ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Tuesday is Red Cross heroes day. It’s a time to celebrate the people in our community who give back, making the Stateline and the world a stronger place.

A Rockford native who took training class ended up helping his church in a big way.

When Pastor Cory Whitford became CPR certified, he never thought he’d have to use the life-saving skills. But last spring the unexpected happened and he sprung into action.

That’s what makes Pastor Whitford a Red Cross Hero.

“Its not something you see everyday,” said Pastor Whitford. “We would want that done for us, I would hope someone would do that for me.”

How would I react in a life-saving situation? It’s a question many of us have asked ourselves. But for Pastor Cory Whitford, it wasn’t a question at all when an emergency unfolded at Riverside Community Church in the spring of 2019.

“I was an associate pastor, youth pastor here. Um, yeah I was right there I was right where that table is. You know? And those things don’t go away,” said Pastor Whitford.

A parishioner lost consciousness and fell on the floor.

“[I heard] ‘help. I don’t think he’s breathing. Oh, he’s not breathing.’ And, yeah I just, I just ran up and reacted,” he described.

Pastor Whitford performed CPR on the victim until life re-entered the man’s eyes. He says the single day it takes to get certified is worth a lifetime being ready to step up and help.

“If they choose to go get certified through CPR, they might never, ever, ever, ever have to put that training to use. But, the fact is as long as they know it, as long as they have that there. There’s just another person in the room… that they can be of use,” said the pastor.

“If you can sign up to do a CPR/AED class, it’s just a life skill that it so important for you to have for you and your family,” said Leslie Luther, the executive director for Northwest Illinois Red Cross.

The American Red Cross offers CPR and first aid training. Luther says signing up is simple and something no one would regret.

“One of the reasons that’s so very important, is because it equips individuals, regular individuals like you or myself to be able to provide some immediate response to someone,” she explained.

As for Pastor Whitford, that ‘How would I react?’ question is answered. He’d go through that frightening church service again in a heartbeat.

“He said you know, I was in a pretty good place before you woke me up. And I said yeah well you’re welcome. And he said it’s good to see you, thank you,” said Pastor Whitford.

Since that day, Pastor Whitford has had to perform CPR not once, but twice during other emergencies.

The American Red Cross Northwest Illinois chapter hosts CPR certification classes online and in person. Click here to find out how you can become certified.