Rick Waddell Honored as 2019 American Red Cross Heritage Award Recipient

rick_waddellTo Rick Waddell, the importance of philanthropy cannot be understated. He shares, “to whom much is given, much is expected[…] I have been very fortunate in my career at Northern Trust, and to now be in a position to give back to our communities of my time, talent and our resources is extraordinarily important.”

Rick has been deeply involved both personally and professionally in driving impact with organizations like United Way, the American Red Cross, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Kohl’s Children’s Museum, where Rick served as Chair of the Board of Trustees. In that role, Rick led the planning for the museum’s new, expanded facility in Glenview, that opened in 2005.

Connie Lindsey, Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Northern Trust describes Rick’s legacy around CSR as rooted in a few things. “One is understanding that corporations are a part of the community.” The other, is rooted in kindness.

Rick’s philanthropic commitment is deeply present in Chicago’s civic community, where he has driven critical changes to education and budget issues. He is member of the Board of Directors of Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Chicago Urban League, and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. He is Vice Chairman of the Commercial Club of Chicago and serves as Chairman of its Civic Committee. He also serves as executive advisor to the Metropolitan Planning Council.

His involvement does not end there. Rick has been involved in a number of CEO searches and has ensured those incoming leaders are set up for success. He serves on the Board of Directors for AbbVie and IBM. He is also on the Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Rick, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Northwestern University, joined Northern Trust in 1975. He held leadership positions in Commercial Banking, Strategic Planning and Wealth Management. In 2003, he became head of the Corporate & Institutional Services business unit and, in 2006 was named President and Chief Operating Officer of Northern Trust. He was named CEO on January 1, 2008, and Chairman in November 2009. Waddell has served as Chairman since November 2009 and ended his decade-long role as Chief Executive Officer on December 31, 2017.

“Every Northern Trust leader, […], has positioned Northern Trust in the community as an organization that gives back.  I feel I have continued that tradition, and hopefully have given back in the history of those that have preceded me.”

He and his wife Cate have always been very committed to the importance of education, especially early childhood education. In this next chapter, he and his family are working to establish a foundation that will focus on education, youth development and civic principles of our founding fathers.

The Heritage Award is given to an individual or organization whose leadership and actions greatly enhanced the welfare of our community.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2019 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

To see more of Rick’s story, watch his video here


Nancy Romanchek Honored as American Red Cross 2019 Nurse Hero

NR_2Nancy Romanchek has made it her mission to open doors for Muslims to have access to healthcare, hospice care and intentional care of the spirit. Nancy has worked in various capacities throughout her 30-year career as a nurse, from the Medical ICU in the VA hospital, to medical cost containment. Her journey has now led her to passionately advocate for the underserved Muslim population; reducing stigma and providing access to health care.

In 2001, Nancy practiced as a Faith Community Nurse in a Catholic church in Wisconsin. It was during this time when she first noticed that Muslims had no visibility on the interfaith healthcare stage. After relocating back home to the Chicago area in 2006, Nancy felt a calling to serve patients and families experiencing death and dying. She found that despite the U.S. census numbers, a Muslim patient presence was missing in this arena as well. They were not seeking the specialized care to which they were entitled.

At the same time, Nancy learned that chaplains trained in interfaith ministry to the sick, were not receiving education on Islam in Seminary.  In the hospital setting, they were being asked to serve Muslim patients, with no preparation to do so. Nancy approached staff at the Lutheran School of Theology and together they developed a two-day workshop. As an increasing number of chaplains attended each session, Nancy hoped that they would each return to their own communities to promote peace and offer improved services to Muslim patients and their families through a greater understanding of Islam.

Since then, Nancy became a member at Islamic Foundation North (IFN), a mosque in Libertyville, where she quietly but persistently made inroads to establish a Faith Community Nurse position. With the support of the IFN community members, she has taught CPR/AED and First Aid classes, developed a Mom’s group, helped initiate a Women’s Advocacy Committee, and began a Mental Health Initiative that is focused on providing culturally proficient ways to serve those in need.

Most recently, Nancy collaborated with a team to establish the IFN Health Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured and underinsured in Lake County. While most visitors are Muslim, the clinic is open to anyone in need. The clinic offers physician consultations, access to lab work, radiology and low- cost medications. The staff also connects patients with social services, like Medicare.

