“Uplifted” – The Cycle of Gratitude by Red Cross Volunteers

Volunteer Pic“I volunteer to improve public health and educate the community,” said Jordan from Chicago Red Cross’s Disaster Health Services department.

Hallie, who works on dispatch services, says she volunteers with the Red Cross because she believes in the cause. “I see the impact Red Cross has on the community and I wanted to be part of it!”

“Volunteering with the Red Cross gives me a sense of purpose. It allows me to have more involvement in the greater community”, said Peg Gramas, who also shared that one of her favorite parts about volunteering with the Red Cross is the fact that she has many different avenues to contribute towards.

Every day our volunteers just like Jordan, Hallie and Peg, generously give their time, new ideas, and compassion to the Red Cross. In return, they carry inspiring stories with them and a feeling that they have helped another person in need. Whether it is through emotional and mental support after a disaster, helping at a blood drive, or even being a digital advocate, the actions of our volunteers is what makes the Red Cross vision come to life.  In honor of National Volunteer week this year (April 6-12, 2014) we are thanking all our volunteers and partners for their incredible work.

Volunteers at the Red Cross have the opportunity to teach first aid, CPR, swimming and other lifesaving skills; respond to disasters and reconnect families separated by disasters or conflict; support blood drives across the country; and help veterans, members of the military and their families in the U.S. and overseas. The Red Cross also welcomes youth, nurse, and group or corporate volunteer work.

By having such an open channel for involvement, our volunteer force continues to grow. We are uplifted by the dedication of our volunteers and they in turn hold immense pride by giving back to the community.

Phyllis Watkins, and Marcia Johnson, both client assistance follow up volunteers, said that one of the most inspiring parts of their work is getting positive responses from clients after a disaster.

“I love when I can make follow-up calls to people we’ve helped, and ask how they are doing”.  “I just help them along their way and get their positive feedback and gratitude for the Red Cross,” said Phyllis, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for over 20 years. “I love knowing they are doing well in spite of the trauma they are going through.”

To learn more about becoming part of the dedicated Red Cross volunteer force visit: rdcrss.org/1okedRy. And again, in honor of National Volunteer week we thank all of our nearly 400,000 volunteers for their devoted work and service. Thank you for all you do!

Written by: Raquel Silva


The Power of a Blood Donation: Amy Jones

Growing up, Amy Jones made simple goals for herself: Attend college, become a teacher and start a family. She has accomplished everything she set out to achieve and enjoys life alongside her husband, Ryan, and their young son, Carter. But Amy’s journey was not easy. In fact, it almost never happened.

At 10 years old, Amy started to always feel tired and lethargic. She seemed to develop bruises on her body easily, and her skin turned yellow. Realizing this was not a typical condition, Amy’s mother took her to their doctor.

More than 100 blood and platelet donations helped save Amy’s life when she was younger, and now she encourages others to donate.

More than 100 blood and platelet
donations helped save Amy’s life when she was
younger, and now she encourages others to

Amy was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent high doses of chemotherapy treatments every six weeks. Like many other cancer patients, she received several blood and platelet transfusions.

“Chemotherapy was a difficult process because it’s just so draining,” she said. “But it was the donated blood and platelets I received that gave me the strength to help fight the cancer.”

Amy’s leukemia went into remission after two and a half years of ongoing treatment, then she was released from her doctors.

“My family and I thought we had beaten this,” Amy said. “But, unfortunately, this was just the beginning.”

Amy relapsed when she was 15, forcing her to endure more intense chemotherapy. After receiving more than 100 pints of donated blood and platelets, Amy’s cancer went into remission again.

Now, Amy has been cancer-free for several years and encourages others to donate lifesaving blood and platelets to help patients in need.

“Without dedicated blood and platelet donors, I wouldn’t have been able to grow up, get married and have my son,” she said. “I hope people realize that blood and platelet donations can not only help a patient in need, but have an impact on future generations. My family and I are living proof of that.”

©2012 The American National Red Cross.

redcrossblood.org | | 1-800-RED CROSS

Testing rides and saving lives at the Red Cross auto show blood drive

NICKAMANDAThis year’s harsh winter cancelled many blood drives, but the American Red Cross Bloodmobile rolled up at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, which helped to keep up with the constant need for blood.

The Red Cross Bloodmobile, a mobile blood donation vehicle, served as an opportunity for spectators at the auto show at McCormick Place to shift gears from the buzz of high energy crowds and polished cars, to make a pit stop to donate blood and help save lives. Donors ranged from enthusiastic first timers to veteran frequent donors. The annual blood drive at the Chicago Auto Show is the largest in the region for the Red Cross.

Attendees lined up to donate blood, sharing smiles and laughter with family and friends. The spirit of sharing continued as donors told their stories, explaining what motivates them to give blood.

“I do it because it will save a life,” said first-time blood donor Nick Umgelder.

Umgelder and girlfriend, Amanda Rubino, said they were inspired by the lives they can help save. Amanda, a nurse, said seeing her patients reminds her that each donation makes a difference.

