Searcher Spotlight: Nancy Hoffman

One SAR member offers a unique presentation at the academy that few – if any – other SAR members would be as qualified to give. When it comes to legal ramifications of the rescue portion of SAR, Nancy Hoffman has the credentials to shed light on such things as the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the Good Samaritan laws. As a registered nurse AND an attorney AND an assistant professor, she has a good understanding of such things.

Nancy grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and Oak Ridge, Tenn. She attended nursing school in Cincinnati and completed her bachelor’s degree at Holy Names in Oakland. As a Navy Nurse Corps officer stationed in the Philippines, she provided medical services to the U.S. Marines, serving 21 years as both active and reserve, and then was recalled for Desert Storm.

Adding to her skills as a nurse, Nancy obtained her law degree from Golden Gate University and now works as an assistant professor and coordinator of Health Sciences at CSU Eastbay while maintaining a small legal practice in healthcare law, risk management and estate planning.

But while that surely means for a busy life, it wasn’t enough. Maintaining that it is one's responsibility to contribute to the welfare of the community, Nancy chose to be involved with SAR, believing her skill sets to be applicable.

Nancy joined CoCoSAR in 2010. One particular point has stood out to her in her almost-three years as a SAR member: “As I learned in the Navy, teamwork is everything,” she says.

Nancy lives in Brentwood with Connie, her longtime partner. She thrives on spending time with her daughter’s two children. She also loves hiking in the woods and gets her musical fix by playing rhythm guitar and singing in a small band.

Not long ago, she was late to a family get-together and her grandson, Jace, greeted her by asking if she had been out with SAR. When she said she had, Jace said, “Bella (Nancy’s granddaughter) told me you were doing search and rescue. She said if a little boy gets lost, his parents can call you and your friends and you will go find him and bring him home so no one is sad.” 

Then he announced that he wanted to do that when he grows up.  

“That encounter seemed to sum up SAR,” Nancy says. “Service to community and a good example of community involvement for future generations.”

Searcher Spotlight: Chris Coelho

After he took on and completed the Type 1 hike (DEH) immediately after finishing the Type 2 hike recently, it would appear Chris Coelho lives up to his name (Coelho means "rabbit" in Portuguese).

It is also an apropos moniker since he grew up on a Brentwood farm, raising animals and growing food. That background taught Chris to value the environment.

 “As a kid, I learned early on how connected we are to this planet and how our actions and choices we make have consequences,” he says.

His respect for nature and the wilderness carried into his college studies at Chico and Davis, and continued on into his current career in environmental and public health.

It was also a natural segue into SAR.

But it wasn’t only love of nature that brought him into the spring 2010, aka “wet” Academy – he also had the common SAR desire to help others. And he stays motivated by memories of his grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s and was a recurrent walkaway.

“Fortunately he was found often a few hours later,” Chris says. “But experiencing, at a young age, the stress of someone missing sticks with you.”

Chris has attained Type 1 status and plans to help other team members get there. “When we go on multi-agency searches into counties whose entire SAR team may be just 10 people, it is crucial that people in Contra Costa County step up and help out,” he says. “We can do so much to help and we've got some of the greatest instructors to learn from. … It is not only important to our community, but it really is an asset to the state.”

Chris lives in Pleasant Hill with his wife, Cindy, whose support, he says, enables him to be involved with SAR. When he’s not busy with the team or searches, Chris climbs and works out at the Diablo Rock Gym, rides his bike, or enjoys the outdoors via camping or backpacking. He also enjoys traveling, specifically to Central and South America, and bills himself as a “connoisseur of yeast-fermented beverages.”   

He offers a few pieces of advice for SAR members, culled from his experience. The first is simple: Buy gaiters.

But he also says he has learned it is best not to try and do everything, which could lead to burnout.  “There are a lot of things that can be done in SAR and you don't need to rush it all.            

“And last,” he adds, “one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom is to do whatever Kovar says.”  

The Class of 2012

Hello I’m a freshman at Acalanes High School in Lafayette. Before that I attended Seven Hills from kindergarten to eighth grade. I first found out about Search and Rescue through my middle school science teacher and fellow team member Matt Shargel. My brother Adam Blake joined last year, and after seeing what a good experience he had, I decided to join as well.


