“I love the vibe of Race Day:” Team Red Cross runner laces up for Chicago Marathon

rco_blog_img_raceThe Chicago Marathon day is my favorite day of the year. There’s truly nothing like it! This year’s marathon will be my 8th overall and my 6th Chicago Marathon. I keep coming back year after year because I absolutely love the vibe of race day and the energy of the crowds on the course.

I run for Team Red Cross because I believe in the work they do around the world. Whenever there is a need for help, the Red Cross is always among the first to respond.  It’s great to see that the money I raise is going to help those who need it the most.

29902440510_6ffc89e017_oAt the end of July, I was struck with a stress fracture in my shin. It seemed to come out of nowhere but it left me unable to do high impact exercises for almost two months. In the meantime, I have been trying to keep up my fitness by going to spinning classes and strength training. Thankfully, my leg is better now. Just in time for race day!

The night before the race, I like to relax at home with a viewing of “Run, Fatboy, Run.”  Definitely a running classic!  On race day, I have a couple of friends who live along the course so I always look forward to seeing them when I pass by. The faces I most look forward to seeing, though, are those of my boyfriend and his son, who always come to see me around mile 24. Seeing their smiling faces is just the boost I need to make it to the finish.

Andrea Hamilos of Chicago is one of 80 members of  Team Red Cross athletes running the 2016 Bank of Chicago Marathon. Want to run for a good cause? Those who missed the registration for this year’s marathon can sign up for next year to run with Team Red Cross. Registration opens Oct. 10, 2016 and includes a guaranteed entry to the 2017 race. Email stephanie.patton@redcross.org for more information.

Helping our communities prepare, recover and flourish from disaster

Helping our communities prepare, recover and flourish from disaster

Guest Post by Jeff Winton, President, Astellas USA Foundation

When Jeff Winton was a child, his rural farming community in upstate New York was struck by a series of disasters, including a fire that burnt down his house and a set of tornadoes that devastated his town. As Astellas USA Foundation president, Winton understands that disaster can strike when we least expect it, and that being prepared can ease the burden of those affected. He explains how Astellas USA Foundation is helping communities prepare, recover and flourish when the unexpected happens.

When I was a young boy, one Sunday afternoon I discovered that my home had caught fire and destroyed several rooms in the house. Fortunately, I was able to alert my parents in time before the entire house was destroyed. As I look back on that moment, I remember American Red Cross volunteers being there for my family and me, helping us sort through the wreckage and move forward from the loss.

Around the same time, another disaster struck my community. A set of tornadoes took out the small farming community I lived in, destroying dozens of homes and buildings and killing a massive number of livestock. Looking back, I’m again reminded of Red Cross volunteers on the scene, helping us recover.

These personal experiences with disaster have driven my passion to ensure that all communities, no matter how far removed, are prepared when disaster strikes. At Astellas USA Foundation, we believe that crisis prevention and recovery are at the forefront of building sustainable communities. It is essential to provide communities with proper resources and education, to help ease the burden of those most affected so they that may recover and flourish when the worst happens.

Growing up in a rural community, we were miles away from the nearest large city and amenities, including hospitals. That made it more difficult for emergency responders to reach my town quickly, so we often had to wait longer to receive help. With that perspective and experience, I believe our support of at-risk and far removed communities, both in Chicagoland and across the Americas, is especially crucial.

Continuing our seventh year of support of the Red Cross, in 2016, Astellas USA Foundation donated funds to purchase 23,000 smoke alarms, helping 9,200 families be more prepared for home fires. Special emphasis was placed on low-income, elderly, disabled and youth populations, who are more at risk for a fire, and more likely to be severely affected than the general population. We are ensuring these populations are educated and equipped to secure their homes.

In addition to fire safety efforts, Astellas USA Foundation supports the Red Cross to be on the scene when disaster strikes. This year, we’ve provided relief to victims of the floods in Louisiana and Texas, Canadian wildfires, and the earthquake in Ecuador. Due to our longstanding commitment to this partner, we were honored with the Wesbury Leadership award this summer from the American Red Cross of Chicago for our efforts to prepare and strengthen communities.

But relief comes in many forms. We also work with Americares, which provides medicine, supplies, education and training to more than 900 health facilities across the United States, helping 5 million low-income patients receive care they might forgo due to cost. We’re also building self-reliance in rural communities in El Salvador to help them build a more sustainable future after the food crisis that resulted from El Niño. By working with World Food Program USA, Astellas USA Foundation is helping new mothers and young children receive the nutrition they need to thrive and be healthy. To do this, we helped these mothers access SuperCereal+, a supplemental food to eradicate hunger and malnutrition during their children’s crucial developmental years.

