Many Milestones at Morrison Blood Drive

The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care.

The American Red Cross of Illinois hosts blood drives every day across the nation to help meet the needs of people in hospitals across the country who need blood to live, including many blood drives in the Illinois Region. Some long-standing blood drives have been held in communities for many years, with local people coming out regularly to donate every 56 days, as often as one can.

The Morrison, IL area blood drive is one of those regular drives that comes about in line with the frequency that a person can donate and its appointments are faithfully filled by members of that community.

Volunteer Blood Drive Coordinator Kaywyn Beswick has been leading the blood drive since 2009, and it’s transformed into more than just a blood collection spot. Especially before the COVID-19 outbreak, the blood drive was more of a consistent social gathering every 56 days where friends could meet and talk and enjoy food together between rolling up their sleeves.

A life-long registered nurse and yoga instructor, Beswick is committed to cultivating this highly successful drive with recognitions and helping donors understand the importance of blood donation. Each one can help save up to three lives, and Beswick believes that should always be celebrated with bells and cheers.

Recently, ten donors were awarded with milestone pins at the January 20th drive at St. Mary Catholic Church:

2 gallons: Trish Kingery, Kelly Smith

3 gallons: Jill Bramm, Mark Bramm, Bryan Vogel

7 gallons: Harvey Tegeler

8 gallons: Stephanie Vavra, Randy Kuehl

15 gallons: Pam Shank

26 gallons: Bill Kuehl

A thumbs up from Bill Kuehl on his donation making him a 26 gallon donor!

Eighty-year-old Lyle Bush was recognized for making his 233rd blood donation, nearly 30 gallons of blood!

And among all these milestones, Kaywyn made her 100th donation that day!

The Red Cross is proud to celebrate every donation and every blood type as we continue to face a national blood shortage. The Red Cross asks the country to roll up a sleeve to help ensure people receive the care they need. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)

Blood donations are needed now to meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease. You can also make an appointment in the days and weeks ahead to ensure the Red Cross can replenish and then maintain a sufficient blood supply.

Written by American Red Cross Illinois Region Communications Manager, Holly Baker

17th Annual Peoria 12 Hours of Giving Collects over 330 Units of Blood

You probably know there’s a critical need for blood donations – but you never know who you might meet when you give blood!  

At the American Red Cross’s 17th Annual 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive in Peoria, special visitors showed up to donate last December: a Marine from Toys for Tots, the entire Hoosen family of 7 – spanning 3 generations – including their son who was a First Time Donor… and Santa himself! Over 300 donors gave 335 pints of blood, exceeding our goal. 

Please consider giving the gift of life with a blood donation – you could save up to 3 lives with just an hour of your time. Check out redcrossblood.org and schedule today! 

Written by Public Affairs volunteer, Virginia Hopley

Illinois Region Volunteers Responding to December 11 Midwest Tornado Outbreak

Our thoughts are with everyone whose lives were changed forever by the horrific and deadly tornadoes that touched down overnight across the center of the country.


The American Red Cross Illinois Region volunteers were put into standby mode early Friday in preparation for expected severe weather. At least 24 catastrophic tornadoes ripped across five states in the dark of night, impacting people in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. Numerous homes and other buildings are destroyed and more than 275,000 customers are without power.

Illinois Region volunteer Steve Wise of New Lenox, IL is the first to deploy out of state to Kentucky to help lead the Mass Care response.

Right now, the Red Cross and our partners are working around the clock across these states to help
those in need and make sure everyone has a safe place to stay, food to eat, critical relief supplies,
emotional support and comfort.

The Red Cross has provided more than 160 blood products to hospitals in response to these devastating
tornadoes. We remain in touch with our hospital partners throughout affected areas and stand ready to
provide additional blood products as needed. Sign up to give soon by going to www.redcrossblood.org.

