Brian DeLoche: Why I Volunteer

“Why am I a Red Cross Volunteer?”

I’m sure that’s a question most “Red Crossers” have been asked or may have asked themselves.

Among the reasons I’m a Red Cross volunteer today is it gives me a way to give something back to the Red Cross for the help it gave me during two, significant life changing events — a family tragedy and cancer.

Red Cross Service to Armed Forces helped a soldier get home

I was on a temporary active duty period serving in Europe in 1989 when I received a call about the tragic event that had struck my family.  The call came at 8 a.m. European time, and by 2 p.m., with the help of the Red Cross, I was aboard a non-stop flight from Amsterdam, Holland to Chicago. Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces eliminates red tape and gets things done no other agency can do.

The American Red Cross Hero Care Center is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with two options for requesting assistance: online and by phone.

Red Cross Blood Services helps save lives 

Through its Blood Services division, the Red Cross saves lives by providing a nationwide safe and ready blood supply. 

Being one with a relatively rare blood type (AB Positive) I’ve been a blood donor essentially since I became age-eligible. Earlier in my life, I seldom missed an opportunity to give blood at a Red Cross blood drive, and have donated over 5 gallons of blood.

One day, I arrived for my donor’s appointment but failed the iron or hemoglobin test. This simple test proved to be a life-changing moment for me.

Instead of my blood drop sinking to the bottom of the small glass tube in use at the time, my blood drop did a back stroke and swam to the top. The nurse told me I needed to see a doctor right away. Four months later I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  Six months later, doctors removed my left kidney.  

That was 18 years ago and the beginning of an on-again, off-again relationship with cancer that continues today. Had I not failed that simple test at a blood drive, my cancer may not have been detected when it was, and I may not have survived it.

Those two events help explain why I became a volunteer, but what they don’t explain is why I still volunteer.

I’m a Red Cross volunteer because I’ve seen what the Red Cross does and what it can do — As I enter my 7th year of service to the organization, I’ve seen what the Red Cross does and the direct impact it has on people’s lives.  I’ve been touched by more than one teary-eyed “Thank you, so much,” or emotion-packed hug after handing a Client Assistance Card to the victim of a flood, fire or tornado.

I’m a Red Cross volunteer because I’ve been inspired — by the strength, resilience and determination disaster victims have shown in the wake of fires, floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters.

I’m a Red Cross volunteer because I’ve learned — that disasters, while impacting people regardless of their stations in life, seem to strike hardest at those whose ability to recover is the least.

I’m a Red Cross volunteer because the Red Cross doesn’t discriminate — against people on the basis or race, religion, nationality, politics, gender orientation or identity.

I’m a Red Cross volunteer because the Red Cross works.  It works in the wake of disasters and tragedies to help people recover and restart their lives.  It also works to help prevent disasters through campaigns like “Sound the Alarm,” that will help reduce fire injuries and deaths by installing free smoke alarms in homes across the country; It works through Red Cross swimming lessons, and Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes that help save lives; and it works through programs like it’s Pillow Case Project, that helps children cope with the after effects of disasters.

I’m a Red Cross volunteer because volunteers ARE the Red Cross: While the Red Cross has a paid staff who are needed to manage it’s day-to-day operations, when disasters strike the Red Cross accomplishes its mission primarily on the strength of its volunteers and the generosity of its donors. Ninety-five percent of the work is done by a volunteer workforce. It’s Red Cross volunteers who put their boots on the ground and do the heavy lifting necessary to help people recover in a disaster’s wake. 

I’m a Red Cross volunteer because if not me, then who?  How about you?

Come join us.  You can help us be stronger, because together we are the American Red Cross.

Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

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