Community News

2018 Law Enforcement and Firefighters Annual Appreciation Award Dinner

by: Mike Klinger
Posted: February 19, 2018

MISSION VIEJO...Mission Viejo Saddleback Valley Elks 2444 hosted their 18th Annual Law Enforcement and Firefighters Appreciation Awards Ceremony Saturday night for outstanding contributions to our communities. Deputy of the Year and Firefighter of the Year awards were distributed to distinguished service in the cities of Mission Viejo. Laguna Hills, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Dana Point, Lake Forest and Laguna Niguel. Mission Viejo Mayor, Ed Sachs, took the podium and stated, "I would like to thank the Elks Lodge for it's continuing commitment of honoring our Law Enforcement and Firefighters in our communities. It is a great opportunity to acknowledge all their efforts for keeping us safe". Joining Mayor Ed Sachs at the annual event was Dana Point Mayor Richard Viczorek and Lake Forest Mayor Dr. Jim Gardner.

Orange County Fire Authority presented our colors


Lodge President, Mike Long, opened the ceremony and welcomed all the service personnel and their families and guests. Master of Ceremonies for the eighteenth year, Dennis Keffer PER, outlined the evening festivities and got the show on the road. Volunteer Girl Scout Troops #261 and #1383 began serving the guests a wonderful dinner of filet mignon sided with garlic mashed potatoes and blanched green beans followed by dessert of apple-berry crisp. Dinner was prepared and plated by the Lodge's all volunteer staff.

Event Organizer, Harvey Boelts PDDGER, presents Deputy of the Year, Southeast Operations to Ryan Durham. Lt. Mitch Wang introduced Deputy Durham



The Honorable Mayor of Mission Viejo Ed Sachs welcomed everyone to the event with OCFS Battalion 7 Division Chief Rob Capobianco


Following dinner, it was time to knowledge the special efforts of our Lodge guests. Captain Ray Diggins introduced Officer of the Year Shaun Conner from the California Highway Patrol. Shaun is a 5-year veteran of the CHP.  Lt. Carl Bulanek honored San Juan Capistrano Deputy of the Year Andrew Ayala, an Orange County native and a 6-year veteran in our armed forces. Batt. Chief Steve Edwards acknowledged OC Fire Authority Battalion 7 Firefighter of the Year Chris Litton, a member of FEMA and a Rope Rescue Specialist. The City of Aliso Viejo Deputy of the Year is Tristan Key. She was presented her award by Exalted Ruler Mike Long and Sgt. David Lee. Motorcycle Officer Joseph Bucaro was honored as City of Laguna Hills Deputy of the Year by Sgt. Matt Prince. Joseph is also trained as a lifeguard and works as a Sheriff IT Specialist, updating and linking communication procedures from patrol units and motor officers to dispatch.

The Elks Lodge hosted another fantastic community event


A graduate of Stanford University, OCFA Battalion 4, Firefighter Jeremy Bart received Firefighter of the Year award from Battalion Chief Mike Conteras. Jeremy also played a key roll in supporting the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Deputy Jaime Cuadras was honored as Deputy of the Year for the City of San Clemente by Lt. Mike Peters and Deputy Justin Smallwood as Deputy of the Year for the City of Dana Point presented by Sgt. Rich Himmel. As part of the Narcotic and Gang Task Force for the City of Lake Forest, Lt. Brad Valentine presented Deputy of the Year to Robert Blackburn. Firefighter Daniel Tieman of OCFA Battalion 6 (San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano) was honored as Firefighter of the Year by Division Chief Rob Capobianco. Division Chief Capobianco accepted the OCFA Battalion 7 (Trabuco Canyon) award for Reserve Firefighter of the Year Eric Sniadoski. Eric splits his time as medical assistant at Mission Hospital and a Reserve Firefighter.

Looks as if OCFA Battalion 4 Firefighter of the Year, Jeremy Bart's son, Gavin, is a firefighter in training


Deputy of the Year for the City of Laguna Niguel is Nicole Laza, a criminal investigator and member of Special Enforcement Team, presented by Lt. Matt McDaniel. Nicole's husband, Jason, was 2016 Deputy of the Year. The City of Rancho Santa Margarita is proud to honor Deputy Andres Briceno as Deputy of the Year. Lt. Luke South presented the award to Andres, a Child Safety Specialist. Deputy Greg Fisher received Deputy of the Year from Lt. Quyen Vuong for the City of Mission Viejo. Greg is a lead Training Officer and an avid pilot. Lt. Mitch Wang, South East Operations, honored Deputies Jay Casas and Ryan Durham as Deputies of the Year, patrolling the areas of Ladera Ranch, Coto de Caza and Las Flores. In 2016, Crissy Teichmann (paramedic) was promoted to Captain for the Laguna Beach Fire Department and received Firefighter of the Year from Division Chief Kirk Summers. 

Exalted Ruler, Mike Long, presents City of Laguna Niguel Deputy of the Year to Nicole Laza with Lt. Matt McDaniel looking proud


Thank you to Harvey Boelts PDDGER for his continued excellence in organizing this annual event. And to everyone who volunteered to help set-up early Saturday morning, to our chefs that prepared a delicious dinner and all other Elk volunteers that made our event possible. We cannot do it without you.

Exalted Ruler, Mike Long, Honors California Highway Patrol Officer of the Year Shaun Conner (right) with Captain Ray Diggins


The Mission Viejo/Saddleback Valley Elks Lodge #2444 is celebrating 49 years of service to Saddleback Valley Communities. It is one of 10 lodges in the Orange Coast District of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) whose headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois. The BPOE is a charitable organization with a 150-year history of giving. "Elks Care Elks Share" For information regarding Elks programs or membership, call 949 830-3557. Photos:Mike Klinger


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