Challenge on 74: Illinois State University vs Bradley University Blood Battle

The Challenge on 74 brought in blood donors from Illinois State University and Bradley University, to help bolster the American Red Cross blood supply.

The Redbird Red Cross Club took on the Bradley Red Cross Club for bragging rights and while there could only be one winner of this battle, the real winners are the people who will receive lifesaving blood during their time of need, because of these blood donations.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this event!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a location near you and schedule an appointment to donate blood.

Village of Romeoville Blood Drive Reaches 1,000 Unit Collection Milestone

The Village of Romeoville, Illinois started hosting regular blood drives for the American Red Cross when the global pandemic began in early 2020. They stepped up to take after when the Red Cross saw an increased need for blood donors to help sustain local hospitals during those days of uncertainty.

After having blood drives held regularly over the past two years, 1,021 units of blood have been collected!

On Monday, March 14 the momentous 1,000th unit of blood was donated by long-time and regular donor Kathleen Gubbins.

Thank you to the Village of Romeoville and community for supporting these blood drives and helping us achieve moments like this.

Phlebotomist Joseph Peshel holds the 1,000th unit of donated blood from the Village of Romeoville drives

To sign up to give blood soon please visit www.redcrossblood.org.

Red Cross Month: Family Hosts 5th Blood Drive in Honor of Seven-Year-Old

Photo credit: Kelly Harrigan

A seven-year-old is now responsible for five successful blood drives. This week, nearly 50 units of blood were collected in honor of Anthony, a child who has relied on donated blood to keep him alive.

Anthony’s blood drive at the Mount Prospect Police Department also served as a celebration. He recently turned seven years old, and he just celebrated his two-year anniversary of being cancer free.

Anthony was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) in 2019. It is a rare blood disorder in which the blood does not clot normally. This can cause excessive bruising and bleeding, due to the blood not clotting as it normally should. Anthony has received weekly platelet transfusions, because of this condition. He also needed nearly 20 rounds of chemotherapy treatment, while fighting leukemia.

Anthony’s mother, Kelly, has been coordinating blood drives since then, as a way to help other people who need blood and platelets. She is grateful for everyone who participates and plans to hold two more events, later this year.

As for Anthony, he is doing well and one of his favorite things to do is ride the bus – with his mom. We celebrate his good health and thank his family for their continued efforts to support the mission of collecting lifesaving blood!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment to donate blood, to volunteer at blood drives or to host a drive of your own.

In March, the American Red Cross of Illinois is honoring the people who make its mission possible every day during its annual Red Cross Month celebration – a national tradition started nearly 80 years ago when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first national Red Cross Month proclamation recognizing those who give back through the American Red Cross. Each U.S. president has issued a proclamation ever since. Join Red Cross Month by visiting redcross.org to make a financial donation, sign up to give blood, become a volunteer or take a class in lifesaving skills, such as first aid and CPR.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Celebrating Black History Month: Board Member Spotlight on Dr. A. Kyle Mack

February is African American History Month and the American Red Cross pays tribute to the men and women of color who contribute to our humanitarian service – our employees, volunteers and donors.

Dr. A Kyle Mack is a board member and volunteer for the Chicago Red Cross. He is an Attending Physician, Hematology/Oncology at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

We are very grateful for Dr. Mack’s contributions to the board and the American Red Cross. He has been a crusader in treating patients with Sickle Cell Disease and a strong proponent of blood donation, particularly within ethnic communities. Dr. Mack and his colleagues started the Blue Tie Tag Program with the Red Cross in the Chicago & Northern IL area which collects and earmarks blood for patients with sickle cell disease who are in need of constant blood transfusions. With high demand and limited sources for these rare blood types, Dr. Mack has reached out to local businesses, faith-based institutions and schools to host blood drives in African-American communities in the Greater Chicago area to match donors with the same blood type as his patients and recruit new donors. His ongoing support has helped the ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive continue to thrive and expand over the last several years.

READ MORE in an article written by Dr. Mack here: https://bit.ly/2CG1cCN

Dr. Mack also donates blood regularly and experienced a moment when he believes his blood came full circle as he followed his donated blood right back to the hospital where he works. Follow his blood’s journey here: https://bit.ly/3ugXQ4R

We are grateful for Dr. Mack’s dedication and willingness to support the Red Cross and encourage blood donation on behalf of the organization. He has regularly spoken to local media and national media to help encourage donors to give and to help answer questions and dissolve myths about giving blood including appearing on national panels as a blood expert.

The need for blood donations has not stopped amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in over a decade. Blood donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.

Sign up to make an appointment at www.redcrossblood.org.

Thank you Dr. Mack for your contributions to the American Red Cross!

Celebrating Black History Month: Employee Spotlight on Demond Ausley

Demond Ausley is a Manufacturing Supervisor for the American Red Cross of Illinois.

