College kids and community members give blood at DePaul

The American Red Cross hosts many blood drives throughout the Chicago and northern Illinois area every week. Recently, a drive was hosted at the DePaul’s Ray Meyer Fitness Center and brought out students and Lincoln Park community members alike. Some donors, like DePaul junior Sophia, were giving blood for the first time. Others, like Ri who lives down the block, give regularly.

Sophia signed up to give blood last minute when her friend Desirae, who donates regularly, invited her to tag along. Sophia went in confidently and came out feeling good and excited to donate again.


Giving blood across the room from Sophia was Ri. Despite her fear of needles, Ri began giving blood when she turned 18. She remembers her father needed surgery to remove part of his small intestine when she was a child, and that procedure required a blood transfusion. After he recovered from surgery he began giving blood, always making sure to bring his daughter Ri along in hopes of teaching her the importance of giving back. Clearly, the lesson stuck because Ri gives blood every ten weeks.

Checking everyone in before they gave blood was volunteer Dennis Strode. Dennis began volunteering at blood drives last year after he spent five years battling lymphoma and needed multiple blood transfusions. To give back, Dennis travels all around the Chicago area from Orland Park to help out at different blood drives.



Donating blood is an easy way to make a big difference to someone else. It’s something many people can spare, yet there often isn’t enough to go around for all the people who need blood. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. By donating regularly, your blood will help ensure that there is enough on the shelf when it’s needed. Just one donation can save up to three lives. To donate, all you have to do is be at least 16 years old or 17 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 lbs and be in good general health. Everyone goes through a mini-physical and medical history before the donation, and are given lots of snacks, water and juice afterwards. The entire process takes about one hour.

The Red Cross blood drives at the Ray are held in a small room in a corner yet, the drives always fill up with lots of donors wanting to give back. It is because of these donors and volunteers giving up their time to roll up a sleeve that patients are able to receive lifesaving blood transfusions.

If you’re interested in finding an upcoming blood drive near you or learning more about how to host a blood drive, visit

Written by Hannah Nicholson, Communications & Marketing intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois


Helping the healing in Parkland, FL

The nation’s eyes were turned to Parkland, Florida recently after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018. Thirty-three people were shot and 17 of them died. As a Red Cross social worker with a background in trauma counseling and crisis intervention, I deployed to Florida for 5 days to work with the peers and families of those students so tragically killed.

diana 1.jpg

During a disaster or a terrible event like this, workers like me help to meet people’s complex emotional needs. I provided support, psychoeducation (therapy that helps survivors understand what they’re experiencing) and connected other students and parents in the community to local resources and referrals to help in the long term. 

Most of my time in Florida was spent on an outreach team. We visited people in hospitals, schools and homes through this outreach. I also provided support at two memorials held for the victims and at the Family Assistance Center that was set up at the Parkland Community Recreation Center.

diana 3.jpg

Part of this outreach included a group of 5 golden retriever comfort dogs from the Naples location of PAWS. Pictured with me is Woody. These comfort dogs brought another level of relief, and I actually brought them on many of the home visits. They really help soothe the soul.



Here I am with one of the service dogs, Woody.

To call this event tough or sad doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was flooded with such a mix of emotions during this experience. All at once I felt sad, angry, proud and inspired. I am sad for the loss of life and all the families that may never feel complete again. The survivors will never be the same and still face a long road to recovery ahead of them, which can be difficult and complicated.

I’m also angry that something like this can happen in a place we consider safe — school. My husband is a teacher and this scares me to my core. I feel proud of the students and the change-makers that have now taken an impressive stand. We’ve seen their actions and heard their words on TV and I’m so impressed by their maturity and ability to speak up, even after being the very community affected most deeply by this tragedy. To see them work toward bringing change is inspiring. I’ve also seen unlikely friendships form and massive amounts of support come out of this ugliness. They’ve shown the world they are resilient and the Parkland community has grown stronger as they work together to process the impact of this despicable act.

diana 2.jpg

 Diana Loch is the Regional Recovery Manager for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

 Looking for support? Call the Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-958-5990 or text: TalkWithUs to 66746

Over 800 Pints Collected at 2018 ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive

“It’s the right thing to do… you don’t really know who you’re going to help and maybe they’ll give back someday,” said Michael Matura as he donated blood at the 2018 Great Chicago Blood Drive. This is the fourth annual drive and it is a product of the teamwork between the American Red Cross and ABC 7 Chicago. Radio station, iHeartMedia, and the Univision news station also partnered with the Red Cross on this event.

Over the one-day blood drive, 824 pints of blood were collected between the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook. That amounts to thousands of people who can be helped as one pint of blood can help save up to three lives.

