Volunteers and Therapy Dogs Comfort Fairdale Families

Bekah & Bekah 4.15.15Meet Bekah and Bekah. Together, they make a great team.

Bekah Kinsella is a Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer. Golden Retriever Bekah is a therapy dog from Addison, Illinois-based Lutheran Church Charities.  Whether offering a hand or a paw, both Bekahs were a comfort to Fairdale families arriving at the tornado survivor center at First Lutheran Church in Kirkland.

As a Red Cross mental health volunteer, Bekah helps people talk through their emotions so they can cope with disaster and loss. Bekah, the therapy dog, also helps the healing process as furry friend to hug.

Dog trainer Helga Berutti said Bekah started training as comfort dog when she was a puppy. And even through the three-year old Golden Retriever likes to run and play, “when she has her vest on, she knows she’s working.”

Volunteers, like Bekah Kinsella, have the same call of duty, too. Every time they put on their Red Cross vest, it’s an opportunity to comfort those who need our help.

Story by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Photo by: Ira Meinhofer, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross is the “One Constant Through This Entire Disaster”

Chris Thick and Jackie Jordan are heroes. At first they tried to outrun the storm about to strike Fairdale April 9 with their two childrenJackie-Chris-Charlie
in the car, but decided to turn around when the top of a house blew across the road.

They returned home to seek refuge and brought a handful of dazed neighbors inside with them. With the family safe for the moment when the fierce winds passed, Chris joined others in the search and rescue for other neighbors who needed help and were injured.

The couple has two sons Oliver, 2, and Ryder, 1. The boys are exactly one year apart and share the same birthday – April 10; the day after the tornado hit. So there wasn’t much of a celebration for them this year.

Gov Rauner visits fairdale 4.17.15Governor Bruce Rauner visited Chris and Jackie and their boys at their home on April 17. “It’s been a privilege for me just to come and offer condolences and emotional support and financial support, in the future, to the families here, as we’ve walked through the community,” Rauner said.

Chris and Jackie are also grateful to Red Cross volunteer Charlie Sharpe from nearby Sycamore. The couple first met Charlie on White Street when the Red Cross was handing out supplies. They’ve run into Charlie several more times.

Charlie was also Chris and Jackie’s ambassador at the tornado survivor center at First Lutheran Church, helping them navigate the paperwork and casework process.

The couple said Charlie and the Red Cross are the one thing that’s been constant through this entire disaster. “We’ve had more help than we ever thought possible,” said Jackie. “It’s just amazing there’s been a lot of help for just this little town.”

Story and Photos by:

Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Future Volunteers Lend a Helping Hand

ERV kidsFour-year-old Hope Marston survived the tornado that hit Fairdale April 9. A few days later, Hope and her older siblings, Mikey, 7, and Shayna, 5, wanted to help. So they climbed aboard a Red Cross feeding truck stationed at that the tornado survivor center at First Lutheran Church in Kirkland.

They handed out snacks and water with Red Cross Volunteer Services Manager Peggy Pirovano. “They were so eager to help,” Pirovano said. “I can see they have a future with the Red Cross.”

Story and Photo by:

Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Meet the Families of Fairdale: Tornado Survivors

Davis Family Fairdale_4.15.15

The small, tight-knit community of Fairdale is surrounded by cornfields in Northwest Illinois. On April 9, the town of about 150 people took a direct hit by a tornado that leveled many homes.

The families that call Fairdale home are strong and determined to recover. Through the help of the American Red Cross and other community and government agencies, they are getting a good start.

Janet and John Davis live with Janet’s adult daughter, Bridgette Wittenholt in Fairdale. They listened to weather warnings on Bridgette’s cell phone and took cover in the basement when the storm hit. They stayed there for two hours until they felt it was safe to come out.

Even through all three are disabled, they wanted to go home after staying several days with family. They were able to once the electricity was turned back on. The Red Cross has been delivering meals to them.

John is a retired construction worker and a Vietnam vet. Janet is a big Chicago Bears fan, and lived in the Fairdale home for 44 years. Bridgette said when the storm hit, the glass breaking was something she would never forget.Beverly Richardson Fairdale_4.15.15

Their neighbor, Beverly Richardson lived in her Fairdale home for 41 years. Her home was sliced in two; the upstairs was ripped off and landed on the ground next to her living room. Beverly salvaged a few items she recognized – a green dish, a few tools, and the cast-iron “Welcome” sign that used to hang on her front door.

Across the street, Charlene and Ray Roach’s home is still standing, although the inside is in shambles. They have great pride in their home, which they built in 1959. Ray painted the green shutters and Charlene sewed the curtains. All the little details about what makes it their home. Now, glass litters the living room and kitchen from the windows blown out, although remarkably her entire glassware collection remains intact.

The Roaches are fortunate as many of their neighbors’ homes were destroyed. Charlene said,” We’re survivors.”

The Red Cross is helping all families who need support and identifying resources for their long-term recovery needs. It’s a long road to recovery, but the Red Cross is here to help.

Story and photos by:

Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Blood Drive Birthday Party – “It’s the Best Gift to Give Back”

photo 4Rather than toasting champagne on her 50th birthday, Beth Dustman raised a cupcake to raise her blood sugar level with friends at the American Red Cross.

“We wanted to do something meaningful on our birthdays,” said Beth, joined by Winnetka friends Beverly Petersen, Midge Hano and Kim Falk, who all rolled up a sleeve with Beth to give blood. Kim arranged for the birthday party at a blood drive by the Red Cross in Chicago where her husband, Scott Falk, serves on the organization’s Board of Directors.