Demond has been a dedicated staff member at the Red Cross for nearly 16 years and says he loves to support the Red Cross mission because he wanted to make a difference. During his tenure, his primary focus has been to oversee the distribution of blood products and transportation services. Blood is essential for so many things and there is no replacement for it. It cannot be created in a lab and the only way to get it is through the generous donations of volunteer blood donors. Through his position, Demond helps supervise the blood operations and make sure everything is consistent in the distribution of blood products to hospitals throughout the region. He is highly knowledgeable on the blood collection and distribution process and highly passionate about how it can help save lives from the trauma victim, cancer patient, sickle cell warrior, or any other reason someone might need blood- thanks to people like Demond, the Red Cross helps get it there. As he says, “It’s the gift of life and it’s precious!”

Watch Demond explain some of the activities at the Chicago blood facility center:

As the nation faces a historic blood shortage crisis, Demond is on the front lines of helping to coordinate the management of a very low blood supply. It’s at the lowest its been in at least a decade due to winter weather challenges, a surge in COVID-19 variants, and a decline in donors & volunteers. This crisis has created major threats on blood collection, but Demond ensures we meet the demands of delivering available lifesaving blood to its destinations as best as we can.

“It’s the gift of life, and it’s precious!”

– Demond Ausley

Demond is very passionate at creating ways to not just tell people about blood donation, but educate them how it is vital to society. He finds fulfillment in helping save lives. His passion is quite evident for he can still remember patients’ names back from when he began his career with the Red Cross almost 2 decades ago.

The American Red Cross is proud to recognize a long tradition of diverse contributors of humanitarian service and Demond was part of a recent initiative to help honor the work of Dr. Charles Drew at the Illinois headquarters in Chicago.

An African American physician, Dr. Drew started the American Red Cross blood banking. His discoveries in the storage and processing of blood for transfusions was groundbreaking and he has since become known as the “father of modern blood banking.” The Charles Drew Institute in Biomedical Services is named for Dr. Drew and the Illinois Region features a display to commemorate his achievements and educate those who pass it.

The display placard reads:

Dr. Charles R. Drew, a prominent African American, was a dedicated scientist and educator pioneering in blood collection and plasma processing. He laid the foundation for modern blood banking and revolutionized the medical profession. The American Red Cross blood program of today is a direct result of his groundbreaking work in developing large-scale collection, processing and storage of human blood and plasma products during World War II. Among his innovations as the first medical director of the Red Cross blood bank were mobile blood donation stations, later called “bloodmobiles.” Dr. Drew’s discoveries and his work in organizing and administering blood banks continue to save countless lives today.”

Demond pictured second from the right at the unveiling of the display to honor Dr. Drew at the Chicago blood facility

We are grateful for Demond’s passion and dedication to the Red Cross. Thank you for being a part of the Red Cross family!

Read more about Dr. Drew here

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

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

Blood Donor Wins Contest & Shares Story About Giving Back

Shannon Symonds has donated blood throughout the years for a decade, but recently she and her husband who is O negative, one of the most transfused blood types, have been making the conscious effort to donate regularly. Shannon says a blood drive held in honor of a teacher’s son years ago at a local high school inspired her to begin donating.

Over the summer, while donating at the Northwoods Mall in Peoria, Illinois she was automatically entered in the Red Cross Gas for a Year Giveaway for $5,000 and was named the winner of the contest.

Shannon says she was quite surprised when she received the phone call and was unaware of the contest. Shannon adds it’s all about the patients and helping them when it comes to donating blood.

“It’s a nice reward and I will continue to give,” she says.

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

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern Brianna Orto

Blood Drive in Honor of River Helmuth

River Helmuth was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart defect. She was born at full-term and shortly after her family found out about her condition.

When River was two and a half months old, she developed a cold and spent 73 days in the hospital where she underwent open heart surgery and multiple blood transfusions. About six months later, River returned for another heart surgery.

Today, River is doing amazing and started kindergarten this year. Her mother Stephanie says she may need another surgery in the future.

Now her family is hosting a blood drive in honor of River. The family realizes the importance of blood donations because of River and other members in their family that have received blood transfusions, including River’s grandfather who received blood after a traumatic car accident years ago.

“Our hope for the blood drive is continue to raise awareness for the need, that’s always there, it’s not just today or tomorrow,” Stephanie adds.

River’s blood drive will be held on Saturday, September 18 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sullivan American Legion, 8 E. Strain Street in Sullivan, Illinois.

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

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern Brianna Orto

Illinois Volunteers Deploy Coast to Coast and at Home

The American Red Cross of Illinois is assisting in disaster response operations across the country- from the devastating flooding in Tennessee to the massive wildfires out west.

These disasters have changed people’s lives forever and our thoughts are with everyone as we work around the clock to help bring comfort and support to those affected.

YOU CAN HELP PEOPLE affected by floods and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift is a commitment to helping people in need, and every single donation matters. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

GIBSON CITY FLOODING

Last week, severe rain and flooding threatened the community of Gibson City, IL. Volunteers from the Illinois Region immediately sprang into action to set up a shelter for people displaced from their homes and to provide individualized assistance through casework volunteers. Volunteers also canvassed neighborhoods in the emergency response vehicle (ERV) distributing cleanup supplies to families.