Each donor had their own motivation. Marlow Hicks said, “In the past year, in the U.S. alone, we’ve had a need because of the natural disasters. When Hurricane Harvey hit last summer, blood banks were in need of donors to keep up with the demand coming from those injured in the storm and its aftermath. The need was even greater because blood drives in Texas were cancelled due to flooding.”

However, there were also repeat donors, such as Matura, who came in to donate because they feel that donating regularly is the right thing to do. Ryan Treaseh is a regular donor and said, “I’m a giving person and I like helping others.” For one woman, Nirali Vora, her donation was part of a larger personal goal, “I turn 35 next month and I told myself I would do 35 good things.”

Jim Piacentini has been donating blood regularly for more than 30 years and is also on the bone marrow list. For him, the experience became more personal a few months ago when his mother needed a blood transfusion. “Her hemoglobin count was low, so they needed to boost it up… I said to the nurse right there, ‘can I donate now?’” Though he was not able to at that moment, he did return later to make a blood donate. He said, “she’s doing well now. Her hemoglobin is up. Whoever’s blood it was, I’m thanking them.”

Briget Sanfilippo

Briget Sanfilippo’s daughter was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at the age of five and has had many blood transfusion during her treatment.

The need for blood also hit Briget Sanfilippo’s family, whose daughter was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at the age of five. Aplastic anemia is caused when damage to one’s bone marrow prevents the production of new blood cells. Sanfilippo said her daughter “had a relapse about three years ago and she’s lived on and off of transfusions.” According to Sanfilippo, her daughter’s disease was so bad that she could have died from a hit to the head. While her daughter still needs a bone marrow transplant to fully recover, “she’s doing well, she’s just above transfusion levels.”

Sanfilippo recalled a moment during her daughter’s transfusions, “I looked up at that bag and thought that someone went out of their way to save my family.” This was Sanfilippo’s first time donating blood, she said, “I feel like it’s something I’ve always wanted to do because someone did it for me… hopefully I can be a regular donor.”

Each person who donated during the blood drive left with a donor sticker, a cookie and a smile. After donating, Hicks said, “I think if you can do it, you should. It’s super easy. I feel good about it.” The American Red Cross has blood drives almost daily in the Chicago and northern Illinois area throughout January and February. You can visit to find a drive based on your zipcode.

Written By: Eleanor Lyons, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Giving Back like Clara Barton

Giving Back like Clara Barton

It’s not until you give yourself up, that you truly give.

Over the past six years, this little but powerful phrase has been engrained not only into my brain, but also into my heart. For a child, overnight camp is a chance to pull all-nighters and eat as many s’mores as possible. For me, overnight camp was a chance to spend my summers feeling completely normal, laughing about things that would usually make me cry, and eventually, giving back to the place has given me so much. For five summers, I left my small Chicago suburb and headed to North Oxford, Massachusetts to attend, and later work at, Clara Barton Camp. The camp gave me so much; a home away from home, some of my very best friends, and, most importantly, it taught me the importance of giving.

Founded by and named after Clara Barton, much of the camp centers around her life and legacy as the founder of the American Red Cross. The camp’s location in New Oxford is actually where Clara Barton was born and raised. The barn she visited daily is where we host our annual summer talent shows, her classic white home was transformed into a place where campers can buy postcards and camp apparel, and her pond is one of the best places for an afternoon camp swim. Clara Barton is the “it girl” at our camp, her dedication to others is what we, both counselors and campers, strive for. When I was hired back as a counselor at the camp, I went to my closest American Red Cross on West Harrison Street to get CPR/First Aid certified. I can vividly recall looking at the walls in the building and seeing photos of Clara Barton. It was the same Clara Barton that was on my camp key chain I had purchased the summer before with my cabin mates. Seeing her photo allowed me take a step back and realize not only how much I appreciate Clara Barton Camp, but also how impactful Clara Barton was as the founder of the American Red Cross, a truly spectacular organization.

At the end of every camp session, the entire camp comes together to read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. The book ends with the little boy, who is now an old man, returning to the tree. The tree explains that he has nothing left to give the boy because he already gave the boy everything he had. The boy explains that all he wants is a place to sit, and the tree, which is now a wooden stump, gives him just that; “and the tree was happy.” The tree did not simply give; he made giving his mission. At Clara Barton Camp we follow that giving mission, the same mission of the American Red Cross.




Written by: Aubrey Woolford




Red Cross Thanksgiving cooking safety tips

With winter holidays coming up, millions of people will gather for Thanksgiving to enjoy time with loved ones and a delicious holiday dinner. However, cooking fires tend to be the primary causes of home fires and home fire injuries. These fires are often caused by leaving cooking food unattended or unintentionally turning on or not turning off the equipment.In order to keep your family and home safe,The American Red Cross has provided some safety steps that everyone can follow.