In the Illinois Region, volunteers are assessing damage reports and supporting our neighboring regions responding in Edwardsville, Illinois. A shelter was opened in Virginia, IL for residents without power seeking a safe, comfortable place to stay.

More tornado safety tips for before, during and after here.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

www.redcross.org

Volunteers Respond to Large Fire in Keokuk, Iowa

Early in the morning of December 9, 2022 volunteers with the American Red Cross Serving the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois were called to a large fire at the Westbrook Terrace apartment complex in Keokuk, Iowa.

The entire 16-unit apartment building was destroyed as it went up in flames, immediately putting 34 people out of their homes.

Pushed by high winds, the fire quickly spread into the roof support space and swept across the entire building. Firefighters from the Keokuk Fire Department and Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Department battled the flames and brought the fire under control but not before the majority of the roof structure was destroyed, making the building not suitable for living.

The Red Cross is working with our community partner the Salvation Army to provide immediate assistance as we transition to navigating the next steps to make sure people affected have longer term lodging and further assistance. Red Cross volunteer caseworkers responded to the scene to make sure every person had resources for the upcoming days and the weeks to come.

Red Cross volunteer Carl Tortorige provides resources and information for a victim of the Dec. 9 fire in Keokuk, IA

Red Cross Volunteers from Quincy arrived on scene with an Emergency Response Vehicle and provided client intake services, immediate financial aid, and comfort kits for the displaced residents.

Give Back in More Ways Than One

Blood donors and volunteers needed at the upcoming ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive!

Coming up on January 12 & 13 is the ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive, one of the nation’s LARGEST blood drives and you can be a part of it! The American Red Cross is looking for people to sign up to give blood. Donors will receive a limited edition ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive t-shirt (while supplies last) and will be a part of helping to save lives this winter. Sign up for an appointment by clicking here.

A Red Cross phlebotomist helps a blood donor through their donation.

Can’t donate? Consider being a volunteer! With 5 locations across 2 days, there is a shift for you! Even if you have never volunteered for the Red Cross before, we need over 200 volunteers to help make this drive a success as it has been in the past.

Shift Times: 6:30am-11:00am, 10:45am-4:00pm, 3:45pm-9:00pm

January 12th

  • Navy Pier – 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

January 13th

  • Foglia YMCA – 1025 N Old McHenry Rd, Lake Zurich, IL 60047
  • Hyatt Hotel – 1800 E Golf Rd, Schaumburg, IL 60173
  • Georgio’s Banquets – 8800 W 159th St, Orland Park, IL 60462

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks will be provided to all who volunteer throughout the day and each volunteer will receive a FREE t-shirt!

Two Red Cross volunteers assist at the 2021 Great Chicago Blood Drive.

Virtual training, safety protocols and Q&A sessions will be held in late December/early January.

Register here!

If you have additional questions, please email us at abc7volunteer@redcross.org.

American Red Cross of Illinois CEO Celena Roldan at the Field Museum in January 2021. This year’s Chicago location will be Navy Pier!

Red Cross and CBS Chicago Team Up to Raise Over $300,000

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago and local CBS-2 Chicago teamed up for another successful Day of Giving Telethon. Through the generosity of the public, corporate donors and sponsors a total of $316,380 was raised!

Telethons with CBS date back to 2010 when several local news stations all got together to help raise money after the devastating earthquake in Haiti for a “Chicago Helps Haiti” telethon.

Since then, there have been no lack of natural disasters to dedicate the day to alongside the 5 lines of service of the Red Cross: Disaster Relief, Biomedical Services, Training Services, International Services and Service to the Armed Forces.

We are grateful to CBS-2 for sharing so many heart-warming stories of the impact of the Red Cross; from the Chicago doctor who laced up her running shoes to run the Chicago marathon for Team Red Cross, to the local father who turned to the Red Cross after a tornado last summer left his home wrecked.

Click here to see more stories from the day.

And check out highlights from our 2021 Day of Giving CBS Chicago Cares Telethon below!

