Machesney Park Man Earns Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for Lifesaving Act

Emergencies can happen at any time: in the grocery store parking lot, at a family wedding, on a hot day at the community pool or even at the office and inside your very own home. But regardless of when and where they occur, emergency situations usually have one thing in common: a crowd of people standing around, staring at a victim—wondering who should act and trying to remember what to do. That is, until a hero emerges from the crowd.

On February 2, 2020, during church service at Riverside Community Church in Machesney Park, IL, a gentleman in the congregation appeared to be slumped over and unresponsive. Those attending church, and those sitting near him, called out for help. Pastor Cory Whitford calmly responded. He conducted an assessment and determined that the gentleman was no longer breathing.

Pastor Whitford placed the gentleman on the floor of the church pew and began administering chest compressions. After several cycles, the gentleman began to respond. Pastor Whitford continued to keep the gentleman calm and comfortable until EMS arrived. Pastor Whitford’s quick and calm action helped to save this man’s life!

“It was an honor to be able to do this and to be able to receive this award,” says Pastor Whitford. “I would do it again in a heartbeat because I would want someone to do the same for me or one of my loved ones.”

On behalf of the American Red Cross, Cory was presented with the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action, awarded to individuals who step up in an emergency situation and help save or sustain a life. Cory exemplifies the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

Lifesaving Awards: Dave Shrum recognized for actions on the golf course

While enjoying a game of golf with a friend in Carlyle, Illinois, Dave Shrum put his lifesaving training into action. On August 13, 2020, Dave and a friend arrived at the 14th hole when his friend fell to the ground.

“It was just the two of us and once he dropped, he was unconscious, I called 9-1-1 and knew what to do,” Dave says.

Dave has been trained in first aid and CPR since high school, but just two months prior to the medical emergency with his friend, he completed refresher training through the American Red Cross.

He started compressions on his friend and kept performing them until EMS crews arrived at their location on the golf course. Dave described it as a hot day, but he knew his friend’s life depended on him to push through the heat and continue compressions.

His friend eventually recovered. Dave says it was rewarding to know he survived the incident.

For his courageous act, Dave was awarded the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit during a virtual meeting with his colleagues present, who nominated him.

This is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course. The certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross.

Dave says being nominated by his colleagues was quite a surprised.

“I’m a pretty humble person. I don’t like a lot of extra attention, but it was nice. I really appreciated the award,” he says.

Dave adds, if people have the opportunity to take CPR classes it is a valuable skill that could help someone in need.

To learn more about American Red Cross Training Services and to find a first aid training course in your area visit To nominate someone for a Red Cross Lifesaving Award click here.

Written by Drew Brown, Regional Communications Manager

Lifesaving Awards: Red Cross Recognizes Individuals for Selfless Actions

The American Red Cross National Lifesaving Awards program recognizes and honors individuals and teams who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training class.

This year, Cory Pearson was recognized with the Lifesaving Award for Professional Rescuers. His instructor, Dan Kish, received the Lifesaving Instructor Award.

Cory Pearson (left) and Dan Kish (bottom)

Dan’s lifesaving teachings were critical in saving a man’s life at one of the pools at Naval Station Great Lakes. On October 17, 2017, Cory Pearson, a lifeguard to whom Dan had taught CPR and AED, spotted a distressed swimmer. Cory brought the man out of the water and with the help of teammates, performed CPR.

Dan was at the pool that day and remembers Cory’s actions vividly. “He was the closest to the victim and I saw him quickly respond and activate the emergency action plan.” Dan says. “He got the victim out of the water quickly. I was proud to watch one of my students perform a correct rescue and save someone’s life.”

As a swimming coach and lifeguard, Dan is very much aware of the importance of knowing lifesaving skills such as how to respond to aquatic emergencies, performing CPR and how to use an AED. “I have a seven-month old daughter, and we are always near a lake or pool. Everybody should know these lifesaving skills, “ Dan explains. “This helps build confidence in the rescuer. People should also stay current in their training as it’s always changing and evolving for the best. Emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime and you need to be ready.”