First and foremost, it is very important to install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Be sure to replace all batteries at least once a year if you smoke alarm requires it. Other safety steps include:

  • Don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle while cooking.
  • If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended – stay in the kitchen. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly.
  • Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.

Another helpful step is to download the Red Cross First Aid app which provides expert advice for common mishaps or emergencies including cuts, burns and what to do if someone is choking. Download the app for free in your app store or test GETFIRST to 90999.



Written by: Laila Orazova & Kelly McCasland, American Red Cross Communications Interns

Nominate a Hero for the Red Cross Heroes Award!

Nominate a Hero for the Red Cross Heroes Award!

Heroes are everywhere. The American Red Cross established the Heroes Breakfast to raise awareness for local heroes who carry out the mission of the Red Cross by making a commitment to creating stronger communities and providing help when disaster strikes. The chosen heroes will be honored at the Heroes Breakfast on May 3, 2018.


The Red Cross is currently accepting nominations for the 2018 Heroes Breakfast!


With eleven different categories, many different types of heroes are nominated each year across the Chicago & Northern Illinois region. The categories include: Blood Services, Community Impact, Disaster Services, Emergency Medical Assistance, Firefighter, Global Citizenship, Good Samaritan, Law Enforcement, Military, Nurse and Youth.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is currently looking for nominations within this calendar year. Candidates must live or work in the following counties in Illinois: Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, La Salle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. Their heroic act must have occurred within the 2017 calendar year or be ongoing.

Click here for more information or to nominate a hero in your community.

Written By: Kelly McCasland & Laila Orazova, American Red Cross Communications Interns.

2017 Chicago Marathon and Runners Brunch

2017 Chicago Marathon and Runners Brunch

Every year in October the Chicago Marathon is held in the downtown area, this year around 45,000 runners participated in the run. This year 110 runners joined Team Red Cross, helping to raise money for American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois. Before the marathon, the Red Cross held a brunch for the runners in thanks for volunteering their time to the Red Cross. Some of the runners shared why they are not only running but running for Team Red Cross.

Steven Paluck, a runner in this years race, says, “I am running to save lives and help those in need. I chose the American Red Cross because of all the incredible support they provide for those in need. I am alive today because of the selfless donations of blood donors. When I was a child I was very sick and needed multiple donations. After that, I was involved in a vicious dog attack and relied on blood donations again. I am honored to be a part of such an incredible organization that provides life for those in need.”

Pascal Schweitzer says he ran for the Red Cross because, “I like what the Red Cross is doing. I am familiar with the international Red Cross, and I know it is a big, global organization. I trust [its] values and [its] positive impact on communities.”  

Many of the runners that teamed up with the Red Cross wanted to not only run but make an impact on the world while running. Joshua Powell explains saying, “this is my fourth marathon and my first with the Red Cross. I had originally planned to physically go to Greece to help with the refugee crisis there, but it did not work out, so I now am supporting [Red Cross efforts] by running.”

For some, the race was a family effort, Ann Di Paola wanted to run for the Red Cross after witnessing the tragedies that have occurred and the generosity of the people that have responded. She then convince her brother, Jose Di Paola who had previously biked to raise money for Colorado Children’s Hospital, to run with her. Juan DiPaola joined in on the conversation adding that he, “joined the Red Cross [team] because I know that they have helped millions of people and I want to be a part of it.”

Tragedy was the main motivator for Ryan Wisniewski as he explains in his interview saying,“I decided to train for a half with the inspiration of my mentor, Rosanna. She encouraged me to push myself, and so I did. I signed up for my first marathon before I even ran the half, but before I could run either, Rosanna passed trying to fight a house fire. I know the Red Cross would have helped her. I also witnessed the Red Cross help victims of the Boston bombing first hand being in Boston since 2012.”

So much of what the Red Cross is able to accomplish is due to the help of the amazing volunteers, many of which help on a daily basis. For Madeline Kinnaird the wonderful Red Cross volunteers are what largely impacted her choice to join Team Red Cross for her 5th marathon. She explains by saying, “I chose the Red Cross this year because I have gotten to know some volunteers through a telethon I participated in earlier this year, and it is a great organization.”

If any of these stories have moved you, you can join the by visiting and applying to be a volunteer. You can help the Red Cross support people affected by hurricanes by visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters.

Written By: Kelly McCasland , American Red Cross Communications Intern,  and Jessica Hayashi, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer