Ironman.

Walker, who used to live in Huntington Beach, returned to Surf City on Wednesday to receive a special award. He was one of four first responders honored during a blood drive hosted by Nuvision Credit Union, the American Red Cross and the Huntington Beach Fire Department.

The event was held at Refuge Calvary Chapel Church. The church’s inside auditorium was used for the blood drive, in which more than 100 people gave blood. The local fire department was on hand grilling hamburgers.

Walker, who served two tours in the Navy, works as a firefighter at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station. His message during COVID-19 is ultimately one of hope.

“Understandably, [the pandemic] has created a lot of setbacks for a lot of people,” said Walker, who plans to run across the state of California next year in one month — a little more than a marathon each day — to raise awareness for his issues. He said he would be donating his entire $500 prize to Muertos Coffee Co.’s “Roast For Relief” foundation, which raises money for first responders.

“You’ve also got to look at what’s good out there, man,” Walker said. “Everybody’s coming together. Everybody’s kind of meeting this head on. In order to get past it, we’ve got to get through it first. The only way we can do that is following the rules, as much as they suck. For me, from military to paramilitary, following the rules is something I’ve done.”

Patricia Malvica draws blood from Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize.
Patricia Malvica draws blood from Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize during a blood drive at the Refuge Calvary Chapel church in Huntington Beach on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Walker was one of the first responders who received an award in Nuvision’s first year sponsoring the contest. Eastvale resident Mike Pradin of Los Angeles County Fire Station 51 was another.

“I was surprised,” said Pradin, who has been with the department for 16 years. “I mean, a lot of us feel like we’re trained to do a job we have, and we’re happy to do it. But it’s nice of them to be doing that. It’s nice to see the fire truck here, and it’s nice when they honor law enforcement and first responders. I’m just one of many.”

Kelly Jones of Riverside, 34, also was on hand to receive an award. During the pandemic, Jones pivoted and was stationed in Costa Mesa as part of the disaster response team for Cal-MET, spending months away from her family.

The fourth award recipient was Margarita Gardner, an Orange sheriff’s deputy.

Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta was happy to be at Wednesday’s blood drive, which also featured singing and dancing.

“If there’s a bright spot to COVID, it’s that the community has just come together in so many ways,” Semeta said. “People have pivoted, people are being flexible and doing different roles than they did before to stand up and help each other. That’s been incredibly gratifying as mayor, to watch that. Huntington Beach has always been a community that watches out for each other, and we’ve really seen that exponentially grow this year because of the circumstances that we’re all under.”

Semeta was not the only member of the Huntington Beach City Council to attend. Barbara Delgleize also showed up to give blood.

Delgleize said she gave blood a few months ago and recently received an automated phone call from the Red Cross to do so again. She said her blood type is O-positive, which is needed because it’s given to patients more than any other blood type.

“I just really appreciate when the community comes together and does stuff like this,” Delgleize said. “I’m a longtime Realtor, and I know how important community is. When people buy a home, they want to know if it’s safe to live here. We have great schools, we have great services, and we also have people that love to voice their opinions, sometimes too loudly. But overall, I think it’s an amazing place to live.”

Chris Brahney, right, with the Nuvision Credit Union, gives a check to Mike Pradin, a Los Angeles County Firefighter.
Chris Brahney, right, with the Nuvision Credit Union, gives a check to Mike Pradin, a Los Angeles County Firefighter, during an awards ceremony for nominees of the “Share Your First Responder” program on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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