Four central Illinoisans recognized as 2021 Red Cross Heroes

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Four central Illinoisans join 20 others from across the state to be honored and highlighted as 2021 Red Cross Heroes. Each person has a unique story showcasing their decision-making as life-altering.

The American Red Cross said its Annual Heroes Event was established to raise awareness of local heroes who carry out the mission of the Red Cross by making a commitment to creating stronger communities and providing help when crisis strikes.

“This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has been obviously tough on so many. We are extremely
honored to recognize amazing individuals in our community who, despite the challenges all were facing, put the needs of others before their own. Each one of these heroes embodies compassion, selflessness, and commitment to coming to the aid of others,” says Lyn Hruska, executive director of the American Red Cross Serving Central Illinois.

Jennifer Erlandson

Jenni Erlandson is a Registered Nurse at OSF St. Joseph Hospital in Bloomington,
Illinois. On June 10, 2020, while at work, Jenni passed through a hospital waiting room. She saw a fellow employee slumped over in a chair. Jenni went to check on him and noticed he wasn’t breathing. She immediately started CPR, and her quick actions saved his life. Jenni also received the DAISY Award for extraordinary nurses because of this
heroic action.

CI Hero: Local nurse ‘acts intentionally’ to save a man’s life

Roger King

Roger King, his wife Julie, and his grandson were driving through Pontiac, Illinois on November 26, 2020 at about 7 p.m. looking at Christmas lights, when 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, Roger realized the
residents were likely trapped inside. Without hesitation, he pounded on the door and woke the caretaker, who was sleeping upstairs and did not realize the house was on fire. Roger then ran upstairs, woke the elderly resident, and quickly assisted her out of the building.

CI Hero: Pontiac man accompanies woman out of burning home

JerryLee Murphy-Wiles

On August 8, 2020, Jerrylee Murphy-Wiles, was walking to his bus stop when he heard someone yell for help. Looking around and not seeing anyone, Jerrylee continued walking. Then, another call for help, however, this time the call was accompanied by the sound of knocking on a window. Jerrylee explored where the sounds were coming from and realized 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. Jerrylee knew what to do; he quickly
went to the woman and spoke with her. He then called 911 and waited for emergency personnel to arrive. “Jerrylee is a very spirited 24-year-old who loves to interact with other people, so I’m sure he talked her ear off, which was the best thing to keep the woman distracted as they waited,” said Tim Lingenfelter, Jerrylee’s Mentor at EP!C, an organization of community members working together to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

CI Hero: ‘God sent me that way,’ Bus rider calls 911 for a fallen woman in Pekin

Josh Railey

On February 28, 2020, Josh Railey, was out to dinner celebrating his birthday 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 Josh ran up to the vehicle, the woman was screaming that her baby remained in the car. Despite the smoke in the vehicle, Josh 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.

CI Hero: Peoria man rescues baby from burning car

The American Red Cross said it has “honored classes of heroes who embody dedication to the
community.” This year’s class of heroes during a virtual event on Thursday, April 29th at 9 a.m. Please visit to register to attend this free event and find more information.

About the American Red Cross of Illinois
The American Red Cross of Illinois serves 12.4 million people in 88 counties in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri including Adams, Bond, Boone, Brown, Bureau, Carroll, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cook, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, DeKalb, De Witt, Douglas, DuPage, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Franklin, Fulton, Green, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jasper, Jefferson, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McHenry, McLean, Menard, Mercer, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Ogle, Peoria, Perry, Piatt, Pike, Putnam, Richland, Rock Island, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby, Stark, Stephenson, Tazewell, Vermillion, Warren, Washington, Whiteside, Will, Williamson Winnebago, Woodford. Iowa: Lee, Muscatine, Scott and Van Buren. Missouri: Clark, Lewis, Marion and Ralls. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit us at or visit us on Twitter @RedCrossIL.

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