American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Celebrates 12 Local Heroes at Annual Breakfast

On May 1, 2019, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois hosted its 17th Annual Heroes Breakfast.  It was a warm and inspiring event, filled with hundreds of people, all gathered to celebrate the actions of twelve local heroes.  The morning’s honorees were those that acted with bravery, selflessness and courage and left an indelible impact on the lives of so many. Read the background on each of the 2019 heroes this year here.

Some of the 2019 Heroes pictured with CEO Celena Roldan

Walgreens was the signature sponsor of this year’s event.  I had the opportunity to speak with Richard Ashworth, the President of Pharmacy & Retail Operations of Walgreens.  He reflected on the “community aspect” of the Red Cross and Walgreens, in that they are both active and prominent in local communities across the United States.  He said that “when something happens in this country, whether it be a fire or whether it be a tornado or a hurricane, the local activation of the people that live in that community to rebuild and to bring back, that’s something that was near and dear to Walgreens’ heart and the partnership with the Red Cross is what really makes that happen.”

Honorary Chair Richard Ashworth speaking to a private reception ahead of the 2019 Heroes Breakfast

Megan Bugg, recipient of the Youth Hero Award, was one of one of the twelve heroes that were acknowledged.  She was recognized for her major contributions in raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer.  At the age of 13, Megan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, known as Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS).  The next few years were very challenging, as she faced many difficult treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.  Megan decided to take her struggle and turn it into a spotlight for childhood cancer.  She spoke to the Illinois General Assembly and at CureFest in Washington D.C., as well as helped coordinate fundraisers at her school.  As a result of her efforts, Megan helped raise over $164,000 for the research of childhood cancer and brought federal funding issues surrounding the illness to the fore.  Currently, only 4% of federal funding goes to childhood cancer research.  When accepting her award, Ms. Bugg, said that she is “so grateful to the Red Cross for noticing [her] work and letting [her] spread the word.”  Megan continues to bring awareness to this incredibly important issue and says that she is “not going to quit, ever.”

Megan Bugg speaking after accepting the Youth Hero Award

The morning was filled with stories of heroes, like Megan.  Officer Mark Dallas, the Law Enforcement Hero, stopped a would-be mass shooter at Dixon High School in Dixon, IL.  Officer Dallas exchanged fire with a shooter at the high school, where 182 students were practicing for their graduation ceremony.  Just before the shooter entered the gymnasium where the students were rehearsing, Mark was able to stop and ultimately apprehend the suspect.  Remembering that day, Officer Dallas says that he “felt like a dad to all those kids” and that “by the grace of God [he] was able to help.”

Law Enforcement Hero Officer Mark Dallas

Like Officer Dallas, Mary Carmody, Military Hero, has made the needs of others one of her life’s top priorities.  She created the Midwest Veterans Closet, an organization that provides much-needed assistance to veterans.  Mary’s establishment gives free food, clothing, job and computer training, household items, and even automobiles that have been donated, to those have have served or are currently serving in our nation’s military, helping 550 people per month.  Without Mary, these veterans would often times have nobody else to turn to for help.  When delivering her remarks on being the honoree of the award, she kept the focus on the veterans.  In a touching moment, Mary asked all of those who had served to stand and spoke directly to them, saying “thank you for my freedoms… and I think I can speak for everyone when I say thank you for all of our freedoms.”

Some of the heroes including Detective Sergeant Paul Clampitt (left) and Military Hero Mary Carmody (right)

This year’s recipient of the Heritage Award went to Rick Waddell for his astounding dedication to philanthropic and charitable endowments, as well as leadership in society.  As CEO of Northern Trust, Rick continued the company’s belief in giving back.  He has used his position to bring his associates together to engage with the community.  Mr. Waddell is also active in the Nature Conservancy, advocating for environmental change and speaking with the youth in underprivileged communities.  Northern Trust and the Red Cross share a long history of partnership.  Rick told me that what he finds so special about the Red Cross is that they are “there when people have the most need – whether it’s a natural disaster, armed forces services members and their families returning home, the American Red Cross, since the 1880s… [has] a brand about them that people trust when they need it most and they deliver.  And I just think when you have that trust and that ability to help people when they are at their lowest moment, it’s an incredible organization and an incredible service that the American Red Cross provides.”

Heritage Award Recipient Rick Waddell giving a speech

Local heroes, like those honored at the Heroes Breakfast, make outstanding contributions to their fellow human and to society every day.  Acknowledgment of the sacrifices and contributions of these heroes is so important and something that is very meaningful for the Red Cross.  Our sincerest gratitude goes out to this year’s class of honorees!

See all of this year’s hero videos on YouTube here.

Nominations for next year’s heroes is now open.  If there’s a hero in your life, nominate them here!

For more information on how to become a volunteer for the Red Cross, visit

Written by Red Cross Communications Volunteer Vicky Arias

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