Dayton man to be honored as Iowa ‘Citizen Hero’

Jerry Goeders credited with saving girl from drowning

DES MOINES — A Dayton, Iowa, man will be honored this Friday for saving the life of an 8-year-old girl who was alone and struggling to keep her head above water at Lake Rathbun in southern Iowa this summer.

Jerry Goeders will be recognized as Iowa’s 2017 Citizen Hero during halftime of the Hy-Vee Heroes Game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln this Friday. Goeders will be joined on the field by Geoffrey Bennett, who will be recognized as Nebraska’s 2017 Citizen Hero.

It was 40-year-old Goeders’ last day of vacation with his family at Lake Rathbun in Moravia last summer when he heard a couple screaming for help as an 8-year-old girl was struggling to stay above water far from the shore. Goeders sprinted down a hill, ran across the beach and jumped into the water, swimming a long distance to reach the girl. He was able to get a hold of her, and assured her during the swim back to shore that everything would be all right.

Officials credit 25-year-old Geoffrey Bennett for saving the life of a woman who had been critically injured when she was struck by a passing vehicle as she waited near her broken down vehicle during a winter snowstorm in Omaha last December. Bennett stopped at the scene and found that the had severe injuries to her leg, which was later amputated. Bennett used his belt to stop the bleeding, and gave the woman his hat to keep her warm as they awaited emergency crews. He stayed with the woman and badly injured her friend.

“These two men and their quick actions very likely saved the lives of complete strangers, which is why these Hy-Vee Heroes Game honorees are so deserving to be recognized as heroes,” said Leslie Schaffer, Regional Executive for the American Red Cross Iowa Region. “Their selfless actions that put their own lives in danger define why the American Red Cross, Hy-Vee, the University of Nebraska and the University of Iowa partner each year to showcase extraordinary citizens in both states.”

Goeders, Bennett and members of their families will be guests of the Hawkeyes and Huskers at Friday’s game and will participate in a variety of special pregame activities. During halftime of the Hy-Vee Heroes Game, the athletic departments from both schools will make a special presentation to both citizen heroes, and 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 this “Citizen Hero” award. Staff and volunteers from the American Red Cross selected the winners.