As a former self-professed “I hate nature” girl, I had little inclination for doing anything remotely close to what we do in SAR, until I got to know what CoCoSAR is all about. The teamwork, the sense of adventure, and most importantly, the mission to help people were what brought me here.

In addition to working with SAR, I am a personal trainer and running coach, and I work at UC Berkeley doing worksite wellness programs for faculty and staff. I have an 11-year-old son, Zende, who is my partner in crime for all things geeky, sci-fi, LEGO, comics, and of course, zombies. You might see him at SAR trainings as I tend to drag him to volunteer him for stuff, like medical role plays.

Training with CoCoSAR and learning important search, rescue, and survival skills has given me the confidence to do things I never thought I’d find myself doing, especially at this stage in my life. Thank you for allowing me to be part of such a dedicated and amazing organization!

I'm 30 years old and about two years ago I decided it was my turn to help others that may notalways be able to help themselves. That's when I joined the Army Reserves, and it has fueled my fire to help out my community and those in need every day since. After some significant technical rescue training, I found the CoCoSAR team and a lightbulb lit up again for me, just one more way for me to give back to my community that I love so much.

I come from a large family rooted in the deep East Bay in a small city named Brentwood, which I've called home for nearly 20 years. The SAR family is one that I plan to stay part of for many years to come, and hopefully plan on bringing a few more family members into as well.

Outside of SAR, I enjoy fine wines, long walks on the beach, cycling the rolling hills of the greater Bay Area and I throughly enjoy dining out at the many amazing eateries in the Bay Area.

I'm a junior at College Park High School and I decided to join Search and Rescue because it seemed like the most interesting, hands-on volunteer activity. So far it has been, and I'm excited for my future with the team.

I live in Alamo and I am a junior at San Ramon Valley High School. I am involved in leadership and I throw shot put and discus for our track team. I have my own photography business shooting sports, portraiture and product.

Some of my hobbies include surfing, long boarding and playing the guitar. At home I have two very loving parents and an older brother who is running at the University of Alabama.

Living where I am, I have been blessed with so much and I have felt the need to give back to such a great community. I feel like I have learned so much in the training so far, and I am looking forward to honing my skills and learning more and more each day.

I'm coming to CoCoSAR after 20-plus years with Oakland Police Department, five of them full-time, and the rest as a reserve officer. I realized I missed the service aspect of being a reserve, and wanted to find something I could do with my daughter, Hunter. We found SAR and went through the application process and Academy together. It's been awesome! Right now, I'm interested in the USAR and Metal Detector resources.

During the day, I'm a financial advisor with my own Linsco-Private Ledger practice. I'm a licensed pilot (non-current) and ham operator (KF6DBA). We spend as much time as possible at our cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Along with Hunter, I also have a son, Parker, at University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) on a track and field scholarship. We live in Alamo with my wife of 21 years, Gretchen, a couple of Dobermans, a Miniature Pinscher, and a cat with no tail.

After retiring from a career in finance and banking, I’m looking forward to getting out from behind a desk and doing something meaningful for my community. SAR seemed to be the perfect blend of community service, an opportunity for continual learning, and a way to meet some great people and spend time outdoors. I don’t yet know where I want to focus in SAR once I get through the Academy. At this point everything sounds interesting!

I live in Martinez with my wife, Linda, and our two dogs. Our daughter Christina is away at college. When not waiting for a callout, I like to backpack, ski, bicycle, support Cal sports, and travel. I look forward to serving with you and getting to know the team better.

I'm a San Francisco native that didn't leave the city very much. So my idea for getting out meant going to concrete stadiums and gymnasiums for entertainment and activities. Now I'm looking forward to branching out into the real wilderness, or wherever SAR will take me, to help those in need.

Joining SAR and doing the things that we do is something far out of my comfort zone, so I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can and becoming as much of a contributor as possible to the team.

I live in Danville with my wife Vivienne and we have two kids, 21 and 19. Our focus was always on their activities as they grew up. Now, with much more free time, I hope to find additional volunteer opportunities in addition to SAR.