Remembering Jasper Swafford

Jasper Swafford was diagnosed with leukemia at five-months-old and received many blood transfusions which undergoing cancer treatment.

At 21-months-old, a few hours after receiving news from doctors that he was on the road to recovery and he was in remission, his parents were told that Jasper’s heart was failing.

Sadly, Jasper passed away shortly after on March 30, 2021. Patricia Swafford, Jasper’s mother described him as a very happy baby who loved the character Lorax, his family and everything related to the animated movie Toy Story.

The Swafford family hosted a blood drive in honor of baby Jasper on July 7, 2021 at the Whitmore Oreana Community in Oreana, Illinois.

His parents have made it their mission to help other families dealing with childhood cancer and share the importance of donating blood. When you donate blood or platelets you’re helping cancer patients receive the lifesaving care they need.

If you are healthy and feeling well, please visit redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment to donate at a blood drive near you.

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern Brianna Orto

A volunteer poem

Brian Kenney started volunteering with the American Red Cross in Texas in 1992. In his 15 years or so of active volunteering he has taken on many roles, but the one he has enjoyed the most is being a Disaster Services volunteer. 

He explains his favorite part of volunteering is to give people experiencing disasters comfort during difficult times and to stand with them to be the hope in their darkest moments. 

Brian shares that his most memorable volunteer moment with the Red Cross was in 2000 in Minooka, IL when a mother came to him after a flood asking for help with her daughter who would not stop crying. He calmed her down and engaged her imagination. With the help of ‘Mr. Fear’, he helped her by telling her to squeeze his hand and that Mr. Fear left her and now went to him, making her less scared during this time.

“Volunteering gives you a whole new perspective on the world around you—the more I volunteer, the more blessed I am.”

Brian wrote a poem about insight to his experience volunteering with the Red Cross:

In the Midst of the Storm by Brian Kenney, DSC, Illinois, Region 4

I really can’t imagine the disaster victim’s plight, 
How in such a very short time their day’s been turned to night.

The world as they knew it has suddenly been taken away, 
Now they look to you for answers but there is nothing you can say.

Your outstretched arms may just be the answer for right now, 
As on your shoulder a shattered life rests and to you their problems they endow.

You embrace them ever so gently as the tears begin to flow, 
Both yours and theirs fall to the ground in amounts we’ll never know.

Now the tears that they’ve been pouring out  have seemingly reach 
their peak, They raise their head ever so gently and prepare to try and speak. 
                                                      
So now you silently motion to them that what’s transpired is OK,
Because it’s been your privilege to be there for them this day.

You will never forget this meeting and what it’s meant to you, 
For rather than just helping one you discover it has helped two.

You wonder how the time flew by as you shared in another’s loss, 
Your life has made a difference through serving the Red Cross.

Thank you to all the men and women who give so tirelessly every day utilizing their time, energy, and talents to make a difference serving as American Red Cross Disaster Service volunteers. 

Brian Kenney, DSC

Thank you Brian for your amazing poem, continuous hard work and passion for working with the Red Cross and our mission. We are lucky to have you!

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Isis Chaverri and Sharing the Red Cross Story

Regional Marketing & Communications Manager for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Isis Chaverri has been with the organization for almost three years. Originally from Panama, she immigrated to the United States in 1995.

A Fulbright Scholar, her media and communications background is extensive including overseeing Univision Chicago with over 30 people reporting to her and receiving multiple Emmy awards for her work. Her and her husband are also entrepreneurs, running their own small business for 10 years following her career in news.

She feels Hispanic Heritage Month is a fun and exciting celebration because it emphasizes differences within our cultures while also bringing so many people together.

“It just makes me feel connected,” Isis said.

“It’s a way to honor the different cultures within the Hispanic community because even though we all speak Spanish, we have things that make us different from one another; even within the Hispanic community there are different cultures and think that’s important to highlight.”

