Boy recognizes ‘hometown hero’: Veteran EMT is honored by young friend

May 17 to 23 was National Emergency Medical Services Week, a time set aside to remind communities of the life-saving work EMS units across the country perform by being on call day and night. Some of these essential workers are volunteers, such as the Shelter Island EMS.

According to EMS Director Det. Sgt. Jack Thilberg, the, volunteers answered 311 calls last year, and this year they’ve already to emergencies 95 times.

One 12-year-old boy recently recognized one of the Island’s volunteers as a hero, not only for his work as an EMT, but how he has helped his family.

Cristian Sanders, 12, a student at St. Ignatius Loyola School in New York City, was given an assignment to select a hometown hero. He immediately told his mother, Karen Sanders, a second homeowner on the Island for 17 years, “Mark’s a hero.”

Mark Kanarvogel, the veteran EMT and mentor to many EMS volunteers, “has always been there for us,” Ms. Sanders said. “I’m a single mom and his help over the years has meant a lot to our small family.”

Ms. Sanders first met Mr. Kanarvogel a couple of years after she moved to the Island in 2003. A property manager for a nearby house, he alerted Ms. Sanders to a package on her porch and then said if she ever needed anything, never hesitate to ask. Over the years they’ve become friends, and Mr. Kanarvogel has helped with landscaping, putting together a playset for Cristian, and other chores, including removing a raccoon from the house and getting the heat to work.

In addition to naming him his hero, Cristian also understands, his mother said, the invaluable service Mr. Kanarvogel and his colleagues provide. “We know how important the EMS is right now and the risks they are taking. Added to this, is that they all volunteer their time and are heavily dependent on private donations to operate. I’ve told Mark many times that he’s our guardian angel,” Ms. Sanders said. “He’s certainly a hero.”

To donate to the all-volunteer Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services, send checks to Shelter Island Foundation, PO Box 547, Shelter Island, NY 11964. Or go to for other methods to donate.