Uncommon bravery in the face of danger is the common thread that binds a small group of police, fire and medical first-responders being recognized Thursday in Toms River.

The 200 Club's annual awards ceremony at the Holiday Inn focuses on 10 individuals who placed other lives before their own.

"Some officers went into a burning car just moments before it exploded," says 200 Club Board member Dave McIndoe. "A number of officers disarmed armed felons." Another, he says, stopped "an individual who threatened to set himself on fire in a very closed environment."

But what really separates them, and legions of their peers, says McIndoe, is their willingness to accept the extreme risk unquestioningly. "Someone is in  need, and they acted immediately," he marvels.

"And what's really impressive about the group is that, to a man or woman, they all say the same thing - 'We're just doing our job, we didn't think we did anything special.'"

The keynote speaker is New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa - owner of a long career in probing and prosecuting crimes ranging from bank theft to kiddie porn to human trafficking.

Each honoree gets a framed certificate, a cash award and a keepsake timepiece. Three retirees will be given Meritorious Service Awards. Also, three Ocean County College students who are family members of uniformed personnel will win this year's David Ascione Memorial Scholarships.

You can meet these unsung uniformed heroes in person, because the ceremony is open to the public.

Each $25 donation by non-members goes directly to the 200 Club Fund that supports Ocean County's police officers, firefighters, first-aiders and the New Jersey State Police. Tickets are available at the door.

The 200 Club is composed of private citizens, and new members are always welcome. Initial membership costs $200, and yearly dues are $125.  Learn more at http://www.200clubocean.org.

The honorees:

  • Lakewood Police Officers Dennis Dowden and Erik Miick, who apprehended three armed suspects during a robbery.
  • Officer Michael Lynch, who subdued a domestic-assault suspect who had threatened officers with a shotgun, doused himself in gasoline and threatened to ignite himself.
  • Harvey Cedars Police Sergeant Steven Frazee and Officer Brian Smith, who dove into 50-degree ocean waters to rescue a swimmer. Their efforts kept them in the water for a half-hour.
  • Barnegat Township Police Officers Lauren Keilitz and Michael Diblasi, who bolted into a flaming car, wearing no protective gear, to rescue an unconscious victim inside.
  • Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Chief Michael Trimarchi, who restarted a young car crash victim's breathing three times, keeping the boy alive until a Medevac unit arrived. The youngster is still alive and well.
  • Retired Toms River Chief Fire Inspector John Lightbody, who kept watch over the township's buildings and codes and fought its fires for 51 years.
  • New Jersey State Police Detective David Jones, who has ended a distinguished and award-winning career after 33 years.