MT. VERNON (WSIL) -- Members of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office are being recognized for their quick actions, which saved a 4-year-old after she fell through the ice on her family's pond.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard says he's proud of his team for receiving the Life Saving award.
He says, "It's the biggest reward that I can have as the leader of this office, and this agency to see this kind of performance out of the people that work here, we value that kind of dedication on this team."
He explains, on December 22, 2019, Deputy Kevin Rodriguez was working on an incident in the village of Dix. Moments later 4-year-old Ella's father stopped him and told him his daughter was missing.
"Deputy Rodriguez's instincts took him immediately to the close-by pond where there was ice on the pond that was broken in certain areas and upon closer examination Deputy Rodriguez saw the little girl face-down floating in the water," Sheriff Bullard adds.
Without any hesitation, Deputy Rodriguez went into the freezing water and took Ella out.
Sheriff Bullard says, "He began performing CPR on her along with Captain Weeks from our office showed up a short time later and assisted him with this."
Family friend Cassie Grove tells us she's grateful for the quick response.
Grove says, "That was phenomenal. they did such a great job and I can not be more thankful and more happy that he was there to help Drew and help Ella."
Grove explains the bubbly and loving 4-year-old is continuing to fight for her life in St. Louis.
She says, "She's in the hospital still. She's having a rough time. She's basically neuro-storming," she continues, "It affects the brain, too. It locks up all your muscles in your body so you become like distorted and twisted, and it doesn't let her body rest."
Sheiff Bullard says, although the little girl's journey to recovery might be long he's glad to know his staff was able to give her a fighting chance.
Grove tells us, multiple communities are coming together to host a fundraiser that will benefit Ella. She says it's called, Warm Hugs for Ella. The event starts at 5 p.m. this Thursday at Rolland W Lewis Community Center in Mt. Vernon.
Grove says a few bucks will give you a plate of pulled pork, baked beans, coleslaw, chips and homemade desserts.
The event also includes entertainment for adults and children.