Also, this week, the Red Cross presented the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit to Petty Officer 2nd Class, Elias Sandoval of the U.S. Navy, who is trained in American Red Cross Advance Life Support. On December 6, 2019, Elias was driving in Jacksonville, North Carolina, when he noticed a man laying on the highway. He realized that the man was unconscious. Elias brought his personal AED and first aid kit to where the gentleman was and after assessing his condition, began to perform chest compressions and rescue breaths. Thanks to Elias’ prompt actions, the man began to respond. The skills learned in the Red Cross course undoubtedly helped Elias sustain a life on that day.

Elias, who is currently assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Base in Lake Forest, has been a CPR instructor for a couple of years. He told us why it’s so important for him to teach people the skills that he has learned with the Red Cross. “I think it’s very important for everybody to be certified and be able to provide CPR because seconds matter and it’s up to you to make a difference,” said Elias.

If you’re interested in learning lifesaving skills through the Red Cross, visit for information.

Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Communications & Marketing Manager

Volunteer reflects on Red Cross memories after achieving huge milestone

Tess Sheil says being prepared is a skill she holds valuable, which has allowed her to help others in life from disaster response to helping people during medical emergencies.

She learned that at an early age, while in high school she took CPR classes through the Red Cross and  was able to help clear a woman’s airway on scene of a car accident in Moline, Illinois. That incident would blaze a long trail for her at the Red Cross.

Tess continued volunteering while in nursing school during the 70’s, and says she was inspired by one of her mentors and eventually went on to receive her Red Cross nursing pin.

 “My nursing instructor was a Red Cross nurse and I guess I just wanted to be like her, and I really did because she was just such a goodhearted person that I wanted to follow her footsteps,” she says.

Tess is a volunteer with the Red Cross Quad Cities and West Central Illinois and the Greater New York Chapter. She has completed more than 5,000 volunteer hours with the Red Cross!

She describes it as a pleasure to help educate and help those in need in both areas, while building memories that will last a lifetime.

While she has deployed multiple times over the last few decades, Tess shared some of her most memorable moments including helping after the September 11th attacks in New York City in 2001.

 “I went for the firefighters’ families,” she explained. “I went to the armory for the families there. That was part of my community that was impacted.”

During that time, she did anything she could to help survivors and their families including helping pass out water, made ribbons and simply had conversations with them.

“I wanted to help people feel that they had some sense of direction, because people didn’t know what was happening,” Tess says.

Her experience in New York has led her to focus more on mental health support at the Red Cross. She is currently the lead for the Red Cross National Staff Support Hotline, where staff or volunteers can call and receive any kind of help or advice they may need.

Aside from her role in the support hotline, she is also the Leadership Development Lead for the Illinois Region, and the Deployment Lead for the Greater Chapter of New York.

One of her most recent deployments was the Marshalltown, Iowa tornado is 2018. She remembers the huge sense of community and the many miracles that she was able to witness after the tornado.

Tess adds during her deployments, someone special always travels with her and that is Yokum. A stuffed animal monkey, who is a Red Cross volunteer with his own name tag and gear!

Over the years, Yokum has listened to children and even adults, who may not feel comfortable speaking directly to another person after a disaster.

With her background in mental health, Tess says Yokum has served as an outlet for dozens and provided comfort for people’s darkest moments.

Now, Tess volunteers virtually helping fellow volunteers and providing training through different Red Cross programs in both states. She makes sure people realize that they are making a difference in their communities.

“It’s a place I know where I can make the world a better place. The goal for my entire career was to leave the world better than I came into it and I can do that at the Red Cross.”

To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer visit

*All photos taken before the pandemic

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Justin Wang

Recognized for lifesaving actions

A typical work day for Matt Brewer and Dalton Cordier at the Illinois Association of Realtors office in Springfield, Illinois, turned into a lifesaving day.

