World’s Largest Pillowcase Project Teaches Chicago Children Preparedness Skills

20824159040_bc91d13214_o(CHICAGO, IL) – When Hurricane Katrina made landfall 10 years ago, no one was prepared for the immense destruction and devastation it would inflict upon the Gulf Coast.

Many children were traumatized by their memories of the storm’s fury so the American Red Cross developed a program using something as simple as a pillowcase to help children feel safer and more prepared for a disaster.

21012145605_53a1db1594_oOn the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29, 2015, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois participated in the World’s Largest Pillowcase of youth preparedness activities taking place across the county. In Chicago, kids gathered at the Robert Morris University where they learned how to prepare for a disaster and received art supplies to personalize their own pillowcase.

Eight-year-old Beatrice decorated her pillowcase with pictures of her family and favorite household items.

“I liked coming today because I learned a lot of important things,” Beatrice said. “Now I know not to put my hand on a door knob if there’s a fire because I might get burned. I need to open the door slowly so I can be safe.”

The Pillowcase Project was inspired by university students in New Orleans who evacuated the storm by carrying their personal items in pillowcase. Soon after, the Pillowcase Project became a youth preparedness class offered around the country by 20391260033_1191f8e0d6_othe Red Cross and sponsored by Disney.

In the last ten years, the Pillowcase Project has helped thousands of children learn to cope during emergencies from hurricanes to home fires. For more information on the Pillowcase Project:  RedCross.org.

For more photos of the World’s Largest Pillowcase event in Chicago visit our Flickr page. 

Story by Alexandra Sobczak, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by Danny Diaz, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Volunteer  

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Nanny Saves a Life With Infant CPR: “Training Turns Helplessness Into a Fighting Chance”

Health and Safety Stock ImagesLynn Lindquist took a pediatric first aid class so she could be a good nanny to six-month-old Jack.

One day Jack was feeding himself pieces of watermelon when he began choking. Lynn allowed Jack to cough at first, but when his breathing became labored she snatched him from the high chair, and turned him over to start the back blow maneuver she learned from her American Red Cross instructor. The piece dislodged and Lynn was relieved to hear Jack cry. A few calming breaths and many hugs later, Jack was happy and giggling again.

“The steps drilled by our instructor, Ed, kicked in when I needed them,” said Lynn. “Red Cross CPR training turns helplessness into a fighting chance. You need to be able to do the best you can for children.”

Lynn is one of many child care providers who have completed a Red Cross class in the Chicago region who would agree infant first aid is a vital skill to know. Even with constant supervision, babies can choke on food or a small toy. They can slip under water in a bathtub or a shallow pool. Infant CPR training ensures you’re prepared, like Lynn was for baby Jack.

“The thing about learning CPR skills from the Red Cross is that it prepares you to act without over thinking it,” she said. “It’ll give you courage to act when you might not have the confidence to help someone in need.”

CPR uses chest compressions and rescue breaths so oxygen-rich blood circulates through the brain and other vital organs until emergency medical personnel arrive.

Lynn encourages everyone to take a Red Cross CPR class to be prepared to help save a life of any age. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers a variety of First Aid/CPR/AED courses and safety tips. Visit http://www.chicagoredcross.org/ for more information.

Written by: Amisha Sud, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Being Prepared 221 Miles Offshore

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany types of emergencies can occur on an offshore oil rig, which is why Dan Workman’s employer requires him to be CPR and First Aid certified.

Dan works on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico located 221 miles offshore. For the past four years he has commuted from Palos Hills, Illinois to Texas to work three-week shifts on the rig. Dan has been re-certified several times now and says the training has definitely proved useful.

“When my co-workers get minor cuts and can’t help themselves, I bandage them up,” he said.

Dan has also witnessed more severe injuries. During one of his shifts, a fallen crane crushed a coworker’s pelvis and injured his leg. There’s a medic onboard to respond to emergency situations, but ensuring every worker is trained and prepared is vital. Dan has also been involved with the Red Cross blood services for many years by donating blood while in school and deployed in the military.

As a regular blood donor and knowing how to perform First Aid, Dan is prepared to save lives.

Story and photo by Kamryn McPike

Babysitter Training Becoming Popular Among Boys

Ryan Broderick, age 11

Ryan Broderick, age 11

Eleven-year-old Ryan Broderick stood out from the other students at the Red Cross Babysitters Training class for several reasons. The most obvious being that he was the only boy in the class.

While traditionally viewed as a female’s job, babysitting is becoming more popular among males. The trend has caused the America Red Cross to update the class materials with more images of male babysitters. While older generations might be a bit surprised to see an 11-year-old boy interested in babysitting, not one of the kids in the class seemed nonplussed by his presence.

What made Ryan stand out more than his gender was the ease and enthusiasm he showed during the class. Ryan contributed often and meaningfully and when asked why he wanted to babysit he simply stated that he loves younger kids.

Ryan requested to take the class because there are a lot of young kids (ages 2 – 6) in his neighborhood. He is open to babysitting boys and girls but thinks families with young, athletic boys will be more likely to hire him. Ryan is involved in many sports in school, which is often a desired quality that causes parents to seek male babysitters.

Aside from getting to hang out with kids and show responsibility, Ryan and his classmates are looking forward to earning some extra cash. Nice work, Ryan!

Story and Photo by Kamryn McPike

Heidi Klum: Supermodel, Supermom, and Superhero

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Heidi Klum is a supermodel turned superhero. During a recent vacation to Hawaii, The American Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet member helped rescue her son, Henry, and two nannies from a dangerous riptide off the beach on the island of Oahu. The courageous supermom quickly ran into action, and luckily no one was hurt. Heidi is part of the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet, which is a collection of celebrities that are “on-call” to assist the Red Cross by a giving their time and skills for a one-year term.

Heidi’s heroic efforts show why she is such an important Red Cross contributor. She released a statement to the media saying, “We got pulled into the ocean by a big wave. Of course, as a mother, I was very scared for my child and everyone else in the water. Henry is a strong swimmer and was able to swim back to land. We were able to get everyone out safely.” Her past Sunday rescue adds to the reasons why she is a great Cabinet member. Heidi has previously teamed up with the Red Cross in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts this past December.

Klum’s experience is an important lesson in the necessary precautions for water safety. The Red Cross offers classes in lifeguard training that can prepare you for a great summer job and help save someone’s life. The tailored courses will give you the skills you need to become a professional lifeguard. Visit redcross.org for more information. With the summer season upon us and the much anticipated Lake Michigan beach season, it is important to stay informed and practice water safety. Take a cue from Heidi Klum; the knowledge of water risks and safety can help save a life.

Written By: Alyssa Barford

Check, Call, Care

“Check, Call, Care,” says the teacher as she begins class with the first lesson in CPR. “Check, Call, Care,” notes the nurses, athletic trainers and lifeguards that make up the 11 students in the class. “Check, Call, Care,” is or will become an everyday phrase for most of the people in this class.

The class is made up of professional rescuers and healthcare providers and many are looking to re-new their CPR certifications. Getting re-certified for some is just a mandatory precaution but for others, like Sylvia Ceebin, it brings back memories that make her thankful for her skills.


“I have been a nurse for close to 35 yrs and people say ‘Oh you’re use to it’ and I don’t think you’re ever use to it,” said Sylvia.

While sitting in the professional rescuers training course at the American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region, Sylvia remembers her past and how she has used her CPR training before. As a nurse she told us she has performed CPR many times in the hospital but when asked to share her story, she recalls two sad instances when she had to use CPR outside of the hospital.

Sylvia remembers her first story from 10-15 years ago, being summoned from the clinic she was working at, to help a woman in the building around the corner. The woman, diagnosed with African Trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, was thought to have fallen asleep at her desk but officemates could not wake her up. As Sylvia and her colleagues arrived, they began to work on the woman but something was wrong.

“It was weird giving her CPR. Luckily we had a doctor with us but I think the worst part was she was long gone before we started the care,” reflected Sylvia sadly.


As her second story unfolds, Sylvia starts with some chilling advice, “It’s good to know your surroundings.”

About three years ago Sylvia was working at a company for healthcare in a building downtown doing flu shots for employees. All of a sudden a security guard came down from a board room upstairs and said that someone was having a diabetic reaction and had slumped over during a meeting. Luckily Sylvia was there that day to help because no one else knew what to do.

“I started CPR and someone grabbed the defibrillator. Sadly he didn’t make it, but I guess it reinforced knowing these skills and since I was new to the building it was lucky that other people knew where the AEDs were,” said Sylvia.

Today Sylvia works for the Water Reclamation for Cook County and helps out by informing people about CPR as a safety coordinator. She said she has talked to many different people and is surprised by how many people use these skills daily.

The American Red Cross offers many different classes that can help prepare you for any situation. Be prepared like Sylvia and sign up for a class today!

 Written by Dana Morones

It’s Never Too Late to Learn CPR

When I first learned CPR, it wasn’t for anything special. It was for a job. I wanted to spend my summer outside, wear sunglasses, get the occasional glimpse of a girl my age in a swimsuit. I wanted my summer to be more like an 80s movie than work. I applied to be a lifeguard.

The CPR hardly seemed important. It was just a hoop I had to jump through to make my summer vacation ideal. Of course, I got lucky—I never had to perform CPR on a real person. That’s what I dreaded every morning when I woke up. That, and the more likely issue of having to get in the frigid water before the pool even opened for business.

I like to think I was ready if an accident did happen, but I never thought about the possibility that someone close to me would need emergency treatment.

Nancy, however, learned CPR for that very reason. I met her at a Red Cross First Aid and CPR class a few weeks ago. Even in her sixties, she’s beaming with more life than anyone in the class. I can imagine her reading a children’s book aloud to a captivated audience of little kids, or crossing the street with them, hand-in-hand—so it’s no surprise when she tells me she runs a day care. It’s no stretch of the imagination to think that she shows the same compassion for her husband, Ernest, or anyone else for that matter. Through large gold-rimmed glasses, she tells me about herself, and when she laughs, her whole body laughs with her.

After Ernest’s third heart attack, Nancy thought it was time she learned to respond in case tragedy struck again. She’s grateful that Ernest has made it this far, and she’s not leaving it up to chance anymore. She’s already lost too many people close to her.

When Nancy was 16, she fell in love with a young man named Robert, who she soon married. When he was 40, Robert was diagnosed with diabetes, and few years later, he suffered a heart attack. He made it to the hospital in time for the medical professionals to save him, but a few days later, complications from the diabetes took his life.

Nancy later remarried, to Willie. He had an enlarged heart, and at 44 he suffered a cardiac arrest that happened so quickly the ambulance didn’t even make it to the house in time to save him.

Several years later, Nancy met Ernest, and married him soon after. He’s 72 now, and he’s had three heart attacks and three heart surgeries. The most recent attack started with some chest pain. Ernest knew after the first two that this was a bad sign, and he headed straight for Metro South Medical Center. While sitting in the patient room, speaking to a nurse, Ernest collapsed—flat-lined. The staff responded immediately, and brought his heartbeat back. But that was too close for Nancy. She vowed to learn CPR in case an emergency like this happens again.

I spoke to Nancy again a few days after the class. When I called, I could hear the bustle of children at “Nancy’s Day Care” in the background. I imagined her there on the phone, still beaming—kids frolicking around her Chicago home, maybe one on her lap. She said that every morning now she wakes up and practices the CPR and First Aid she learned. She wants to be prepared in case one of these kids needs emergency care, too.

To find a CPR and First Aid class in your area, visit http://www.redcross.org/en/takeaclass.

Written by: Jonathan Bressler