Nancy believes that her path in nursing and Islam were destined to converge.  According to Nancy, “Nurses are holistic thinkers, are flexible, and recognize that faith is colorblind.”

The Nurse Award is presented to a licensed and practicing nurse, nursing student, or retired nurse who exhibited heroism either in their response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community through acts of kindness, courage or unselfishness in response to an identified need.

To see more of Nancy’s story, watch her video here.

Megan Bugg Honored as 2019 American Red Cross Youth Hero

MB_1At 13 years old, Megan Bugg’s life would be forever changed due to a devastating cancer diagnosis.

On Christmas morning 2014, Megan noticed an odd lump on her arm. Doctors told Megan she had an aggressive stage 4 cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS), a cancer that attacks the body’s soft tissue. Just one month later, the eighth grader began 54 weeks of intense chemotherapy and radiation, something Megan remembers as being “absolutely brutal.”

“I would have five-day stays in the hospital, getting chemotherapy every single day; a really hard, aggressive therapy. It felt like poison going through my body,” Megan said.

Since 2015, Megan has relapsed three times resulting in 90 weeks of treatment and over 120 radiation treatments on six different areas of her body. The side effects of these treatments took a toll on Megan’s body, leaving her with nerve damage, memory loss, severe nausea, stomach pain and more. The treatments were harsh, and nearly cost Megan her life when she contracted sepsis and was in the intensive care unit for two weeks.

This difficult battle helped Megan, a once shy 13-year-old, to become an outgoing advocate for childhood cancer research. Now, Megan regularly speaks to crowds and shares her story, in hope of raising awareness and inspiring change for kids with cancer.

“This whole thing has made me a stronger person,” Megan said. “I think people need to know it [cancer] isn’t like the commercials, it’s absolute torture for kids.”

After some investigating, Megan discovered that of the federal money budgeted for cancer research, less than 4% goes to childhood cancer. She was shocked to see the data and knew she had to take action, not only for herself, but for all the kids battling cancer around the world. Since that time, Megan has spoken to members of the Illinois General Assembly about this and was a 2018 featured speaker at Washington D.C.’s Curefest. She also became acquainted with Dr. Walterhouse, a physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, who researches ARMS, and decided to raise funds to fight the disease. Through social media and fundraisers at her school, Megan has raised over $160,000 for cancer research at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“The end goal is to never have another kid diagnosed with cancer,” Megan said. “I definitely won’t stop fighting until there’s either a cure, or everyone is raising awareness.”

As Megan bravely said, “I’m not going to quit, ever. Cancer changed my life but opened my mind to what a blessing life is. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and I was given this to advocate and be a voice, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

The Youth Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who is 17 years old or under and has performed an act of heroism involving an unusual, significant or unexpected incident, or is involved in an ongoing situation in which a commitment is made to the community through acts of kindness, courage, or unselfishness in response to an identified need. 

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2019 Heroes. For more information about the 2019 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

To see more of Megan’s story, watch her video here.

Mary Carmody Honored as 2019 American Red Cross Military Hero

MC_1Mary Carmody is not a soldier or a veteran, however, her compassion for those who have served and mission to serve them, is heroic. Her kindness-in-action is seen and, more importantly, felt in the hearts of our nation’s bravest.

A former employee of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, in 2013 Mary met a man she will never forget at a Lake County Council for Seniors meeting.  He had served his country during Vietnam and was now in need of help, having not eaten in days. His situation touched her. The man reminded Mary of her mother who immigrated during WWII to the U.S. with nothing but a strong work ethic and relied upon the generosity of strangers. At the time, Mary gave the man all she had in her wallet – a $5 bill. Afterward, she continually thought about him and how she could make a difference for veterans like this man, who risked his life to protect our country, yet still struggled to survive.

This chance encounter inspired Mary to establish the Midwest Veterans Closet. Initially, she gathered donated clothing and household items and stored them in a borrowed landscaping trailer.  As word in the military and veteran community grew about her small operation, more and more veterans came from all over Chicagoland to see Mary in Lake County for assistance. Mary listened to their needs and worked to secure items to help. She procured things like a suit for a job interview, a set of dishes, underwear and socks, and boots for the winter.  According to Mary, “the simple items most of us take for granted, often are things many of our veterans are forced to go without.”