A multi-agency resource center (MARC) was held on Saturday to provide an easily accessible central location for people to find more resources to help them through all the devastation. More than 24 Red Cross workers were activated to respond to the flooding in Gibson City, and volunteers will continue working with the affected people as they navigate the recovery process.

TENNESSEE FLOODING

The American Red Cross is working around the clock, alongside emergency officials and community groups, to help those in need after Saturday’s flash flooding in Tennessee. Red Cross disaster responders are focused on making sure people have a safe place to stay, food to eat, critical relief supplies, emotional support and comfort during this challenging time.

Susan Walker is an Illinois volunteer from Burr Ridge who is currently deployed to Tennessee. She is one of many volunteers from across the country who’ve left their homes to go to the places that currently need help, like the flooding in Tennessee.

Tuesday night, the Red Cross and our partners cared for more than 80 people in three emergency shelters. More than 140 trained Red Cross disaster volunteers are working alongside our partners and have helped to provide more than 180 meals and snacks and distribute more than 2,000 critical relief supplies to people in need.

Red Crosser Debra Fisher surveys damaged areas in Waverly following Saturday’s flooding.

Where it’s safe to do so, Red Cross emergency response vehicles are traveling through affected communities to provide water, food and cleanup supplies. Red Cross volunteers are also helping to assess the damage left behind by the flooding. This information will help response organizations learn what types of help people may need in the coming days and weeks.

TROPICAL STORM HENRI

As the flood waters recede in the wake of Tropical Storm Henri, people are beginning the difficult task of cleaning up their homes and neighborhoods. The American Red Cross is there, working closely with officials and partners to make sure people get the help they need.

Illinois volunteers Cynthia Altman and Joyce Wilson have deployed to New Jersey to help after the storm, including going door to door to see what the extend of the needs are and doing damage assessments.

Cindy Altman does mobile damage assessment in the New Jersey town of Jamesburg.

In some of the hardest hit areas, the Red Cross will be distributing emergency supplies such as cleanup kits and tarps as soon as it is safe to do so. Responding to disasters is a team effort and no single organization can do it alone — particularly in this current environment.

WESTERN WILDFIRES

Massive wildfires out west continue to scorch acre after acre and tens of thousands of people are still evacuated, waiting to learn the fate of their homes and livelihoods. The American Red Cross has been helping since June and will continue to support people affected by the ongoing wildfires.

Residents in communities near 17 western fires are still evacuated, and Red Cross disaster workers are supporting shelters in California, Washington, Minnesota and Nevada. Seven states — including California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana — are facing air quality alerts due to the massive fires.

In California, Red Cross disaster workers are helping evacuees find a safe place to stay, food to eat and emotional support during this challenging time.

Illinois volunteer Jan Fulfs shares a photo from the airport as she heads to California

Trained volunteers like Jan Fulfs of Illinois were there, assisting with health needs for the thousands of people who have had to evacuate. Volunteers are also replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment, like canes and wheelchairs, that were left behind in the rush to get to safety. Jan even assisted a woman who had collapsed, possibly saving her life.

BE A RED CROSS VOLUNTEER

In this very active disaster year, another way you can help is to become part of the Red Cross trained and ready volunteer workforce to make sure we can provide comfort and support to anyone who needs aid after a disaster.

There is a special need right now for shelter volunteers and health professionals to help care for people affected by disasters. Shelter volunteers help support reception, registration, feeding, dormitory, information collection and other important tasks inside emergency shelters.

Health professionals assist with people’s health needs in disaster shelters and provide hands-on care in alignment with their professional license (RN and LPN/LVN). Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required. We have both associate and supervisory level opportunities available. If you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with a current and unencumbered license, this position could be right for you.

The Red Cross also needs local Disaster Action Teams (DAT) volunteers to help respond 24/7 to local emergencies, particularly home fires. DAT volunteers help ensure that people affected by local disasters have relief and critical recovery resources, including a place to stay, food to eat and clothing. If you are team-oriented and want to help your neighbor, becoming a DAT responder may be just the thing for you.

Find out more about volunteering with the Red Cross here.

GIVE BLOOD Disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods and tornadoes can force planned blood drives to be canceled, compromising the ability of the Red Cross to provide blood to hospital patients in need. Donating blood is a simple way to make a difference.

Thankfully, recent disasters have only forced the cancellation of about half a dozen blood drives so far, resulting in approximately 200 blood donations going uncollected. But we are still in peak hurricane and wildfire season with more challenges likely in the days and weeks ahead.

Additionally, in recent weeks, the Red Cross has seen the number of blood donors coming out to give drop by nearly 10%. This decline in donors is believed to be due to multiple reasons, including the continued effects of the pandemic on blood drive cancellations and donor availability as well as back-to-school preparations for many families.

Part of being prepared for emergencies is ensuring an adequate blood supply. It’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives in an emergency. The Red Cross urges individuals to make an appointment to donate today by finding a blood drive at RedCrossBlood.org, 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, to ensure blood continues to be available for patients in need.