We call this Living Smart – or, preparing our communities today for what could happen tomorrow. Astellas USA Foundation enlists the help of Astellas employee volunteers through the Living Smart Program. So far, employees have participated in blood drives (most recently collecting 48 pints of blood, which could help Red Cross save up to 144 lives) and provided the Red Cross with a first-of-its-kind energy efficient emergency response vehicle to reach people affected by disaster.

I’ve experienced first-hand how devastating and unexpected disasters can be. But I’ve also seen how help from organizations like the Red Cross can turn around a seemingly hopeless situation by providing resources and support to ease the burden of those most affected. Astellas USA Foundation looks forward to continuing its support of these organizations so that our communities can prepare, recover and flourish from disaster, facing the future with confidence.

This story was cross-posted with permission and is also available here.

Why I Run for Team Red Cross

Why I Run for Team Red Cross

I remember the exact spot I was standing when I checked my phone on July 20, 2015 and read the text: “headed to Lake Forest ER, please pray.” Right then I knew something big was happening; change was coming, but I had no idea what an impact it was going to have on my life. I drove right from work to the hospital.

Stage 4 cancer. You could physically feel the ache in the room. My grandma, the center of our entire family was diagnosed with the unimaginable. For 17 weeks we watched the brave woman we knew battle this unrelenting disease. Throughout the entire process, I was in denial—this wasn’t happening, she would beat this, it’s not that bad. But it was bad. I watched the strongest person I know, become physically, emotionally, and spiritually weak.

My cousin Nolan, a US Marine, left three days before we found out about the diagnosis for Okinawa, Japan, where he would be stationed for the next two years. Every day, my grandma would open her iPad and say to the picture of my cousin on the screen saying, “Hi Nollie, I hope I can see you just one more time.” Her one, final wish was to have all her family together just one more time.

The American Red Cross made that wish a reality. My aunt and uncle contacted the Red Cross on Friday, Nov. 20, to explain the situation hoping to set up a time within the next several weeks to get Nolan back to the United States. Instantly they got a response that Nolan would be on a plane the next Monday and would land in Chicago on Tuesday.

On Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, we rushed my grandma to the ER once again where she would leave hours later; sent home on Hospice for her final days. Nolan landed the next day reuniting with my grandma and my entire family. That day was the best she looked in months.

Then she began slipping away from us, beginning her journey to heaven. Those days are the best and worst days of my life. The best, in the sense that I have never felt such a strong, united bond with my family. We laughed together, we shared stories of the past, we cried, we sang, and we prayed. On Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, at 6:50 a.m. my grandma left her weak, diseased body and entered the Kingdom of God.

There are no words I could ever say to express the gratitude I have for the American Red Cross. They gave my family a priceless gift that truly is irreplaceable.

This year I have the honor and privilege to run the 2016 Chicago Marathon with my mother and best friend. I am excited and somewhat nervous to push my body both physically and mentally beyond anything I have ever done.

I am not doing this for myself, but in hopes to give back to an organization that helped me and my family in our darkest time.

Runners who are interested in participating in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon can join Team Red Cross, the official race team of the American Red Cross. General registration for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 is closed, but limited spots are still available through charity partners like the Red Cross until Sept. 15. Team members pledge to raise at least $1,500 to support Red Cross humanitarian programs and services. Register to join Team Red Cross online or email stephanie.patton@redcross.org. For more information about Team Red Cross click here.

Janelle Johnson, 25, of Lake Bluff, Illinois is a first-time marathon runner and member of Team Red Cross running in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9.

Postcards From Louisiana: “Keep People in Your Prayers”

IMG_20160815_091537529_HDRHi Friends & Family-

Fran and I were traveling home from a RV Rally in Elkader, Iowa on Aug. 21 and got a call from the American Red Cross asking us to drive an emergency response vehicle to Louisiana to help with the floods.

We left the next day.

Nearly 10 hours later, we drove 600 miles to Blytheville, Ark. After a few hours rest, we drove another 420 miles and arrived in Baton Rouge. We stayed overnight in a Red Cross shelter.

DSCF4960We got to work the next morning. Our day begins about 7:30 a.m. We deliver food, water and supplies to families. The weather here is very hot and muggy and the smell of wet trash is overpowering at times.

