SF’s Spear honored as Good Samaritan Hero
For more than 20 years, Richard Spear of South Fayette Township has tirelessly worked to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth in impoverished countries. His work includes the creation and maintenance of several orphanages in Haiti and Colombia.
For his humanitarian work across the globe, Spear will receive the Good Samaritan Hero Award at the fifth annual American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast event Sept. 26 at Consol Energy Center.
From the age of 12, Spear was inspired by his mother to leave a legacy of humanitarian, lifesaving work. His mother, who performed charity work in the community, taught her son that small acts of kindness could go a very long way.
“When I was 12 years old we had neighbors who were poor, and my mother asked me to go over with her and help them clean their home,” said Spear. “We did it and they were so happy, and it makes you stop and think, ‘I just did a little bit of work and these people are happy.’ That just stayed with me.”
Throughout his career, Spear dedicated his work to teaching and inspiring youth at Duquesne University. Spending more than 20 years as the university’s baseball coach, Spear later took on a less demanding role to fulfill his dream of helping others.
“I took a position that gave me the most free time, the role of intramural director at the University,” said Spear. “And the reason I did that was because I had decided after giving up baseball that I wanted to work for an orphanage.”
Through personal research and referrals from close friends, Spear recognized that Colombia was a country that would benefit from prospering orphanages.
“I chose Cali, Colombia, because, through reading in magazines and through television, I knew that they were having tremendous trouble with the Communist guerillas and the drug trade; so, I decided that I would go to Cali,” said Spear.
After making this decision, Spear traveled to the country and visited six functioning orphanages. He took a specific interest in the Cali Orphanage for Girls.
Inspired by the need for funding and overall progression, Spear dedicated nearly 20 years to improve the conditions at the orphanage.
As Spear continued his work throughout Cali, he expanded into Haiti, a country he had visited Haiti many times. “I knew the poverty was so great there, so I decided to find an orphanage, which I did, a very poor orphanage and I told them I was going to help them.”
Two weeks following his trip to Haiti, the earthquake of 2010 struck the country, devastating millions of Haitians, including Spear’s selected orphanage. Although Spear thought that his efforts might come to a complete halt in Haiti, he received an email from one of the orphanage’s employees requesting assistance. In two years, Spear replaced the destroyed orphanage with a newly built structure, providing refuge and a safe haven for 32 children.
“Every child in the orphanage never had a bed, never had water, never had electricity. They had very little food and for the first time in their lives, they were protected ... it just makes you want to do more,” said Spear.
And, Spear did more. He became an integral member of constructing two more Haitian orphanages. In addition, he also contributes to educating female youth from Haiti and Colombia through personal funding of medical programs.
In his lifetime, Spear estimates that he has touched the lives of more than 300 children around the world.
He continues to take on new ventures and fund many humanitarian projects geared toward children.
“What keeps me going is the children. When I see how they react to all of this; how happy it makes them, how comfortable it makes them, how safe it makes them ... the hope that they have is just powerful and it makes one want to continue,” said Spear.
For his commitment to bettering the lives of disadvantaged youth, Spear has been selected for the Good Samaritan award. He said it is an honor to be recognized by the local American Red Cross, an organization that aligns closely with his work.
“The Red Cross has been utterly sensational with the amount of help that they have given to people in the United States and around the world,” said Spear. “I would say it is a very special award and I would say I am quite happy and overjoyed to receive it.”
The American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast will take place 7:30-9 a.m. Sept. 26 in the Lexus Room at CONSOL Energy Center, located at 1001 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh.
The Red Cross will honor everyday heroes from the region in six categories: Educator Hero, Lifetime Commitment to the Red Cross Hero, Good Samaritan Hero, Military Hero, Professional Responder Hero and Youth Hero.
For further information on the Heroes Breakfast, call 412-263-3123 or visit RedCross.org/PA/Pittsburgh.