Citizen Heroes From Nebraska, Iowa Named For Heroes Game

LINCOLN – With the Nebraska vs. Iowa Heroes football game scheduled to kickoff Friday late afternoon, the citizen heroes from each state were announced earlier this week.

According to a release from the American Red Cross, the Nebraska honoree will be James Wilke of Columbus who lost his life while trying to rescue a stranded motorist during the Nebraska floods this past spring. The Iowa representative will be Katie Gudenkauf.

This year’s Hy-Vee Heroes Game honorees exemplify what it means to be a hero. Their lifesaving actions define why the American Red Cross, Hy-Vee, the University of Nebraska and the University of Iowa partner together each year to showcase extraordinary citizens in both states.

The family of James Wilke as well as Katie Gudenkauf will be guests of the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Iowa Hawkeyes at Friday’s game and will participate in a variety of special pregame activities. During halftime of the Hy-Vee Heroes Game, university and Hy-Vee representatives will make a special on-field presentation to the citizen heroes. The names of Wilke and Gudenkauf will also be inscribed on the Hy-Vee Heroes Game trophy.

Earlier this year, individuals 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.

Every eight 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 to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.

The football contest between the Cornhuskers and Iowa Hawkeyes at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln is scheduled for Friday, November 29 at 1:30 p.m. CT.


 James Wilke – In March 2019, Nebraska faced historic flooding that created dangerous conditions. Structures were damaged, roads were swept away and lives were lost. As floodwaters rose, James Wilke, a farmer from Columbus, Nebraska, was asked by local authorities to help a stranded motorist. James did not hesitate to climb into his tractor like he had done many times before and proceeded to assist this stranger. As James crossed a flooded bridge in his tractor, the bridge gave out. James and his tractor were swept away by the floodwaters. James gave his life while attempting to save the life of a stranger.

Katie Gudenkauf – On a cold day in March, a tragic turn of events caused Katie Gudenkauf and Jake Tebbe’s paths to cross on Clarke University’s campus in Dubuque, Iowa. At the time, Jake and Katie did not know one another. Both were in attendance at an indoor soccer tournament taking place in Clarke’s Kehl Center. While Jake was playing in the soccer game, his heart stopped beating and he blacked out. Katie and her friends, also nurses, happened to be nearby. Katie stepped in and began first aid, eventually saving his life. Katie is a 2018 graduate of Clarke’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program and currently works as a family practice nurse practitioner at Grand Regional Health Center.