Giving Back like Clara Barton

Giving Back like Clara Barton

It’s not until you give yourself up, that you truly give.

Over the past six years, this little but powerful phrase has been engrained not only into my brain, but also into my heart. For a child, overnight camp is a chance to pull all-nighters and eat as many s’mores as possible. For me, overnight camp was a chance to spend my summers feeling completely normal, laughing about things that would usually make me cry, and eventually, giving back to the place has given me so much. For five summers, I left my small Chicago suburb and headed to North Oxford, Massachusetts to attend, and later work at, Clara Barton Camp. The camp gave me so much; a home away from home, some of my very best friends, and, most importantly, it taught me the importance of giving.

Founded by and named after Clara Barton, much of the camp centers around her life and legacy as the founder of the American Red Cross. The camp’s location in New Oxford is actually where Clara Barton was born and raised. The barn she visited daily is where we host our annual summer talent shows, her classic white home was transformed into a place where campers can buy postcards and camp apparel, and her pond is one of the best places for an afternoon camp swim. Clara Barton is the “it girl” at our camp, her dedication to others is what we, both counselors and campers, strive for. When I was hired back as a counselor at the camp, I went to my closest American Red Cross on West Harrison Street to get CPR/First Aid certified. I can vividly recall looking at the walls in the building and seeing photos of Clara Barton. It was the same Clara Barton that was on my camp key chain I had purchased the summer before with my cabin mates. Seeing her photo allowed me take a step back and realize not only how much I appreciate Clara Barton Camp, but also how impactful Clara Barton was as the founder of the American Red Cross, a truly spectacular organization.

At the end of every camp session, the entire camp comes together to read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. The book ends with the little boy, who is now an old man, returning to the tree. The tree explains that he has nothing left to give the boy because he already gave the boy everything he had. The boy explains that all he wants is a place to sit, and the tree, which is now a wooden stump, gives him just that; “and the tree was happy.” The tree did not simply give; he made giving his mission. At Clara Barton Camp we follow that giving mission, the same mission of the American Red Cross.




Written by: Aubrey Woolford





Nominate a Hero for the Red Cross Heroes Award!

Nominate a Hero for the Red Cross Heroes Award!

Heroes are everywhere. The American Red Cross established the Heroes Breakfast to raise awareness for local heroes who carry out the mission of the Red Cross by making a commitment to creating stronger communities and providing help when disaster strikes. The chosen heroes will be honored at the Heroes Breakfast on May 3, 2018.


The Red Cross is currently accepting nominations for the 2018 Heroes Breakfast!


With eleven different categories, many different types of heroes are nominated each year across the Chicago & Northern Illinois region. The categories include: Blood Services, Community Impact, Disaster Services, Emergency Medical Assistance, Firefighter, Global Citizenship, Good Samaritan, Law Enforcement, Military, Nurse and Youth.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is currently looking for nominations within this calendar year. Candidates must live or work in the following counties in Illinois: Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, La Salle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. Their heroic act must have occurred within the 2017 calendar year or be ongoing.

Click here for more information or to nominate a hero in your community.

Written By: Kelly McCasland & Laila Orazova, American Red Cross Communications Interns.

Volunteer Spotlight: Greg Dely

Volunteer Spotlight: Greg Dely

Greg Dely always felt helping people was the right thing to do. In 1972, he served the Village of Stickney as a Reserve Police Officer and later became a firefighter. His responsibilities soon grew and he became Deputy Fire Inspector for the City of Hickory Hills. Greg then served as the Safety Director of Brookfield Zoo for almost a decade where he started the first ever safety program. He also spent time working in safety for Argonne National Laboratories. Greg maintained his EMT license for 18 years and has worn many hats during that time.

greg dely

It was while holding his most recent position with the Department of Veteran Affairs at Jessie Brown Hospital in 2014  when Greg discovered the American Red Cross. Greg walked from his office at Jessie Brown Hospital the few blocks to 2200 West Harrison where he signed up to volunteer in Disaster Action Services, or DAT. Greg soon realized that working for DAT was the obvious choice for him.


“Volunteering for the Red Cross was the natural next step after retiring, especially DAT,” Greg said. “I used to run in and out of burning buildings.” Through volunteering with DAT, Greg still has the opportunity to safely help people outside while providing comfort to clients of the Red Cross.


Being the one to give assistance when needed comes as second nature to this gentle man. Greg has served with the Chicago DAT Team since January of 2014, and he says he actually prefers the light traffic during the 12am to 4am shift. It’s something other members of his DAT team are very grateful for.


Greg fondly remembers his days as a trainee and one of his first responses at an apartment fire in Forest Park.

“There were 50-60 senior citizens standing on the streets. It was cold outside. I called dispatch and told them to send the troops!” Greg said. Soon, Greg was given a promotion to Lead DAT Responder and has been the weeknight go-to responder for more than three years.


Outside of volunteering, Greg spends time crafting miniature military dioramas. These scenes are recreations of historic events, which is an avid interest of Greg’s. Not many people know that for almost 25 years, Greg has participated in the reenactment of the Civil War battles. Originally marching in the infantry, Greg picked up reading music and learned to play the Fife at the age of 58. Greg played the flute-like instrument at the front of formation and marching across the Wheatfield of Gettysburg. He remembers playing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the battle’s 145th anniversary. Being a part of that anniversary as well as the 150th were very special, memorable moments for him.


Greg says if he were to give advice to people considering a volunteer position with the Red Cross, he says “Do it. Just do it. Self-gratification comes from helping people. There are people out there that are hurting. It’s awful. (Volunteering is) paying back your community.”


We wish Greg the best of luck in his retirement.


Written by Ira Meinhofer, Disaster Program Specialist and Public Affairs Volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Lee Powell

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Lee Powell

If you have not introduced yourself to Sara Powell yet, you can easily give her a friendly hello, as she currently volunteers every Tuesday at the Rauner Center. Sara embraces getting to know other volunteers and seeing them at Red Cross events.

Having worked previously as a fundraiser for a variety of non-profits pertaining to higher education and cultural programs in Chicago, Sara was looking for an organization to be a part of after she retired. Sara finds that volunteering with the Red Cross completely satisfies her needs to give back to the community.

“It gives me great pleasure that I can do these things and do them well for the Red Cross,” Powell said.

Having only volunteered with the Red Cross since last October, Sara has already made a huge impact. She currently assists with fundraising efforts by assisting with the production of our special events including the CBS Telethon, the Red Cross Classic and the Heroes Breakfast. Sara recognizes the importance of the Red Cross’s fundraising, asserting, “all of this takes money, so it’s important to raise funds.”

Her favorite event that she assisted with, so far, was the Heroes Breakfast. All before the event, Sara was tasked with ensuring that each application fit under the appropriate category they were nominated in. Sara neatly cleaned up the language of each submission and attached a synopsis for the judges to read with every application.

“What was really cool was reading the applications that came in, and a few of my personal favorites actually were picked,” Powell said.

She notes one story of a hero driving along the expressway, pulling over and rescuing passengers from a limo before it combusted. Expanding upon the stories evinced a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the work she put in to honoring their actions.

“…They were just everyday people like me and you,” she’ll comment in awe.

But as Sara continues to volunteer at the Red Cross, she finds herself noting all of the opportunities and training that Red Cross provides online, and knows she will continue to seek out new volunteer opportunities outside of her current fundraising efforts. Because of the training and information that the Red Cross provided her, Sara is confident in whatever volunteer effort she pursues.

“I love how the Red Cross treats the volunteers. When there’s a disaster there’s a system in place, they have the right tools.”

By: Tyler Bieschke, Communications Volunteer at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute Honored with American Red Cross 2017 Heritage Award

Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute Honored with American Red Cross 2017 Heritage Award

In recognition of more than a century of support to the American Red Cross and the greater Chicago community, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is proud to honor The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute with the Heritage Award.

The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute was founded in 1911 with a mission to pursue the investigation of the causes of disease and the prevention and relief of human suffering in Chicago. A few years after The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute was founded, the Red Cross established a Chicago chapter. The son of Otho, A.A. Sprague II, was the first chairman of the board of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago when it was chartered in 1915. Organized just six weeks before the infamous Eastland Disaster, when a passenger ship rolled over onto its side while tied to a dock in the Chicago River, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago was able to respond immediately.

The Institute’s early research programs investigated cancer, the effects of chemotherapy on tuberculosis, industrial diseases and the metabolism of carbohydrates affecting diabetes. The Institute funded and created a biomedical research program, which was considered bold at the time. This early research resulted in many important findings,
including the cause of scarlet fever.

“The early 1900s reflected a time when so many institutions were being created,” said James Alexander, executive director of the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute. “This great family was at the center of a lot of that. The earliest work of the Institute reflected an innovative mindset.”

In 1995, the Institute created the Chicago Asthma Initiative, funding a diverse group of researchers, providers, community and patient initiatives to highlight the growing health problem, collect data, apply innovative solutions and share outcomes.

In 2002, the Institute re-focused its grant-making energies on obesity prevention. It created The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), which has become a globally recognized model. Longitudinal research shows obesity rates in pre-kindergarteners have been reduced by two percent due to CLOCC’s efforts. Initiatives in
Oral Health, Public Health and Behavioral Health continue the Institute’s model of fostering collaborations.

The Institute continues to fund the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, specifically the Patient Connection program, a central hotline that expedites the ability of family and friends to connect with each other after a disaster.

“More than a century has passed since the Sprague family helped charter the Chicago chapter of the Red Cross. Our founding members set the stage for years of important work to come,” said Celena Roldan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “Both the Red Cross and the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute work
to prevent and alleviate human suffering. It is a joy to honor their connection to the founding of our local Red Cross and to celebrate their impact on the city of Chicago.”

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 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Mr. Mark Buciak Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Blood Services Hero

Mr. Mark Buciak Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Blood Services Hero

In 1996, Mark Buciak was devastated when his father died right before the holidays. “He was my biggest supporter. I knew I could let this be the lowest point in my life.” But Mark didn’t do that.

During his life, Mark’s father had instilled in him the importance of giving back, helping those in need and sharing one’s gifts. “My father was a regular blood donor because he knew blood was the gift of life.”

As an elite distance runner, Mark ran regularly to clear his head. On December 31, during his last run of the year, Mark decided to start the New Year right and do something to keep his father’s spirit alive. Soon after, Mark established the John Buciak Memorial Blood Drive to honor his father’s memory.

The blood drive is held annually at Old St. Pat’s Church and has become one of the largest in Chicago, collecting more than 1,500 units of blood since its inception 20 years ago. Each year, Mark and his family make the blood drive a celebration of life. Mark’s seven-year-old daughters dress as blood drops, participants enjoy raffles, therapy dogs are there to calm nerves and masseuses even provide pre-donation relaxation.

As an elite runner who has completed more than 60 marathons, Mark understands the importance of a healthy lifestyle. In 2004, after more than 30 years of distance running, Mark was told he had a congenital heart defect. Two years later, doctors told him he needed heart surgery to save his life. As he headed to surgery, Mark reflected on the, now very personal, value of the blood he had been collecting.

After surgery, Mark began the slow climb back to health. Having run 26 consecutive Boston Marathons, Mark was determined not to let his heart surgery deter him from his 27th. Despite doctors’ recommendations, 11 weeks post-surgery, Mark flew to Boston. He finished the marathon as they were shutting down the course. “It was not my personal fastest, but it was my personal best,” he said.

In 2013, Mark and his wife Barrie were running the Boston marathon when two homemade bombs killed three people and injured more than 260. Barrie had just crossed the finish line and Mark had a quarter of a mile to go when the race was stopped. Mark said being in the thick of that tragedy reaffirmed his commitment to the gift
of life.

“It was more than a marathon, it was a race of good versus evil,” he said. “And how could good win the race?” Upon arriving back home, Mark and Barrie both donated blood. “Technology can keep people alive and cure many diseases, but it cannot manufacture blood. There is only one source and that is you.”

The Blood Services Award is presented to an individual(s) or organization that is involved in activity that creates awareness of the importance of blood donation, helps to ensure a sufficient and safe blood supply is available to patients, and/or serves as an advocate for the blood community

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Dr. Michael Millis Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Global Citizenship Hero

Dr. Michael Millis Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Global Citizenship Hero

Dr. Michael Millis, a transplant surgeon and the director of the University of Chicago Liver Transplant Program, has performed more than 1,000 liver transplants. In addition to this incredible work as a transplant surgeon, Michael has also successfully transformed the contentious approach to organ donation in China.

During trips to China in the late 1990s, he learned that executed prisoners were the primary source of donor organs. In a practice called “transplant tourism,” individuals from around the world could fly to China for transplant surgery and essentially order any organ they needed. In some cases, judges even pronounced death sentences to
prisoners and scheduled executions to meet the needs of local hospitals. Michael grew even more troubled when he began treating patients in Chicago—both Chinese and American nationals—who had suffered complications after transplants in China.

Michael took immediate action and became an expert on the organ donation process in China. He took multiple trips to China and established relationships with local doctors as well as the Vice Minister of Health, Jiefu Huang. In late 2006, the vice minister of health publicly acknowledged the use of prisoner organs being used for donations. For
Michael, this indicated that there was an opportunity for change.

Working together, Jiefu and Michael secured a grant from the China Medical Board to investigate alternative approaches. By 2006, Michael had become the main consultant to help design the new system. At that point, 95% of organ donations in China were from executed prisoners and transplant tourism was widespread, with few regulations
governing transplant quality. Major changes were afoot.

In 2007, the Chinese Ministry of Health began requiring stricter standards for any hospital that offered transplants, cutting the total number of such facilities from 600 to fewer than 200. A central registry of donors was set up, along with educational initiatives to encourage volunteer donation. To stamp out transplant tourism, the government
declared that Chinese citizens receive priority as organ recipients and regulations were put into place requiring prisoners or prisoners’ families to sign consent agreements to donate organs. Penalties were put into place for involvement in illegal activities.

Largely led by Michael’s and Jiefu Huang’s efforts, an official ban prohibiting the use of executed prisoner organs for transplants was put into place in January 2015. Now, a volunteer donor program is in place that is supported by the government, enacted by hospitals, and lauded by locals and international agencies as well.

Michael says his Chinese counterparts have started complaining about the same things his American colleagues do: their unpredictable schedules, the calls to operate in the middle of the night, being overworked one day and bored the next. “These are all issues you deal with when you’re a surgeon who depends on volunteer donations,” he said.
“That shows me they’re on the right track.”

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 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.