In 2014, Mary was able to move Midwest Veterans Closet from the landscaping trailer to its current storefront, near Naval Station Great Lakes. Today, the organization serves 550 people monthly. Most clients are veterans, but some are active duty service members.  The operation has grown from a few items in a trailer to a true rapid response assistance center, offering computer and job training, food and nutrition resources; an apparel and household items store; and even donated automobiles to help veterans get to work.

Midwest Veterans Closet also provides work and volunteer opportunities to veterans looking to use their skills and connect with others in their community. One of Mary’s longtime volunteers is an 84-year-old Korean War veteran, who survived three cancers and had almost given up.  Now he is the Midwest Veteran’s Closet’s biggest ambassador and loves the camaraderie he finds among those who shop there.

And about the Vietnam veteran that came to the Lake County Senior meeting in 2013?  Mary said, “now, he is one of our best clients. Midwest Veterans Closet exists simply because he was not afraid to ask for help.”

The Military Award is presented to an active, reserve, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), or retired member(s) of the Armed Forces, or military supporter, who acted above and beyond the call of duty or have made an ongoing commitment to the community.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2019 Heroes. For more information about the 2019 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

To see more of Mary’s story, watch her video here.

Officer Mark Dallas Honored as 2019 American Red Cross Law Enforcement Hero

DSC00320May 16, 2018, started as a special day for Officer Mark Dallas. His son was among nearly 200 seniors who were practicing for their graduation ceremony in the Dixon High School gym. Mark, who served as the Dixon High School Resource Officer, headed down from his 3rd floor office to the gym to watch the proceedings and visit with the students. Mark shared a close bond with this particular graduating class, as they started high school the same year that Mark had joined the school as the Resource Officer. He had also coached many students in football and track.

After leaving the gym, Mark stopped by the office of the Athletic Director, Jared Shaner. That’s when he heard several gunshots in the hallway. He immediately ran towards the gunshots and found the shooter, just steps from the gym entrance where 182 students stood behind those doors. When Mark engaged the attacker, he took off running and exited the school. Mark pursued the shooter, who turned and fired at him. Mark quickly returned fire, struck the shooter in the shoulder and apprehended him. The shooter was later identified as a Dixon High School senior.

Once it was over, Mark could not believe that were no injuries, stating, “I thought I was being lied [to] for a while, when they assured me that no one was hurt.”

On that day, Mark’s 20 years of experience and training as a police officer played an important role in his ability to protect the students and staff. He recalls not being worried about being shot. Mark’s goal was to protect the students and to capture the shooter. Mark added, “I feel like a parent to 182 kids. The kids that were all in there.”

Mark is also graduate of Dixon High School and never imagined that something like this could happen in this close-knit community, particularly at his alma mater.

Mark is two years away from retirement, and after the violent event that took place in the school, he plans to train other school resource officers in the area. He has also been working with state officials, to make funding available to communities that cannot afford to hire officers for schools.

When asked if he considers himself a hero, Mark reiterates that he was doing his job and adds, “There are heroes every day in our job, people never realize what law enforcement does for their communities. The officers that lose their lives, they are true heroes.”

The Law Enforcement Award is presented to a professional police officer(s) or related law enforcement official(s) who exhibited heroism either in response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community. 

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2019 Heroes. For more information about the 2019 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

To see more of Mark’s story, watch his video here.

Sebastian Duncan Honored In Memoriam as 2019 American Red Cross Good Samaritan Hero

Sebastian Duncan-Good Samaritan Hero (2)Sebastian Duncan was an ambitious and selfless 20-year old man, who was always looking out for others. “He was a friend to everyone and a great listener,” according to his father, Tony Duncan. 

Sebastian was the person that people looked to when they needed a friend to count on.  