My background over the last 10 years consists mostly of retail management, even though I have always had an interest in public safety. At the start of this year, I finally made the choice to change my career to the public safety field. I took an accelerated course at Unitek Education and received my certification as an EMT in early April. Since then I have been working as an EMT in Pleasant Hill.

In my free time I try to learn as much as I can about emergency medicine in preparation for paramedic school, which I hope to start next year. I joined the Search and Rescue Team to further my knowledge and experience in the public safety field and have more opportunities to help people in need.

I moved here from Arizona last year and stumbled upon you orange shirts while climbing up on Mount Diablo. After speaking to a few of you about the team and its mission, I couldn't wait to join. My day job (and night job – I love what I do and I do it a lot) is as an attorney in Walnut Creek. In my free time, I like to socialize, play sports, and travel.

Since moving to the Bay Area, it seems like I get to travel somewhere new and different every week just by picking a direction and driving. This place is great! Right now my favorite place is Muir Beach with my pup splashing around in the waves, but I hope you all will tell me your other favorite spots to check out.

I’ll be on the team and in the area for years to come, so see you around!

I am very excited to be a part of the team. My professional background is in law enforcement and more recently management at the City of Antioch. I have always been driven by public service. My beautiful wife and I have five amazing kids. Competing in triathlons, camping and anything outdoors are activities we enjoy together as a family.

I look forward to meeting and working with everyone; the people I have had a chance to meet so far are amazing.

I recently graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and am currently living with my family in the beautiful East Bay Area while I work on finding my career. My ultimate goal is to find an opportunity to use my skills in the biotechnology or agricultural modification field, but in the meantime I am privately tutoring high school students, and working as a hostess and food server at the Peasant’s Courtyard in my hometown of Alamo.

I miss the ocean and beautiful beaches of Santa Barbara, but it is so nice to be back north where the leaves change with the season and the young folks listen to HyPhy music. I absolutely love the outdoors and am excited by new challenges, and I am so happy to call myself a member of the CoCoSAR family.

I have lived in various cities within Contra Costa County all of my life. Currently a Concord resident, I have come to love the community where I live. I own an insurance agency based in Walnut Creek where I provide insurance solutions for the personal and commercial insurance needs of my clients.

I have always enjoyed the outdoors, including hiking, camping, bow hunting and fishing. I also have an extensive background in Japanese martial arts and tactical firearms training.

I just recently learned of CoCoSAR’s existence and jumped at the chance to join the team. I am so proud to say that I am working with such a selfless, focused, and caring group of people. Many thanks to all of the proctors involved in our Type II and III academies. You have all set a professional and self-sacrificing example that is worthy of imitation. I am honored to be among the next generation of searchers in CoCoSAR. Ab imo pectore. (That’s for you Machete.)

I am 16 years old, and I am a junior at Bentley High School. I play soccer for my high school and love the outdoors. I love to hike, ski, bike and go offroading. I really like to work on my car and ride dirt bikes too. And, I love SAR.

The starting event in my outdoor career was climbing Mt. Shasta with the Boy Scouts at age 12. I hiked the John Muir trail from Yosemite to Whitney (in a group) at 17. That hooked me on outdoor activities. Once out of UC Davis, we started a tradition of backpacking every summer (in the high Sierras as that is the only place I can catch fish) that still endures.

At 32, I became interested in ski patrolling at Alpine Meadows. I volunteered there for the next 16 years, fascinated by the work, and learned to deal with many medical emergencies. After my divorce, I was lost for a couple of years, with no interest in doing anything other than work. While searching genealogy sites (my mother’s side of the family has been in Contra Costa County since the 1870s farming and ranching in Pacheco and Pleasant Hill) I came across the CoCoSAR website. I was pleased to learn that I still had time for the training in 2012 and did it. I’m looking forward to working for and with CoCoSAR in the coming years.

I have been married to Sallie for 30 years (as of this writing) and have three great daughters. I currently have two part-time jobs that allow me to do all the volunteer work that I do. I have been a volunteer CFO for a small charitable foundation since 1998. I also volunteer at an adult assisted-living facility, I am a volunteer for the Sheriff's SAVES program at the Alamo station where I have a regular Wednesday afternoon shift, and now have added membership to SAR.