“It’s the best gift to give back,” said Beth, surrounded by her friends, and a nod to her father who had leukemia and needed blood.  She holds a sign she wrote that reads, “In celebration of life and friendship.”

Like Beth, the Red Cross is also celebrating a milestone birthday this year marking 100 years of service to Chicago. You can give the gift of blood by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Every 2 seconds someone needs blood and 1 pint can save up to 3 lives.

Story and photo by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Nanny Saves a Life With Infant CPR: “Training Turns Helplessness Into a Fighting Chance”

Health and Safety Stock ImagesLynn Lindquist took a pediatric first aid class so she could be a good nanny to six-month-old Jack.

One day Jack was feeding himself pieces of watermelon when he began choking. Lynn allowed Jack to cough at first, but when his breathing became labored she snatched him from the high chair, and turned him over to start the back blow maneuver she learned from her American Red Cross instructor. The piece dislodged and Lynn was relieved to hear Jack cry. A few calming breaths and many hugs later, Jack was happy and giggling again.

“The steps drilled by our instructor, Ed, kicked in when I needed them,” said Lynn. “Red Cross CPR training turns helplessness into a fighting chance. You need to be able to do the best you can for children.”

Lynn is one of many child care providers who have completed a Red Cross class in the Chicago region who would agree infant first aid is a vital skill to know. Even with constant supervision, babies can choke on food or a small toy. They can slip under water in a bathtub or a shallow pool. Infant CPR training ensures you’re prepared, like Lynn was for baby Jack.

“The thing about learning CPR skills from the Red Cross is that it prepares you to act without over thinking it,” she said. “It’ll give you courage to act when you might not have the confidence to help someone in need.”

CPR uses chest compressions and rescue breaths so oxygen-rich blood circulates through the brain and other vital organs until emergency medical personnel arrive.

Lynn encourages everyone to take a Red Cross CPR class to be prepared to help save a life of any age. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers a variety of First Aid/CPR/AED courses and safety tips. Visit http://www.chicagoredcross.org/ for more information.

Written by: Amisha Sud, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Hundreds Roll Up a Sleeve to Give at the 100th Anniversary Blood Drive

KHill_oKyle Bellin has been donating blood every three to six months for as long as he can remember. He knows his donation is needed and can help save a life.

“Just do it, why not? There is no reason not to. It’s quick and it’s easy,” he said.

Kyle joined hundreds of blood donors who rolled up a sleeve Jan. 21 at the American Red Cross 100th Anniversary Blood Drive at Union Station. The event was the start of a year-long celebration to mark a century of service of the Red Cross in Chicago. More than 430 units of blood were collected in one of the largest day-long blood drives during National Blood Donor Month.

The overwhelming turnout will help keep a steady supply of blood available, which can be challenging during the winteroverview_o
months amid cold and flu season or cancelled appointments from inclement weather. The need for blood is great when you factor in more than 41,000 donations are needed every day to meet the demands of patients nationwide. Providing lifesaving blood and blood products to patients is a key component of the Red Cross mission to help people in times of emergency and disasters.

“If you believe in karma, it’s a good way to give back,” said blood donor John Pabich.John_o

Lori Wade, whose daughter works with the Red Cross, encouraged people, “to give it a try. It’s worth the time.”

Jim Dee, who has donated blood around 20-30 times in the past, donated double red blood cells for the first time. There are about one billion red blood cells in two to three drops of blood and they are the most transfusable component. Patients who benefit most from this include those with chronic anemia, trauma and surgery patients, or those with blood disorders such as sickle cell.

“This feels like the right thing to do and it barely hurts,” Jim said. “It’s an easy thing to do for people who need it in desperate situations.”

Doug Gornowich, who also donated double red blood cells, agreed. “Someone has to do it. It’s (the donation) is a small part of your day that makes a great difference.”

Vee_nApart from double red blood cells, donors also came forward to donate platelets. Veronica Vasquez, a Red Cross Blood Services
staff member, was one of them. Platelets are obtained by drawing blood from the donor into an apheresis instrument, which separates the blood into its components, retains some of the platelets, and returns the remainder of the blood to the donor. Patients who benefit most from platelets include those undergoing cancer treatments, organ transplants and surgical procedures.

The common reason across all donors was they gave blood because they wanted to help someone.  Many also understood the value of blood donations after watching a loved one need it.

Kiarra Hill, who donated on her birthday, had a friend who needed regular blood transfusions.

“Think about how many people you may be helping, including friends and family,” she said. “It doesn’t take long and you are saving so many lives.”

Muslims_oApart from individual donors, the blood drive also saw support from organizations such as ‘Muslims for Life’ who have been partnering with the Red Cross for several years by sponsoring and coordinating blood drives at malls, colleges, mosques and churches. Also present were a number of volunteers from Fresenius Kabi, a company that supplies blood packs and medical equipment to the Red Cross to collect platelets and red blood cells.

“Blood donation is something that should come without asking for it. You should do it because you want to do it,” said Shaun Connelly, after finishing his donation and walking to the refreshment table.

The Red Cross has also launched the Sleeves Up virtual blood drive this month which is a new online tool that allows you to create a virtual blood drive and encourage colleagues, friends and family members to give blood or platelets, or make a financial donation – no matter where they are located across the country.

For more details about blood donations or to sign up for an upcoming blood drive, please visit American Red Cross Biomedical Services. We look forward to seeing you at the next blood drive.

For more photos of the American Red Cross 100th Anniversary Blood Drive go to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoredcross/sets/72157650418773425/

Written by: Amisha Sud, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.