In August 2018, Sebastian and a friend paddled out from the Highland Park beach to go kayaking on Lake Michigan.  After hitting unexpectedly rough waters, their kayaks capsized, and Sebastian and his friend were plunged into the quickly moving current.  Sebastian managed to hang onto his oar and quickly swam to his friend to help. He realized that he was the stronger swimmer and knew they both could not stay afloat on just one oar. Sebastian chose to give up his oar for his friend and planned to follow behind, as they made their way to shore.   

Eventually, Sebastian’s friend reached land, only to realize that Sebastian was no longer behind him. He began shouting and knocking on doors of nearby homes, trying to get help. A desperate search and rescue effort for Sebastian ignited the community with prayers, vigils and widespread attention. After massive search efforts, involving dozens of residents and local agencies, Sebastian was located two weeks later. He did not survive that final swim to shore. His parents will always be heartbroken by the loss of their vibrant, 20-year-old son, but say they know he did the right thing that day. 

“He was not one to give up,” said Sebastian’s mother, Shai Duncan. “I know my son struggled in that water, but he wasn’t going to leave that boy behind. He gave his life, so his friend could live. I knew that was the son that I raised.” 

The 2016 New Trier High School graduate was active in his school and community. He loved to play lacrosse and basketball, and in high school, he was on both the wrestling and the varsity football teams. After graduation, Sebastian thoughtfully considered the direction he wanted his life to take. He began working as a personal trainer and volunteering as a youth counselor. He also attended Northeastern University and was contemplating careers that he felt were meaningful, wanting to have a greater purpose for his life.  

One of Sebastian’s greatest gifts was his ability to connect with others, no matter where they were at in life, or what they were going through. He had an innate propensity to be the person someone could lean on in trying times or celebrate with in joyous moments.  

 “He was easy-going, and he loved life,” Tony said. “In life, you can choose to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. He was always part of the solution.”  

The Good Samaritan Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who courageously and selflessly responded to an unusual, significant or unexpected crisis.  

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2019 Heroes. For more information about the 2019 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Maria Woltjen Honored as 2019 American Red Cross Global Citizenship Hero

MW_1From a young age, a sense of social justice was instilled in Maria Woltjen. Her parents were civil rights activists, working for open housing in Chicago. At just 18 years of age, Maria traveled to Israel to live in a Kibbutz, and was there during the 1971 Yom Kippur War. She also witnessed the horrific injustice of apartheid, firsthand, while living in South Africa.

In 2003, Maria was approached by Heartland Alliance to develop the Immigrant Children’s Advocacy Project, to represent the best interest of the child for unaccompanied immigrant kids in deportation proceedings. Maria recalls how she felt when learning that there was not a best interest standard in the immigration courts. “…in every other system in which children are the subject of a court proceeding, there is a best interest standard… In the immigration system, an immigration judge can make a decision about whether to deport a child back to their home country or not, and that judge does not have to take into consideration the best interest of the child,” explained Maria.

In 2006, Maria partnered with the University of Chicago Law School to expand this work, which officially became known as the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Maria single-handedly developed the only program in the nation that provides independent child advocates for unaccompanied children in detention. Child Advocate volunteers visit with the kids in detention to understand their personal story and why they came to the U.S. Alongside Young Center attorneys and social workers, Child Advocates make recommendations to immigration judges, asylum officers and enforcement officials that highlight the child’s best interest. Once just a solo operation, Maria has grown her organization to over 60 staff members, with offices in border cities such as Harlingen and Phoenix, as well as San Antonio, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Maria and her colleagues have their work cut out for them. In the last year, 50,000 unaccompanied children arrived in the U.S., including many cases of children that were forcibly separated from their parents before and under the zero-tolerance policy. Most of these children, according to Maria, are fleeing violence and poverty. Her team is working tirelessly to advocate for the best interests of these children and reunite them with their families.

Maria is focused on reforming the immigration system, in which children are currently treated as adults. She leads her team to tirelessly advocate for the best interest of these children and their safety.  Because of her passion and dedication, many immigrant children have, and will continue to receive the protections they deserve.

The Global Citizenship Award is presented to an individual(s) who volunteered or worked to meet the needs of the world’s potentially vulnerable populations by building safer, more resilient communities and providing needed relief.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2019 Heroes. For more information about the 2019 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

To see more of Maria’s story, watch her video here.