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American Red Cross honors Central Illinois heroes

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (HOI) - The American Red Cross of Central Illinois held a virtual event Thursday honoring individuals across the state for their acts of heroism.

For several years, the Red Cross has honored those who show dedication in their communities. This year some local people were honored in the 2021 class of heroes.

Honorees are selected in twelve community service categories from across the Illinois Red Cross region. Heroes are chosen from a pool of nearly 200 nominees. The 2021 American Red Cross heroes include four individuals from the heart of Illinois.

Roger King of Pontiac was honored as a Lifesaving Rescue Hero. King, his wife Julie, and his grandson were driving through Pontiac in November of 2020. They noticed a house on fire, with smoke pouring out of the windows. Roger’s wife recognized the house and was familiar with the residents. She knew the woman who lived there was elderly, as she was her mother’s friend.

With the fire on the first floor, King realized the residents were likely trapped inside. He pounded on the door and woke the caretaker, who was sleeping upstairs and did not realize the house was on fire. King then ran upstairs, woke the elderly resident, and quickly assisted her out of the building.

Jerrylee Murphy-Wiles of Pekin was also honored as a Lifesaving Rescue Hero. In August of 2020, Murphy-Wiles, was walking to his bus stop when he heard someone yell for help. Looking around and not seeing anyone, Murphy-Wiles continued walking. Then, another call for help, this time the call was accompanied by the sound of knocking on a window.

Murphy-Wiles found it was a woman pounding on a window of her home and yelling for help. She had fallen and was unable to get back up. Murphy-Wiles went to the woman and spoke with her, then called 911 and waited for emergency personnel to arrive.

Josh Railey of Peoria was the third honoree honored as a Lifesaving Rescue Hero. In February of 2020, Railey, was out to dinner with his girlfriend. As they left the restaurant, he saw a sedan on fire. He described the car as “dripping gasoline and filled with smoke.” He watched as two men escaped the burning vehicle. A woman then kicked open the back door from the inside and fell out of the car.

As Railey ran up to the vehicle, the woman was screaming that her baby remained in the car. Despite the smoke in the vehicle, Railey slashed the airbags with a pocketknife, grabbed the baby, and ran from the car. As he ran, he turned back and most of the car was already engulfed in flames.

Jenni Erlandson is a registered nurse at OSF St. Joseph hospital in Bloomington. She was this year's Healthcare Hero. In June of 2020, while at work, Erlandson passed through a hospital waiting room. She saw a fellow employee slumped over in a chair. Erlandson went to check on him and noticed he wasn’t breathing. She immediately started CPR, and her quick actions saved his life.

"He got better, he got discharged, he got to go home to his family for another Christmas, another birthday, another Father's Day. All the holidays that you want your family to be there for," Erlandson said.

Erlandson also received the DAISY Award for extraordinary nurses because of this heroic action.

Gabi Guerrero

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