Out of all of them I find SAR is the most interesting and, hopefully, as I get into it more and participate in real searches, the most rewarding. I enjoy the physical nature of it, the great group of people I have met (both my academy class and those already in), and the many new skills I have learned and have yet to learn.

I was born and raised in Martinez. My first adventure was joining the Navy right out of high school. I ended up stationed in Jacksonville, Fla. Four years later, after a couple hurricanes, I returned to Martinez with my wife. Two years later I joined the Navy reserve. I have now been deployed twice to the Middle East. The first time was immediately after my divorce, the second was immediately after my second marriage.

I’ve always had a strong drive to help others. My ultimate goal is to start a career in law enforcement. One day, while jogging by my house, I ran into CoCoSAR members and after a conversation with the proctor, I realized this was what I was looking for. I joined CoCoSAR because I feel I can truly help someone.

I was born in Baltimore, Md., and then moved 20 miles north to a town called Bel Air when I was 10 years old. My family still lives in the Baltimore area. I started working at the local Safeway Store in 1976 as a courtesy clerk. I moved to California in 1984 to pursue my career in Information Technology (IT) with Safeway. I’m currently an IT project manager managing multi-million dollar IT projects and have been with Safeway for 36 years. When I’m not working, you’ll find me exploring the local parks on my mountain bike or hiking with my girlfriend, Cindy, and my 7-year-old yellow lab.

There are two reasons why joining Search and Rescue interests me. The first reason is that I find it very rewarding to donate my time instead of cash donations. I have spent 12-plus years with the Big Brothers program and the last 3-plus years involved with Special Olympics as a coach (bowling and track and field). Search and Rescue is another opportunity that will allow me to volunteer my services and result in a rewarding experience.

The second reason is that I spend many hours hiking with my dog, mountain biking and adventure racing and I’m excited to share these skills with SAR. The skills obtained through working with SAR could one day benefit other aspects of my outdoor activities.

I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Guatemala from 2009-2011 doing a Healthy Homes project. I currently channel my inner Erin Brockovich working for an environmental consulting firm in Walnut Creek doing fieldwork and Salesforce Admin. With my plentiful free time (note sarcasm), I enjoy most anything outdoors such as running, swimming, biking and yoga, though I love to read and am learning to knit. I’m a huge Giants fan and I am excited to wear bright orange year ’round.

As a child, getting lost was a constant fear and became relevant after the abduction of Polly Klaas when I was 9 from the next town over. I was inspired to join SAR after watching the news at the gym one evening and learning that after two months, the volunteer SAR crews were still searching for a lost girl in San Jose. CoCoSAR is such a humble, dedicated group and I am ecstatic to be a part of such an amazing community.

I am so thrilled and honored to be a new graduate of SAR. Like most everything in our lives, Roger and I chose to do SAR together. But, we have also found the things that interest us individually. I am a local girl. I have lived in CoCo County most of my life. We got married here, had our children here and run our business here.

I work at Walnut Acres Elementary School as the school's secretary! I love my job! An elementary school is one of the happiest places on earth. My family is my world; my job is a bonus! That makes SAR an added bonus! What a thrill and an honor to be a part of the SAR family.

I heard about SAR while sitting next to a team member at an A's game. He spoke so highly of SAR that it prompted me to talk to my wife about it. We looked into SAR online and decided to attend an orientation. Neither one of us has looked back.

I am the father of three adult children. Teresa and I have one grandson, Jackson. We spend our free time on our boat or riding our jet-ski out on the Delta. I've recently taken up duck hunting after a 30-year break. I run my own construction business and my son works with me. I’ve been a carpenter since I was in high school. I'm a California native and proud to say I have lived my entire life in CoCo County.

I have lived in Contra Costa County for 15 years, but had never heard of the Search and Rescue team until this year. My school, College Park, was having a job fair and SAR had a booth. I went to the orientation and six months later I’m on the team. I thought it would be a good way to serve my community and build on my outdoor skills that I have been learning as a Boy Scout.

Boy Scouts gave me my first introduction to the great outdoors in sixth grade and I have loved it ever since. I also enjoy reading, Ultimate Frisbee, disc golf, canoeing and biking. I attend College Park as a junior and plan on going to college to get my degree in computer engineering.

