Priest honored for helping strangers to safety as they fled Highland Park parade shooter

Father Hernan Cuevas Contreras is 1 of 12 American Red Cross Hero Award recipients

Diane Pathieu Image
Thursday, May 11, 2023
Priest honored for helping others to safety during mass shooting
The American Red Cross honored Father Hernan Cuevas Contreras for jumping into action during the July 4 Highland Park parade shooting last year.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Twelve people were honored by the American Red Cross on Thursday morning for displaying tremendous acts of kindness and selflessness.

It was the 21st year for the Heroes Breakfast. One of the heroes jumped into action during the Highland Park Parade shooting last summer.

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"For me, this recognition goes to all God's challenges, and heroes of healing peace, and comfort in our families, places of worship and society," said Father Hernan Cuevas Contreras, a Red Cross Hero Award recipient.

Contreras just started working in Highland Park three days before the mass shooting on July 4. On that day, he opened his church doors to help get strangers to safety as they ran from the shooter.

He was honored on Thursday with Yvonne Blake whose son, 20-year-old Jayden, an avid blood donor, was killed in a car accident last year. He needed dozens of units of blood to keep him alive. Fighting as hard as he could, he passed away a week later, and his mom now honors his legacy of helping others when they need it most.

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"It's bittersweet. I would do anything not to be getting an award, but I'm glad my child lived a life that had a legacy like this that we can be proud of. I'm very happy that someone looks, just like him, in the news for something positive," Blake said.

Blake is also a Red Cross Hero for not only keeping her son's memory alive, but for starting a nonprofit in his name and hosting a blood drive in his memory, saving countless lives.

There were 12 heroes, of all ages, honored on Thursday. Those honored include brother and sister duo, Nayomi Melton and Caleb Johnson, who helped feed the hungry by preparing 1,000 lunches and donating them to shelters.

"Thanks, everyone for being so kind to us. We hope to make many more sandwiches," they said.

In honor of the group, the Blue Cross Blue Shield building is lit up in red and shining "#RedCrossHeroes."

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