One experience that has stuck with Amanda was when she directly transferred blood to a patient of hers who had been diagnosed with cancer. Her patient needed blood transfusions that matched her rare blood type after each of her chemotherapy treatments. When Amanda, who also had the same rare blood type, directly transferred her blood to her patient, it was the last time the patient needed a transfusion after chemotherapy.  Amanda’s blood donation helped in her patient’s recovery so much that the patient gave her a locket as a gift of appreciation.

“We still keep in touch, and she is about to graduate college,” said Amanda.

PETERMARYMAZIUKThe opportunity to donate blood at the Auto Show began with the generous work of Dennis Buckley. In 1999, Buckley, director of marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, proposed the idea for a blood mobile as a concept vehicle on the floor of the Auto Show. Although others were initially unresponsive to the idea, the Auto Show blood drive is now one of the largest open community blood drive programs in the Chicagoland area. Buckley was a Red Cross Heroes Breakfast honoree and was presented with the Blood Services award posthumously.

Mary and Peter Maziuk’s personal experiences also remind them of the importance of blood donations.

Mary was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was two years old. Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that uses donated blood transfusions as treatment. Although Mary is not able to donate blood, her husband Peter said his wife’s stories motivated him to begin donating blood again.

“It’s a great ability–saving lives,” said Peter.

The Red Cross blood drive at the 2014 Auto Show was a fun way to come together for a good cause, but there’s always an opportunity to give blood. Call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients.

Story by Raquel Silva. Photos by Diana Brokop

Young Heroes with Big Hearts

8659044340_d249022186_cEvery morning when Sue Johnson holds her son’s hand as they walk down the stairs, she feels a wave of emotions sweep over her.

Six-year-old Hunter Johnson was honored with the Youth Good Samaritan Award in 2010 at the Heroes Breakfast. Hunter took charge in a very grown-up situation when his mother’s health was in peril. He found her collapsed on the floor. Hunter remembered what his parents and teachers had taught him. He called 911 immediately. Hunter’s brave action protected his mother from harm that day.

“He’s my hero,” Sue said.

It is important to acknowledge heroes of all ages. The American Red Cross recognizes community members every year who have demonstrated heroism through extraordinary acts of courage or kindness. In addition to the many other heroes that will be awarded at the 12th annual Heroes Breakfast this spring, one young person will be awarded the Youth Good Samaritan Award.

If you know a young person with a big heart, we invite you to nominate them today. Candidates must live or work in Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kankakee, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, or Will counties in Illinois, or Jasper, Lake or Newton counties in Indiana. The heroic action must have taken place after Jan. 1, 2013. Candidates who are chosen as Red Cross heroes will be honored at the Heroes Breakfast on April 30, 2014.

Acts of kindness and selflessness are characteristics of heroes no matter what their age is. When Brendan Leyden learned about children who are affected by epilepsy, he made it his mission to provide comfort and smiles. Brendan is the founder of Emmett Leyden’s Friends (E.L.F), an organization that provides youth affected by epilepsy with safe toys. Because of his dedication to serving others, Brendan received the Youth Good Samaritan Award in 2011.

Another hero that demonstrated an extreme act of bravery was Benjamin Groeper, 17, who won the youth award in 2012. He fearlessly jumped onto train tracks to save a man’s life. Groeper was waiting on the platform of the CTA Blue Line on his way home from work. He watched as a man fell face forward onto the tracks, while at least 40 bystanders waiting for the train witnessed in panic. Since the incident, Ben has inspired his Boy Scout troop to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

Last year, the American Red Cross recognized a another young hero with a huge heart. Acey Longley of Plainfield was honored with the youth award. When he was 7 years old, he began volunteering at his church’s soup kitchen. By age 8, he was an Illinois ambassador for Legos for Leukemia. Last year, 9-year-old Acey started his own charity, BEATS, that honors his late musician father’s memory by bringing instruments and iTunes cards to children in local hospitals.

Nominations are due Jan. 31. To nominate your hero, visit: redcross.org/chicago/heroes or call 312-729-6388.

Written by: Diana Brokop and Raquel Silva

Pet First Aid: “They’re family.”

photoI’ve always lived with a pet in the house. I’ve loved them all, but Oliver cat was the first pet who was completely mine that I raised on my own.

Pets are our furry friends. Our constant companions. They’re family.  They love us unconditionally. In the helter-skelter of our busy lives, they slow us down and point out the simplicity of what pure joy looks like – food in the bowl, a new toy to play with, or a hug from us when we come home from school or work. When they hurt, we hurt. And when they die, so does a little piece of us.

Around 4 a.m. one morning Oliver crawled to me, his tiny heart racing fast. I cradled one hand under his head and my other hand around his heart. Then it stopped beating. He died in my arms before I reached the 24-hour vet. It’s been three years and I still miss my orange tabby cat.