I'm a varsity wrestler, I'm 16 and I play 13 different musical instruments. I joined Search and Rescue because I had a bad childhood and I didn't really have anybody to help me. So, I always want to help people so they have someone to help them, even if it's something small. Laura Hubbard (current SAR member) is a relative and she said I should join, so here I am.

I am a 17-year-old junior at Ygnacio Valley High School. I am so excited to be on the team, and can't wait to participate more and more. I am a huge Giants and sports fan, and run on my school's cross country and track teams. I look forward to many years on SAR.

I am a junior at Ygnacio Valley High School. I run cross-country and play lacrosse for my school. I am very excited to be on the team and can't wait to go on my first callout! I hope to study forensic science in college and pursue a career in law enforcement or crime scene investigation. I have an identical twin sister on the team; good luck telling us apart!

I am a junior attending College Park High School. I am very involved in sports. I play soccer and run both track and cross-country. I found SAR through my school's job fair. So far, I am enjoying being part of the SAR program and I hope to continue with it after I attend college.

I'm a married father of one who lives in Concord. My free time is mostly dedicated to family, and projects around our house and garage. I am self-employed as a sales professional. Currently my focus is pre-arranged cremation plans, but I have background in the financial ends of banking, real estate and automotive as well.

While looking for a career change, I found CoCoSAR on the Sheriff's website. It was clear SAR could offer some of the same opportunities I've been looking for in a job; such as learning new skills, helping others in need and working as part of a team, as well as honing leadership skills, all while establishing new friendships and challenging myself. I look forward to working with you all.

I am recently retired from a 26-year career at UPS. Three years ago, I moved to Walnut Creek with my fiancé, three great Danes (since passed), three cats and four macaws. Outside of SAR, I enjoy shooting pistols and rifles – no hunting!

I first became interested in SAR when Michelle Le's body was found by a dog “in training.” The case interested me because she was abducted a half mile from my UPS route. I joined CARDA in January 2012, and since then decided to join my county's team.

I grew up and went to college in West Virginia and commissioned as an officer in the Army. I was stationed in Hawai’i for four years and, when I wasn’t deployed or training, spent most of my time scuba diving and hiking. In 2010, I left the Army and moved to the Bay Area with my wife so she could pursue her doctorate at UC Berkeley.

I manage a lighting manufacturing facility in Richmond for Cooper Industries and live in Pinole with my wife and two dogs.

I was on a SAR team in college and have wanted to get involved again as a way of helping my new community, sharpening my skills, and meeting new people. I have been extremely impressed with the level of professionalism and training of CoCoSAR; I’m looking forward to advancing to the Type 1 level in the next year or so.

In eighth grade, when my former science teacher Matt Shargel told me about Search and Rescue, I knew that it sounded like something that I would be interested in. I think it is an interesting way to help others while doing something I enjoy. I am a student and swimmer at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek. I also am a sponsored bass fisherman and California representative for a tackle company. I also enjoy snowboarding, paintballing, long-boarding and camping.

I have enjoyed my amazing experience in the Type 3 Academy and am appreciative of all of the hard work the proctors have put in, as well as my awesome coach Casey Riggs, who made my introduction to SAR great. He was there to answer questions whenever I needed an answer, and I look forward to working with him in the field as well as everybody else on the team!

I'm a 14-year-old freshman at Acalanes High School. I am in Boy Scout Troop 204 in Lafayette – rank Life. My sports are cross country and track. I also do a lot of mountain climbing, including on Mt. Whitney and Mt. Shasta. All my life I have lived right next to the Walnut Creek Open Space and have pretty much memorized the trails out there.

I joined the team because of my love for the outdoors and the satisfaction of helping people in need. I have two brothers, both in college. The oldest is a reserve deputy in Los Angeles and the middle brother is a fellow team member on the CoCoSAR Team. I am currently the only child at home with my parents and two dogs. I look forward to meeting you all and to work with you all in future missions!

I live in Antioch. I'm a student going to Dozier-Libbey Medical High School. I play the piano. I like to read and listen to music. I have one sibling — a younger brother.

I was raised in England, in a working-class culture that values hard work, integrity and down-to-earth honesty. I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 20; first living in the northeast, then settling in California. Being a mom at a young age, while going to college, taught me resilience, tenacity and humility – traits I’ve found useful in search and rescue training!

