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Girl, 5, honored for saving brother's life

Senators Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., left, and Owen

Senators Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., left, and Owen H. Johnson, right, present 5-year old Grace Varley with the New York State Senate Liberty Medal for heroically helping to save her younger brother's life after he started choking and passed our during a recent family dinner. (June 1, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

Just 5 years old, Grace Varley doesn't look anything like the military veterans, law enforcement officers and others who've received the New York Senate's highest award for civilians.

But then most preschoolers haven't saved lives.

Grace, who called 911 last month when her toddler brother, Myles, choked and passed out, stood shyly at her Amityville school Friday while two state senators knelt down to hand her the Liberty Medal.

"You are a hero," Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) told her, noting that she was youngest person he'd ever honored. "Some people panic and don't know what to do. You were very calm and very collected."

Grace accepted the gold medal with a smile as a dozen of her admiring classmates sat cross-legged on the floor at St. Martin of Tours School.

"What do you say?" her mother, Alison Varley, urged after a couple of moments of silence.

"Thank you," Grace told Fuschillo and Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon). Then she ran behind her mother to hide.

The medal, established in 2000, is awarded for "exceptional, heroic or humanitarian acts and achievements."

Grace wasn't the only lifesaving Long Island girl to be honored this week.

On Wednesday, 7-year-old Mia Wojciechowski received the medal for waking her parents April 18 -- alerting them to the fire raging through their Farmingville home. The family managed to escape without injury.

Grace's family drama happened on May 16, days short of her fifth birthday.

She was having dinner at her Amityville home when Myles, almost 2 then, choked on a chicken nugget and started turning blue.

Grandmother Christine Doran, who was baby-sitting, frantically tried to call 911 but was unable to get through. She ran next door for help, carrying Myles.

Grace picked up the phone and made the emergency call, calmly answering the dispatcher's questions.

Moments later, a police officer arrived and was able to get Myles breathing again by slapping him on the back. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital and released later that night.

The next day, Grace's excited classmates told her, "We saw you on TV," preschool teacher Martha Morrow recalled.

On Friday, Grace was asked where she was going to put her medal.

She answered like a typical older sister:

"Where my brother can't get at it."

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