That’s why today I downloaded the Red Cross Pet First Aid App. It tells you what to do during a medical emergency that’s specific to animals. It puts lifesaving information right in the hands of dog and cat owners so they can provide emergency care until veterinary assistance is available.

I love this App because pet owners can:

•  Create a pet profile including tag identification number, photos, list of medications and instructions.

•  Use the list of early warning signs to learn when to call their vet.

•  Use “click-to-call” to contact their vet.

•  Find emergency pet care facilities or alternate vets with the “animal hospital locator.”imagesCAJ8TBV2

During a disaster, caring for animals is always a concern when you have to evacuate. For dogs like golden retriever, Sagimo, the Red Cross was a welcomed community presence when relief teams arrived to help during the Colorado wildfires last summer.

I met many pet owners, like Derek Gentry, who fled his South Fork home with his dog, Inca. Many animal rescue shelters will take pets and you can find them on this App so everyone in your family can find a safe place to go during an emergency.

Two years ago, I adopted Arthur, whom I affectionately call “Mr. A.” He’s my buddy.

I believe he can live a long life with me.

Written by Patricia Kemp

Recognizing Local Heroes

m17540389_514x260_Chicago_Heroes_2013_AspotGrowing up, we all had a hero. It may have been Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman, but did you know that true heroes surround us every day?

A person doesn’t need to have the power of invisibility or super strength to be a hero. An act of bravery, selflessness and the ability to touch people’s lives in a positive way are characteristics found in a true hero.

Do you know someone like this? The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is looking for local standouts to honor at the 12th annual Heroes Breakfast this spring. The Red Cross recognizes community members every year who have demonstrated heroism through extraordinary acts of courage or kindness.

Nominations are accepted in various categories, such as the Law Enforcement Award won last year by Sergeant Christopher Kapa and Officer Kirsten Lund of Chicago. The two officers responded to a call from another Chicago Police Department officer of shots fired on the South East Side. Arriving at the scene, Sergeant Kapa and Officer Lund found their comrade hit by a bullet after chasing a suspect on foot. Officer Lund applied pressure to the officer’s bleeding chest wound as Sergeant Kapa rushed them to the emergency room, saving his life.

Another past-honoree who felt compelled to help others in danger was Donielle Johnston of Elgin, who received the Emergency Medical Assistance Hero. Donielle was heading east on I-290 in DuPage County when she drove upon a horrific rollover car crash that injured a three-month-old baby and his parents. Donielle rushed to the aid of the infant who had severe lacerations and was losing large amounts of blood. Trained in First Aid, Donielle applied gauze to stop the bleeding and comforted the parents until paramedics arrived.

Joyce Carrasco of Elgin was also honored last year, as the Military Hero. Joyce is the founder and director of Greater Chicago Blue Star Mothers, a support network for local military families. With two of her four children serving in the United States Air Force and Marine Corps, Joyce, along with other military moms in the group are holding down the home front volunteering at the O’Hare USO and hosting baby showers for expectant mothers while service members are away from home. The Blue Star Mothers also present patriotic banners to parents of service men and women that honor their sacrifice.

These are only a few heroes among the many. If you know someone with an inspiring story, a true hero, then we invite you to nominate him or her for recognition. Candidates must live or work in Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kankakee, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, or Will counties in Illinois, or Jasper, Lake or Newton counties in Indiana. The heroic action must have taken place after January 1, 2013. Candidates who are chosen as Red Cross heroes will be honored at the Heroes Breakfast on April 30, 2014.

Nominations are due Jan. 31. To nominate your hero, visit: redcross.org/chicago/heroes or call 312-729-6388.

Written By: Diana Brokop

Johnson Family is thankful for the Red Cross this holiday season

IMG_4986Shanquell Johnson was in the kitchen prepping a turkey dinner for her family on the eve of Thanksgiving.

“Then the whole house went black, and then flames came through the walls,” she said.

Shanquell, her brother, and her four children, 15-year-old Shavon, 12-year-old twins Jachi and Jacruri, and 10-year-old Jakyla left everything behind and ran outside. They moved into their home in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side the month before. A few weeks earlier, everything was on the upswing for the Johnson family. They were unpacked and settled and looking forward to the spending time together in their home during the holidays.

“We lost everything in the fire,” said Shanquell. “I’m still in a state of shock.”

Shanquell returned to her scorched and boarded up home on a cold December morning to salvage what few items were left scattered inside the ruins of her living room. Finding a new place for her children to live is the only item on her Christmas list now.

Like the Johnson family, so many people are in need this holiday season. But the Red Cross is there, responding to 3 to 4 home fires every day in the Chicago region to help families recover. Volunteers find shelter, food, clothing, replace medications and offer mental health services to talk people through the stress of coping with loss.

Shanquell and her children are staying with family and friends, but the night of the fire the Red Cross responded to help with her family’s immediate needs. Volunteers gave the Johnson family the means to purchase food and warm clothes like coats and socks and find a safe place to sleep.

“I’m thankful for that, otherwise we wouldn’t have had a place to go,” she said.

  Written by: Patricia Kemp


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