Pleasant Hill is now home where I live with my ever-patient husband, Jon, and two cranky cats. Our daughter’s a recent UC Davis graduate, currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, and our son’s in his senior year at UC Santa Barbara, making plans for grad school.

I get out in the wilderness and travel as much as I can, make art (and trouble) with Jon, and share good food with friends regularly. The rest of the time, I run my own consulting business, helping organizations with marketing and communications. In just two months with CoCoSAR, I’ve already grown a lot as an individual. I’m very proud to be on the team, and excited to see what being part of it brings to my life.

Searcher Spotlight: Joe Keyser


When Joe Keyser joined the SAR Team in 2009, he had it in mind to “give back to the community,” as so many others do. He also thought he might pick up some useful training. But what he didn’t know about was the Mountain Rescue Group (MRG).

“Getting involved with the MRG was an unexpected bonus,” he says.

He also probably didn’t know how much he was going to get to use the wilderness-survival skills he had accrued over the years. These came into play in August when he taught the SAR Wilderness First Responder class.

Joe is a native of Portland who went to college in Washington, but has lived in Contra Costa County now for over 20 years. He, his wife, and lab-mix dog live in Concord.

Joe’s day job as a management and accounting consultant circles an office environment, so when he wants to get away he goes outdoors. For fun, he backpacks, hikes, skis, rides his mountain bike and travels. He also combines both work and fun as a backpacking guide in Yosemite during the summer.

During the WFR course, Joe emphasized improvisation. “While it’s important to have your gear ready,” he says, “you can’t possibly always carry everything you might need. Learn to make do with what you have.”

SAR has given Joe a wide range of experience, some of it surprising. “You never know where SAR might take you,” he says. “When I joined the team four years ago, I never would have thought I would help tear down sheds where a kidnap victim was held; become an EMT and teach a medical course; or search remote river canyons and mountains in parts of the state I’d never heard of before. The opportunities to serve the community while growing as a person as a member of the SAR team are almost limitless.”

Searcher Spotlight: Judi Apfel


Though she has lived in Concord for 30 years, Judi Apfel is still sometimes in a New York state of mind. “I was originally from New York City and generally return at least once a year to visit family and refresh my New York accent and attitude,” she says.

She may have attitude, but so does SAR, she says – it’s an upbeat attitude and she enjoys that. She also likes the jokes, camaraderie, and yes, the hard work, too. 

Judi has a resume of what her mother called “do-gooder jobs.” She spent most of her career working to help others, starting with the Peace Corps in Honduras right out of college. When she moved to the Bay Area, she landed a job next door to OES, at Juvenile Hall, where she worked as a counselor. In her 40s, she went to law school and passed the bar, but then continued working for government agencies and nonprofits.

When she retired seven years ago, she joined SAR because she was looking for “something fun and exciting to do,” she says.

Judi’s dedication to search and rescue is exemplified in the many, many hours she has put in as a member of the Canine Resource with her dog Neva. Judi spent some 40 hours a month training Neva. However, Neva didn't make it to certification and two years ago, then age 9, she found a new job as the SAR PR pup and Judi’s loving it. “It has turned out to be one of the most rewarding activities that I participate in on the SAR team,” she says.

Though it seems as though Judi is ever-present with SAR, she does have a life outside the team with her partner of 40 years, Pat. The two share a common love of the water and belong to the San Francisco Dolphin Club. Pat enjoys open-water swimming while Judi kayaks.

But when it comes to fun, for Judi, SAR fits the bill. Though she has been around a lot of people bent on service, the SAR team is special, she says: “I have never worked with a more dedicated and selfless group of people than those on the SAR team.”

Searcher Spotlight: Ron Huntington

Anyone who is a Facebook friend of Ron Huntington will know that he has a soft spot for barbecue. He has a penchant for posting mouth-watering photographs of his menu du jour, usually featuring some nice slab of meat, perfectly grilled, to the envy of all carnivores.

The good life for him also involves hanging by the ocean and body surfing and he loves to hike. The latter is a good thing, because hiking is a necessity for one of his other “favorite things to do”: volunteer with SAR.