Of all our previous deployments, this is the first time for us in a disaster that is still on going. We see the massive effort made to help people.

Fran and I take hot meals and water to people. We’re working with the Southern Baptist, who partner with the Red Cross during these big disasters. They bring in trailers with stoves and ovens to cook meat, vegetables and pasta. In a single day, meals are prepared for thousands of people a small kitchen.

Be sure to keep the people of Louisiana in your prayers as they have lost so much and it will be a long and difficult recovery.

Our Best,

Frank and Fran

Frank & Fran Cornwell are American Red Cross volunteers from Fulton, Illinois deployed to Louisiana to aid relief efforts.




How Safe Are We? Disaster Preparedness Summit Targets Cyber & Workplace Security

CHICAGO, IL – Technology touches every aspect of our lives from social interaction to managing personal finances. The cyber world makes life easier to manage, but it also exposes us to threats that can cross the wire. At the same time, we’re also seeing the workplace as a new target of attacks increasing at an alarming rate.

So how safe are we?29108317925_378f4bbd43_o

That’s what participants at this year’s annual American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Summit investigated Aug. 18 through engaging workshops and discussions.

The event, held at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center, provided a forum for shared learning and experiences among local leaders representing more than 100 business, government and community organizations. This year’s summit focused on cyber and workplace security to improve the resiliency of the Greater Chicago region in responding to disasters, in whatever forms they take.

29031066061_ab1514a56d_oWeeks before we are about to mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Patrick G. Ryan, Founder, Chairman & CEO of the Ryan Specialty Group, spoke about his personal and corporate experiences leading the Aon Corporation during the disaster.

Moderating the day-long discussions were Celena Roldán, Chief Executive Officer and of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, and board member and chair of this year’s summit, Brenda Battle, Vice President, Care Delivery Innovation, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the University of Chicago Medicine.

“We have great collaboration among our corporate and government partners, in addition to all the agencies that have a hand in helping to make our community safer and more resilient to any type of hazard,” said Battle.

28489667643_6f66812842_oDiscussions covered cyber and workplace security issues affecting both public and private sectors. Speakers emphasized organizational self-awareness of the human, physical, and network components of a cyber system. In particular, the ability to identify the data susceptible to attack, potential adversaries, and individual and organizational points of vulnerability is key in the maintenance of cyber security.

Experts also discussed effective response tactics in the event of a workplace security breach and the importance of preparing a carefully prescribed plan. Speakers addressed the significance of issues beyond IT: human resources, legal, privacy, public relations, and most importantly, communication. These were among the critical considerations mentioned in successfully responding to cyber security breaches.

29031147181_8832a58d86_oSpeakers and other topics included:

  • The Hacker/IT Professional (Sharyn Menne, Brandon Fason, James McJunkin)
  • Cyber Security: Protecting the Public/Private Sector, Defending Against an Attack and Closing Trap Doors (Ricardo Lafosse, Kirk Lonbom, Bryan Salvatore, Robyn Ziegler)
  • Cyber Risk: Who Owns It? (Marcus Christian, Jim Hartley, Paul Hinds)
  • Cyber Extortion (Kirk Havens, Thomas F. Minton, Richard Spatafore, Judy Quinton)
  • The Intersection Between Privacy & Security (Gino Betts, James K. Joseph)
  • The Intersection Between Privacy & Security (Paul Steinberg, Alicia Tate-Nadeau)
  • The Fallacy of Workplace Security (Brian Baker, Thomas Henkey, Paul Huerta, John Kiser)
  • The Financial and Legal Impact of Workplace Violence (Keith D. Blakemore, Ann Bresingham, Thomas Byrne)
  • The New Face(s) of Workplace Violence (Thomas R. Mockaitis, Ph.D., Jenna Rowe, John Walsh).

“While nature can wreak havoc on a community, the same is true with cyber breaches and workplace violence. As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, much of our work at the Red Cross on local level is to help build more resilient communities in Northern Illinois, such as through the dialogue and partnerships we form at this conference,” said Roldán.

Next year’s summit will cover topics of public health and bio-terrorism.

The event was possible thanks to the generous support of Presenting Sponsors: Aon, CSX, Motorola Solutions, and Zurich of North America; Readiness Sponsor: Grainger; and Community Sponsors: Illinois Medical District, JLL, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business; with additional support from Discover and the United Way.

Go here to view more photos of the 2016 American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Summit.

