As a raging fire burned through the three-story brick home of a family in Norristown, Pa., a 12-year-old boy watching the flames grew increasingly worried about his father, who was still recovering from hip-replacement surgery. Not realizing that his dad, Sanford Harling Jr., who was 58, had jumped out of a second-story window, Sanford Harling III, who was 12, broke free from a family friend and ran in to help him, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I’m going to go back in to get my dad because he’s walking with a walker," he said. That's the last time anyone saw him alive; firefighters found the 12-year-old on the first floor, where he'd died of smoke inhalation and thermal burns in the Feb. 5, 2016 blaze.
On Wednesday, Sanford was among 20 people named national heroes by the Carnegie Hero Fund, which has bestowed the honor upon nearly 10,000 people since it was established in 1904 with the mission of freeing them from "pecuniary cares resulting from their heroism," reports Patch.com. (Each recipient receives a one-time $5,000 grant.) "As we said from the beginning, he was a hero," says Fire Chief Tom O'Donnell. Harling Jr. feels the same way, calling his son "my angel." A GoFundMe page set up to help the family of "My Little Hero!" raised nearly $42,000, surpassing its $25,000 goal. Of the 20 heroes named in 2017, Sanford was among three who died performing their heroic acts. He was a seventh grader and part of the Norristown Youth Eagles Football Program. (See how this toddler saved his twin brother's life.)