MORRIS PLAINS, N.J. – The Andrew Carnegie Hero Fund, which honors individuals who risk their lives to save others, recently awarded the esteemed Carnegie Hero Medal to Nicholas “Kolia” Siokalo. This past September, Mr. Siokalo saved a young child from drowning in a riptide at a beach in Belmar, N.J.
The Hero Fund’s narrative provided these details:
“Carnegie Hero Nicholas Stephen Siokalo saved 7-year-old Chase A. Hannawacker from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean September 14, 2019, off the coast of Belmar, N.J. An aunt was holding Chase while wading in the ocean when a wave carried them away from shore to deeper water. They waved and shouted for help, and 27-year-old brand strategist Siokalo, of Lutherville, Md., responded. As he swam toward them, another wave separated Chase from his aunt, with a rip current taking Chase to a point about 90 feet from shore. Siokalo reached Chase and carried him on his hip while Siokalo trod water. They submerged many times and were carried another 55 feet before alerted lifeguards responded with flotation devices and towed them to safety. Chase wasn’t injured, but Siokalo was nearly exhausted, vomited and swallowed water. An ambulance took him to the hospital, where he was treated for several hours for symptoms of near drowning. He recovered.”
The story of this heroism was featured on CBS News Baltimore, the Andrew Carnegie Hero Fund’s Facebook page and other news outlets.
For the many of those who know Mr. Siokalo, his brave actions came as no surprise. They reflect his generous and selfless character as well as his multi-year dedication to volunteering with children.
The son of Zirka and Petro Siokalo, Mr. Siokalo is a Philadelphia native raised in a close-knit Ukrainian community. He attended Ukrainian Saturday School from first grade and successfully completed the comprehensive curriculum by passing the “matura.” He is also a long-time member of the Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization, participating in weekly Plast meetings throughout the year and summer camps at the Vovcha Tropa campground in East Chatham, NY.
As a camper, Kolia earned merit badges, explored the joys of living in nature, and celebrated cultural traditions, all conducted in the Ukrainian language. Throughout his college years, Mr. Siokalo served as a Plast counselor at multiple summer camps for both younger boys and teenagers. His love of Plast continues to the present day via his active membership in the Plast fraternity Siromantsi.
He attended Council Rock High School North in Newtown, Pa., and graduated with a degree in business administration and marketing from West Virginia University, where he played on the school’s nationally competitive Club Volleyball Team. An all-around athlete, he also played soccer for the Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals Soccer Club.
Mr. Siokalo works at Stanley Black & Decker as an associate brand strategist, having progressed through a series of sales and marketing positions.
On April 21, the Plast World Executive voted to award the Plast Bronze Cross for heroism to Mr. Siokalo.
Without a doubt, on September 14, 2019, he was the right person at the right place at right time.