29108254835_c77f7128d7_oStory by: Jessica Hayashi, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

 Photos by: Christopher Doing, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

“We Have Our Hands in the Community:” GAGDC Joins Red Cross for Smoke Alarm Rally in Auburn-Gresham

CHICAGO, IL – As part of a nationwide fire prevention campaign, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois teamed up with the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) on Sat., July 23 to install smoke alarms and teach families about fire safety.

Linda Johnson is the program manager for the GAGDC and said, “it was a necessary partnership. We have our hands in the community and have established relationships in the community so it was easier to transition into the homes from a partnership level.”

28471828816_e75f5f1373_oTogether, 60 volunteers from both organizations installed more than 400 smoke alarms in the South Side neighborhood.

Christa Hunt lives in the neighborhood and volunteered through GAGDC. She said she was glad to be part of the smoke alarm rally, “there definitely are a lot of homes that need it in the neighborhood.”

As volunteers went door-to-door installing alarms, residents welcomed them into their homes. They called neighbors who also needed the alarms to tell them about the Red Cross.

“Usually people my age they get out just fine, but children and seniors, those are the biggest casualties and I would hate for something to happen when I could have prevented it,” Hunt said.

The American Red Cross is known for responding to emergencies, but will continue its effort to install alarms and prevent them before they occur.

“Because of the tremendous efforts of our volunteers working alongside our partners like the Greater Auburn-Gresham Community Development Corporation, hundreds of families are now safer and know how to escape their home in less than two minutes if a fire should occur,” said Harley Jones, Regional Disaster Officer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

28242657960_26df0d6f94_oState Senator Jacqueline Collins, Alderman David Moore of the 17th Ward, and Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr. of the 21st Ward also stopped by to thank volunteers from the GAGDC and Red Cross.

See more photos of the Auburn-Gresham Smoke Alarm Rally here.

 WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO People can visit redcross.org/homefires to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones from a fire. They can become a Red Cross volunteer. They can also help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visitingredcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

28220493950_3dbe62bcc5_oWritten by: Eleanor Lyon, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by: Danny Diaz and Ira Meinhofer, Public Affairs Volunteers, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois



Four Generations of a South Side Family Safer with Smoke Alarms

28420460352_0285211dc6_oCHICAGO, IL – In a four-story apartment building on the South Side, four generations and 10 members of the French family received a visit July 23 by the American Red Cross.

From the basement to the top floor, volunteers installed 15 smoke alarms in the building and planned an escape route for everyone inside in case of emergency.

Apartment complex owner Larry French heard the Red Cross and the Greater Auburn-IMG_0310Gresham Development Corporation was coming to his neighborhood and opened the door to have his entire building equipped with new, 10-year battery smoke alarms.

“Anything to protect my family,” said Larry, whose elderly parents, Howard and Queen, live below him on the first floor. “I look out for them all the time, you only got one parents; and we all have to help out one another.”

28494225916_a8d4c13e2e_oInside each residence, the Red Cross installed smoke alarms near the kitchen and sleeping areas. In the common stairwell, an old smoke alarm was chirping, so the installation team replaced that one too.

“You never know when a fire will happen, you could be in your pajamas and it’ll just happen,” Howard said.

Larry’s cousin, Crystal French, lives on the top floor with her young boys and felt better knowing her family was safer and knows what to do to help all members of her family on all floors during an emergency.

“It’s all about keeping constant contact, it’s important to ask family: Are you okay? Do you need anything? Since the Red Cross gave us this education, we now might be able to work out a good safety plan,” she said.

28425716871_ecb6af6faf_oIn addition to the 15 smoke alarms installed in the French family’s complex, the Red Cross, joined by community volunteers from the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, went door-to-door in the Auburn-Gresham community and installed more than 400 smoke alarms in a single day. More than 60 volunteers from both organizations also educated residents about fire safety and helped families create a personalized escape plan to exit their home during an emergency.

The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is a multi-year effort to reduce the number of home IMG_3018fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. Working with fire departments and community groups across the country, the Red Cross is installing smoke alarms in homes in neighborhoods at high risk for fires and teaching residents about fire prevention and preparedness. Locally, the Red Cross will install 6,600 smoke alarms in the coming months in communities across Northern Illinois.

See more photos of the Auburn-Gresham Smoke Alarm Rally here.

WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO People can visit redcross.org/homefires to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones from a fire. They can become a Red Cross volunteer. They can also help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visitingredcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.


Story by: Tyler Bieschke, Public Affairs Volunteer & Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by: Danny Diaz and Ira Meinhofer, Public Affairs Volunteers, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois