Annual Valor Awards: Local first responders honored for risking their lives to protect others

Local heroes who have risked their lives to protect and serve were recognized Wednesday by the 100 Club of Illinois during its 43rd Annual Valor Awards.

Held at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, police officers, firefighters and paramedics from Chicago and surrounding cities were honored.

"Just as important as it is for us to be there for those families who lose a loved one in the line of duty, it’s important for us to say ‘thank you’ and to appreciate our first responders who go above and beyond every day," said Caitlyn Brennan, 100 Club of Illinois CEO.

Founded in 1966, the 100 Club of Illinois assists first responders through mental health resources and other support, while also helping families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.

"Valor is caring, valor is compassion, and valor is showing up on the hard days," said Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Eric Carter.

At the start of Wednesday evening’s ceremony, a moment of silence was held for the two Chicago firefighters who died in the line of duty in two separate incidents this week. Lt. Jan Tchoryk, 55, died while battling a fire at a Gold Coast high-rise Wednesday morning, and Firefighter Jermaine Pelt, 49, died Tuesday while fighting a fire in the West Pullman neighborhood.


"When heroes fall, we raise hope," said Mike Meagher, Executive Vice President, Board of Directors, 100 Club of Illinois. "I’m taking that sadness and turning it into hope for these families."

Six agencies were honored this year, including members of the Highland Park Fire Department for their courageous response to last summer's Fourth of July parade shooting.

"To be able to stand here today understanding that we did take a great risk, and the honor that we have to make our community proud and be able to serve is incredible in itself," said Highland Park Fire Chief Joe Schrage.

Also honored Wednesday were members of the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department, North Chicago Police Department, and Illinois State Police.

Honorees received a plaque and a valor medal. It is the only civilian-given award that first responders can wear on their uniforms.

"Everything else comes from your department, but this one comes from us as supporters of first responders," said Brennan.

Later this month, the 100 Club of Illinois will also be honoring first responders at ceremonies in Champaign, Springfield and Elgin.