11-year-old NJ girl who saved 4-year-old brother from choking on hot dog hailed as hero

FAIRFIELD, New Jersey (WABC) -- An 11-year-old girl who saved her 4-year-old brother from choking on hot dog was honored for her heroic actions on Monday.

The American Red Cross presented a Certificate of Merit to Charlotte Cifelli for saving the life of her younger brother a month after she took a Red Cross Babysitting Basics course.

Charlotte and her brother Angelo were eating when their mom stepped out of the room for a minute.

At that moment, her little brother began choking on a hot dog.

"So I was just sitting in this chair, eating my food, when Angelo was over here, and he was running and jumping around, and he started gagging," she said.

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Charlotte recognized he was in distress and acted quickly.

"So I started screaming," she said. "I slapped him on the back, and I kept hitting it until his hot dog finally came out of his mouth."

Their mom ran into the room just in time to see the piece of food fly out of her young son's mouth.

"She was amazing," mom Chrissy Cifelli said. "She got it right out."

It happened on October 28, 2020,and Charlotte had completed the Red Cross Babysitting Basics course on September 19.

She has several young cousins, including baby Emma, and that means aunts and uncles who could use a date night out from time to time.

"I like to babysit my cousins," she said.

And all her hard work paid off.

"She studied very hard for it," Chrissy Cifelli said. "I know that she worked with my mother in law on passing the test and doing a wonderful job."

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The honor is great for all the grandmothers and grandfathers in the happy family, because they know Charlotte is qualified to look after the little ones.

"For this act, Charlotte Cifelli has been awarded the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit," said Rosie Taravella, CEO of the American Red Cross New Jersey Region. "This is the highest award given by the American Red Cross."

The Certificate of Merit is awarded to an individual who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course, and it is signed by both the president of the United States and the chairman of the American Red Cross.

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