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Central Iowa Teenager to be Honored during Hy-Vee Heroes Game

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“The actions of both Austin and Gene represent what the American Red Cross is all about."

A Winterset, Iowa teenager and a bank president from Pilger, Nebraska will be recognized for their remarkable acts of courage on Friday, November 28, 2014. 18-year-old Austin Benson and Gene Willers will represent their home states as “citizen heroes” when the University of Iowa Hawkeyes host the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Hy-Vee Heroes Game. 

“The actions of both Austin and Gene represent what the American Red Cross is all about; providing compassionate care to those in need,” said Leslie Schaffer, Regional Executive for the Red Cross serving Greater Iowa. “We are thrilled to partner with the Universities of Iowa and Nebraska, and of course, Hy-Vee, to celebrate these two exceptional individuals and their achievements.”

Austin Benson, Winterset, Ia.  On July 4, 2014, Austin Benson remained calm and was very brave when he rushed to help his friend, Rachel Riley, after she was thrown from her horse. Rachel’s horse, Spats, rolled over her after the fall, and the saddle horn punctured her leg causing traumatic injuries. As Rachel’s mother called 9-1-1, Austin used his shirt and towels to apply pressure to the wound. He held Rachel’s hand and talked to his friend; trying to keep her calm and awake while they waited for the ambulance. Rachel’s family wouldn’t know until later, but the injury to Rachel’s leg was a severed artery. “Thank God he was there, “ said Laurie Gehrke, the pediatric Life Flight nurse who responded that day. “Because with the amount of blood that she lost, if Austin hadn’t done what he did Rachel would have died.”

Gene Willers, Pilger, Neb. On the afternoon of June 16, 2014, Midwest Bank President, Gene Willers put the lives of his bank family first. Around 4:00 p.m., a large tornado touched down southwest of the Village of Pilger. After storm spotters called the bank to alert them of the danger, Gene ushered eight people, including several employees, into the bank vault and locked them inside minutes before the deadly tornado ripped through Pilger. Unfortunately, the vault could only be locked from the outside, so Gene sought shelter in a cellar below ground. The EF4 Tornado destroyed the century old Midwest Bank building. Thankfully, Gene emerged safely from below ground and the vault withstood the powerful winds, making Gene Willers a Hero. 

At halftime, Athletic Directors Gary Barta of the University of Iowa and Shawn Eichorst of the University of Nebraska will make a special presentation to the Hy-Vee Heroes Game honorees, whose names will be inscribed on the Heroes Game trophy. Benson, Willers and members of their families will be guests of the Hawkeyes and the Huskers at the game and will participate in a variety of special pregame activities. Randy Edeker, chairman, CEO and president of Hy-Vee, the presenting sponsor of the Heroes Game, will present a check to the Red Cross just before kickoff to show support for the Heroes recognized and the important work of the American Red Cross in Nebraska and Iowa. 

Fans of both schools were invited to nominate residents of Iowa and Nebraska who have performed extraordinary acts of heroism and service in their communities. Staff and volunteers from the Red Cross selected the winners.