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Cedar Rapids Men Honored for Helping Neighbor in House Explosion

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“All five of this year’s Hy-Vee Heroes Game honorees exemplify what it means to be a hero.”

Two Cedar Rapids men will be honored on Friday, November 25, 2016, for putting their lives at risk to save their neighbor after her home exploded. Ken Blazek and Brock Staley will be recognized as Iowa’s 2016 “citizen heroes” during halftime of the Hy-Vee Heroes Game this Friday, when the Iowa Hawkeyes take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Blazek and Staley will be joined on the field by Bret Bailes, Chris Holbeck and Dennis Wilson of Omaha, who will be recognized as Nebraska’s 2016 “citizen heroes.” 

“All five of this year’s Hy-Vee Heroes Game honorees exemplify what it means to be a hero,” said Leslie Schaffer, Regional Executive for the American Red Cross Iowa Region. “Their life-saving actions define why the American Red Cross, Hy-Vee, the University of Iowa and the University of Nebraska partner together each year to showcase extraordinary citizens in both states.” 

Blazek, Staley, Bailes, Holbeck, Wilson and members of their families will be guests of the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Nebraska Huskers at Friday’s game and will participate in a variety of special pregame activities. Randy Edeker, chairman, CEO and president of Hy-Vee, Inc., will present a $100,000 check to the American Red Cross just before kickoff to help support the important work of the Red Cross in Iowa and Nebraska. During halftime of the Hy-Vee Heroes Game, Athletic Directors Gary Barta of the University of Iowa and Shawn Eichorst of the University of Nebraska will make a special presentation to all five of the citizen heroes. Their names will also be inscribed on the Hy-Vee Heroes Game trophy.

Earlier this year, fans of both schools were invited to nominate residents of Iowa and Nebraska who performed extraordinary acts of heroism and service in their communities for the “citizen hero” award. Staff and volunteers from the American Red Cross selected the winners. 

BACKGROUND:

Ken Blazek and Brock Staley - Cedar Rapids firefighters credit the quick actions of two citizens for saving a woman who was trapped in a house after an explosion. In June 2016, Ken Blazek and Brock Staley risked their lives to rescue their neighbor who had been badly burned. They also provided medical care until rescue crews arrived. A spokesperson for the Cedar Rapids Fire Department said that Staley and Blazek shut off the gas meter and used a fire extinguisher to knock down the flames and pull their neighbor to safety. Had it not been for their actions, the woman would not have been able to get out of the fire.

Bret Bailes, Chris Holbeck and Dennis Wilson - It was a typical Friday night in February for Brett Bailes when he heard a loud explosion outside of his Omaha home. Instinctively, he ran to his front door and discovered a two-vehicle collision in his neighborhood. When Bailes reached one of the vehicles, he found a female passenger had escaped but was on fire. Bailes pulled her to the ground and used his coat to put out the flames. Two other neighbors, Dennis Wilson and Chris Holbeck, worked with Bailes to get the driver and another passenger out of the vehicle just before it was engulfed in flames. In an interview with a local television station, Holbeck said, "We just did what needed to be done." 

Take Part in the Governors’ Challenge 

Before the Huskers take on the Hawkeyes this Friday, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts are asking the citizens of their states to participate in a friendly challenge to see which state can raise the most money to support the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund. 

Now through November 25, people can donate to support Red Cross Disaster Relief fund by going to www.redcross.org/iowachallenge or www.redcross.org/nebraskachallenge. People can also text “Iowa” to 90999 or “Nebraska” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

Every 8 minutes, the Red Cross provides hope and comfort to people affected by community disasters. Financial contributions to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund allow volunteers to help disaster victims, anywhere, anytime. Donations are used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. 

The American Red Cross also invites the public to be heroes in their communities and sign up to volunteer and be a part of their life-saving work. The American Red Cross is looking for diverse volunteers of all ages and skill levels. People can go to redcross.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.