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Click to enlarge The Medal Awards Program was instituted before the country had such public safety organizations as the US Coast Guard or local emergency response capabilities. The medal serves to provide recognition for the rescue effort, and the accompanying financial stipend acknowledges that individuals take extreme personal and economic risks to themselves and their families in attempting to save the lives of others.

Click to enlarge Andrew Sloane received the first medal in 1786 for saving a boy who broke through ice on a mill pond. He was given 28 shillings. The program evolved into three medal categories based on the severity of the rescue situation: silver, bronze and certificate. The Trustees continue to make a large number of awards for rescues from drowning, but today they also consider a variety of emergency situations such as vehicle and airplane accidents, fires and dog attacks where life is at risk.

The By-Laws of The Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts state:

"any person within this Commonwealth, or any citizen of this Commonwealth, who shall by signal exertion or peril save or attempt to save human life, or any person who shall by signal exertion or peril save or attempt to save the life of a citizen of the Commonwealth, may be entitled to receive a medal or a certificate of the Society or a monetary reward, or both a reward in money and a medal or certificate for the same act of heroism."


A civilian who voluntarily saves, or attempts to save, the life of another person may be considered for recognition by The Humane Society, provided either the person rescued or the rescuer is a Massachusetts resident.

Professional public safety employees and military personnel are excluded from consideration except if they are off-duty at the time of the incident.

If the individual attempting the rescue dies, the award may be made to the widow (er), parents or children of the rescuer.

Awards are typically made within 12 months of the act.

» Click here to download Rescue Report Forms

Examples of Recent Awards:

Scituate, MA
A man walking along the shore near the mouth of the North and South Rivers heard screams coming from about a quarter mile from Third Cliff. Using a kayak beached nearby, he paddled in the direction of the screams and located two brothers in their late teens. He was able to grab one brother who fell unconscious, but the undercurrent carried the other man away from his reach. Unable to paddle the kayak and hold onto the victim at the same time, the rescuer raised one arm to signal the rescue helicopters. He assisted the victim by clearing his throat of seawater and trying to help him regain consciousness. The rescue personnel administered CPR and transported the victim to the hospital. The Coast Guard searched for the other brother, but his body was never found.

Boston, MA
An off-duty US Coast Guardsman was awakened by the smoke alarm in his fifth floor apartment. With smoke pouring out from the walls and floor of his apartment, he attempted to activate the fire alarm system but it malfunctioned. He then used his cell phone to notify the fire department and ran to the apartment directly above the fire to wake the occupants and aid in their safe evacuation. He continued to notify all the residents, going from floor to floor and helping them to safety. As he left the building for the last time, the police and fire officials had arrived but the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor apartments were destroyed. No injuries were sustained.

Taunton, MA
A man lost his life at First Pond while saving the life of a boy who had fallen through thin ice while fooling around with a friend. He was walking home from work when he heard cries for help from the pond and encountered the boy's friend running to find the boy's mother. When the mother arrived at the pond, she watched the man push her son to safety onto the ice. But, to her horror, her son unwittingly kicked his rescuer and caused him to go under water. It took divers nearly an hour to locate his body in 10 feet of water.

Monterey, MA
A high school senior who served as Ground Team Leader of the Plymouth Civil Air Patrol was alerted via his beeper to the crash of a private plane in the Berkshires. He quickly notified two other volunteers and they drove in a severe winter storm to Beartown State Forest. Hiking in icy snow, they found the crash site and discovered a 2-year old boy alive beside the plane suffering from exposure. The team located two other brothers, ages 5 and 10, who had also survived. They stomped down the snow to prepare a safe landing area in the dangerous terrain for the medical helicopters. The Ground Team Leader coordinated the rescue effort with his base of command, and the three boys were airlifted to the hospital. Their parents and two other siblings perished in the crash.

Newbury, MA
A surfer had changed out of his wetsuit when he heard shouts from two people about 150 feet off shore. Paddling on his surfboard, he reached a teenage boy and a man who had attempted to rescue the boy. Both were exhausted and unable to fight the strong current in the fifty-degree water. Holding both on the surfboard, the rescuer brought them safely to shore through 6-foot waves. They were taken by the rescue ambulance to the local hospital and later released.

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