Ron is SoCal born (which might explain the body surfing) but he’s a NorCal guy now, firmly planted in San Ramon with his wife and family. That family currently includes no pets, but he makes up for that with five kids and seven grandkids.

As a self-described “techie,” it’s appropriate that Ron’s degree from DeVry University is in technical management. He uses his capabilities to strengthen his SAR experience and that of others (he’s been known to help at least one fellow SAR member load SAR-related apps and info on her phone, for instance).

Ron joined the SAR team in the “wet year” winter Academy of 2010, thanks to his wife’s prompting. He got right in the groove, becoming Type 2 by the fall and participating in many searches and medical details since then.

“One thing I love about the team is the fact that they (members) will teach you almost everything you need to know to be a successful searcher and first responder,” he says.

As an Eagle Scout, Ron learned the meaning of being prepared. But SAR taught him that “feeding the engine” – staying hydrated and fed – is key to being well prepared for searches. That piece of wisdom he attributes to Dick Danger (aka Rick Najarian).

For more than 10 years, Ron has been a member of the Emergency Response Team at the medical device manufacturer where he works as a quality engineer. Recently, though, it was his SAR medical skills that were put to use when he was the first responder on scene with a stroke victim at the County Fair. While he describes the situation as scary, he was impressed by the team effort that went into helping the subject.

“Fortunately, all that EMR training kicked in and the rest of the team was there to help almost immediately,” he says. “There is nothing like the feeling I get when helping someone. It makes it all worthwhile.”

Searcher Spotlight: Erin Field

"As long as I can remember, I've always wanted to save lives," Orinda resident Erin Field says. At 18, her memory doesn't travel back far, but, though young, she has already had a full life of learning to care for others.

When Erin was only 7, her father was diagnosed with lymphoma, which was wrapped around his heart. The prognosis was dire, she says, but the doctors never gave up and soon thereafter it was discovered the cancer had disappeared.

“We still believe it was a miracle,” she says. “But without the doctors, my dad probably wouldn’t be alive today.”

That inspirational experience prompted her to pursue medicine and this fall she begins the pre-nursing program at Cal State East Bay.

Meanwhile, she continues to grow as a SAR member. The medical aspects of SAR are what attracted her, but she has found plenty more to keep her interested. Currently she is choosing to remain an Explorer (they do have fun), but for her second year on the team, she will begin coaching a new Academy student Explorer. It fits with her M.O., which is to connect with others.

“I guess you could say I’m a people person,” she says.

One could, indeed, say that. She enjoys making friends from around the world; in fact, her best friend lives in Germany. In order to converse, she learned German, but she didn’t stop there. She also speaks French, is learning Japanese and Italian, and can understand and communicate in sign language.

In addition to having a wide social life, Erin also has a variety of interests and hobbies. She babysits, draws, sings, dances, plays guitar and flute, acts and likes to “organize” (good for logistics). She’s well acquainted with physical exercise, favoring tennis, swimming, snowboarding, horseback riding, ice skating and a number of team sports. Of course, she also likes to hike and explore, which suits the SAR mold well.

As one who knows from sports what it means, Erin is most impressed with the teamwork aspect of SAR.

“Everyone in SAR plays a big part, whether they’re good at reading maps, talking on radios, hiking in the roughest terrain, or helping someone who’s losing a lot of blood,” Erin says. “Every person contributes something of importance, and when people work together, using their special talents, it’s amazing … I can’t think of one member who is not willing to help or teach a skill that they know to a new person on the team. SAR is a truly incredible organization that I’m lucky to be a part of.”

Searcher Spotlight: Eric Fok

Eric Fok simply didn’t have enough to do raising four small kids and two dogs and running his own interior design business, so he sought a way to volunteer. He looked at a number of organizations, but either they weren’t that interesting or challenging, he says, or they were too “watered down.” Then in January 2010, he found SAR and the fire was lit.

He is, after all, an avid outdoors person who likes to hit the trail on his mountain bike before dawn, and camps and backpacks when he can. The drive to be physical and take on challenges is in his DNA, Eric says. SAR was a good fit.

“This is what I was looking for. CoCo SAR has really delivered at a level that still amazes me in that everyone does this because we want to.”