Isis shared that seeing how the month is celebrated further emphasizes how the cultural differences between the Hispanic community are some of the things that make it so interesting.

“I’m so proud of my culture and being Panamanian. When you are identified as Hispanic/Latina- it just puts you together with other people who share the same values and cultural commonalities that you do… its just a way to not only celebrate Hispanics as a whole but also what makes us who we are and realize the differences culturally.”

Working at the American Red Cross, Isis is part of the team responsible for sharing the mission and message and activities with the rest of the community. It’s a role that she says has been fulfilling in multiple ways especially with her ability to connect with people of many different backgrounds in often some of their most difficult times.

“What attracted me was that I was going to be able to use my skills to help others. I learned about the many lines of service, and thought this is an organization that is not only well-known and respected, but I would be able to give back. What a better way to give back and use the skills I have than through the Red Cross?”

A meeting at the Chicago headquarters (pre-COVID-19)

In the midst of disasters, Isis says it feels good to be able to help people. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she was still able to help share how Red Cross volunteers continued to meet the needs of people experiencing disasters of all kinds from home fires to hurricanes to flooding. When Freeport, IL experienced severe flooding a few years ago many people were forced to evacuate their homes, Isis met a woman living in that area who was originally from Puerto Rico and had relocated to Freeport after Hurricane Maria. Faced once again with disaster, Isis said it was nice to be able to bring even the slightest bit more comfort to the woman by not only providing Red Cross services while displaced from her home but also communicating with her in Spanish- something familiar and understandable among a confusing and complex time.

Though Isis goes back to Panama often to visit family and they often visit the US, Isis says the distance is great and she misses them deeply. When family is able to come and visit her here, she says it is a joyous reunion filled with great memories. But Isis says being a part of the Hispanic community within the Illinois community is a connection worth cherishing and sharing.

“We are here to contribute and we want to make our communities a better place…we have very strong family values. We are a very tight-knit community and we can be loud sometimes but we are a lot of fun.”

Written by Communications Manager Holly Baker

Hispanic Heritage Month: Red Crosser Brittany Reynoso Reflects on Cross-Cultural, Cross-Generational Connections

Brittany Reynoso joined the Illinois Red Cross staff as a Regional Philanthropy Officer earlier this year. In this role, she manages a portfolio of donors and works with them individually to understand their philanthropic goals; together they connect their giving interests with all that the Red Cross does. Prior to joining the development staff, Brittany was a virtual volunteer with the Red Cross in the western U.S.: “I wanted to learn more about the Red Cross, the breadth of the life-saving work that’s part of the mission, and the different lines of service”. When a position opened in Chicago, the fit was perfect!

Hispanic Heritage Month is a special time of year for Brittany to reflect on her own heritage. Her grandparents are from Jalisco, Mexico and she takes great pride in that culture. “It’s so vibrant and I’m very proud of it. It’s an important part of my identity every day, but this month is a reminder to share our cultures and heritage with friends and loved ones.” One of Brittany’s favorite ways to celebrate is listening to live mariachi music in Chicago, and sharing that unique musical experience with friends. Throughout the year, she enjoys the Mexican influences in the Pilsen neighborhood, including the National Museum of Mexican Art. Visiting the Frida Kahlo exhibit with her family this summer at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art (College of DuPage) brought the Mexican painter and history to the forefront and was amazing, says Brittany.

Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to appreciate other Latin cultures and recognize those communities. Brittany recently visited an Argentine market and restaurant with an Argentinian friend, to experience what makes their culture distinctive. A multi-cultural and ethnic city such as Chicago allows for that exposure.

“This month is also the perfect occasion to spark conversations among elders and hear what stories they lived, a time to connect to family and carry on those stories in the U.S.”, says Brittany. She plans to travel to Jalisco next year with her grandparents, and looks forward to reconnecting with her family’s history and heritage.

To become a Red Cross volunteer and make a difference in your community, please visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Written by Communications & Marketing Volunteer, Virginia Hopley