Eric is a California guy. Born and raised in Santa Rosa, he attended college in Sacramento. He and his wife Ruth live with their kids in Walnut Creek. Eric works from home, and his business focuses on custom home design, architectural detailing, and specifying, with a specialty in wine cellars and home theaters. His wife, too, works from home, which gives them both the opportunity to be there for their family and pursue their volunteer efforts.

“I’ve learned a lot being self-employed,” Eric says. “Through hard work and discipline, being resourceful, thinking outside the box, and not being afraid to do it ‘my way,’ it has paid dividends in the last 15 years.”

He says it is a privilege and honor to be part of CoCo SAR, with its collective energy that goes toward making a difference. “The SAR mission aligns well with many of my core values: helping others in need, pushing and testing my limits, working to make myself a better person, and most of all, striving to always be learning,” he says. “For this, I expect a lifelong commitment and contribution to CoCo SAR.”

Searcher Spotlight: Sam Barley



Even the busiest SAR members enjoy some side interests and Sam Barley—when he’s not selling information technology services for Hewlett Packard—pursues his passions. Sam, like many SAR folk, is an outdoorsy guy who likes camping and backpacking. He’s also a budding cheesemaker with a penchant for making his own brie, chevre, and ricotta, and he likes to cure his own meats and fish.

On the sporty side, Sam says he is, “rejuvenating his golf game after decades of neglect,” but his “real passion” is bird hunting.

Though born in Pennsylvania, Sam’s a longtime Contra Costa resident. After studying physiology at UC Davis, he spent four years early in his career in Michigan, but soon returned to California. He now lives with his wife, Nina, two daughters, a cat, and a dog in Walnut Creek.

Sam joined SAR in 2006 and took on another form of hunting—hunting for lost people. While finding and helping a subject is “enormously gratifying,” he also says it’s almost as important to know where the subject is not. “Knowing my team and I have covered a search area with the best Probability of Detection (POD)  we could deliver allows search managers to focus resources on areas with higher probability of finding the subject,” said Sam.

Sam’s career with SAR didn’t begin with the intent of the hunt, however. After 9/11, he said he was looking for a way to help others and be prepared in the event of a disaster. He learned about SAR from a recruiting table at REI and couldn’t wait to join, but he had to wait awhile for the Academy. The delay only built his enthusiasm. Once on the Team, he jumped right into the corporal position of New Members Liaison. As such, he helps translate his enthusiasm for the team to new recruits.

Through this shepherding process, he has learned important lessons about first impressions. “Some members who barely make it through the application and interview process have become SAR stars,” he says. “Others who seemed destined for greatness haven't even made it through the Type III Academy.”

Sam continues his efforts with this year’s recruits, and hopes to keep them as, “interested and engaged as possible.” As should we all.

Searcher Spotlight: Lisa McGraw

She claims it was “almost heaven” for her first 21 years. Though it may also apply to her state of mind, what Lisa McGraw was referring to is West Virginia, where she grew up and also where she studied computer science in college (WVU).

Then, before coming to California in 1997, she lived for a spell in Washington, D.C.; North Carolina; Munich, Germany; and near Atlanta, Georgia. She worked as a computer programmer for GEICO and AT&T before turning her attention to her family (three kids) and to becoming a “volunteer extraordinaire.”

In fact, SAR, wasn’t her first gig on the work-for-free spectrum. She also worked in schools, churches, and with Scouts. She tutored adult literacy and she answered the crisis line for Tri-Valley Haven. Then, in January 2010, she became a SAR team member.

Lisa loves to travel and enjoys the outdoors, and lists listening to music in Ireland, touring ancient Grecian ruins and rafting down the Colorado River as some of her various adventures combining both pleasures. Her family of six includes husband, three adult children and two (spoiled, she says) cats.

Like her cats, Lisa is curious, and she pays attention to detail, which serves her well as a SAR member. And SAR has given her some new skills, too, from knowing how to dispense oxygen to rappelling, which she says “has really helped me to push my boundaries.”

She says she always tries to remember to keep in mind the mission—why we do what we do—as SAR members. As for what she has gained, she says, “I am grateful to the team for the challenges thrown my way; it translates to all areas of my life.”