On September 12, 2019, Dalton witnessed one of the drivers from the association collapse while completing a delivery.

Trained in American Red Cross Adult First Aid/CPR/AED, he realized the severity of the situation and called 9-1-1 along with alerting colleague Matt Brewer.

Matt, who served as a volunteer firefighter in New Berlin, Illinois, started to perform chest compressions. Both stayed with the driver until emergency crews arrived and continued to provide care for the driver, who survived.

Matt says he was initially shocked by what happened despite serving as a firefighter but he and Dalton are thankful they were able to help.

“I was very humbled, the whole experience was very humbling for sure,” he adds.

During a recent South Central Illinois Board of Directors meeting both men were recognized for their courageousness.

Matt was awarded the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action. The award is given to people, who step up in an emergency and help save or sustain a life.

Dalton was awarded the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit. This is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to a person or team of individuals who save or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course.

His certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross.

Both Dalton and Matt exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

To learn more about American Red Cross Training Services and to find a first aid training course in your area click here.

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Justin Wang

Lauren Trylovich Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Emergency Medical Assistance Hero

When Amena Karim’s sister, Rasheda Kahn, became unresponsive, she immediately called 9-1-1 and the emergency phone operator, Lauren Trylovich, answered her desperate call for help.

Lauren first asked Amena to describe her sister’s condition and the situation. Amena told the dispatcher she was clammy, not moving and was breathing ‘like she was snoring.’ Trylovich was able to successfully assess Rasheda’s condition and knew the labored breath meant that time was critical. Lauren told Amena, “Ma’am, listen to me, this is very important – somebody needs to start CPR on her right now.”

Lauren continues, “We were able to then go to work, essentially, and position her sister for CPR.” She then started to provide Amena with instructions on how to perform CPR:

Trylovich: “So she’s flat on her back?”

Karim: “Yes, she’s turning blue.”

Trylovich: “All you have to do is put your palms on the center of her chest, push down hard and fast – just like how they do it on TV.”

With Lauren’s instructions, Amena was able to stabilize her sister until paramedics arrived, without any prior experience or training in CPR. “She empowered me to help my sister, but also, she was very empathetic and effective,” Amena said about Lauren.

“This call was memorable because Amena remained calm and took every direction I gave her on the phone,” said Lauren. Her calm, quick thinking demenor made the differnce in helping to stabalize Rasheda and save her life.

Lauren is a trained paramedic and as been working at the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications for four years – taking intense calls like Amena’s. On a regular eight-hour shift Lauren will get 200-300 calls – cardiac arrests, shooting victims, stabbings and injuries are all part of her day to day response. Lauren says “I rely on my training as a paramedic each day. I visualize the response (over the phone), because I have actively handled live emergencies firsthand.”

A few months later, Amena would have the opportunity to express her gratitude to Lauren on the phone and later in person. As for Lauren, when asked how often she gets a call from someone who wants to thank her, Lauren said: “Never. In my entire career, this has never happened.”

For the first time in 18 years, coronavirus caused the cancellation of the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, but stories of resilience and determination prevail. These “Everyday Extraordinary Heroes” live among us. Watch their stories every Tuesday & Thursday starting April 14 at 10 a.m. in social media.

You can support the American Red Cross during this Coronavirus outbreak at


On the day before Independence Day, most Americans have images of fireworks and hotdogs dancing in their heads. But, a dozen nursing students at the American Red Cross Illinois Valley Chapter in Romeoville had images of disasters and blood drives dancing in theirs. 

The Benedictine University students are pursuing Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. To get their diplomas, they must get clinical training in community health. That’s where the Red Cross comes in. The students can do ride-alongs with fire response teams, assist with health screenings for new volunteers or organize shelter bags. 

These clinicals also serve a dual purpose. They might encourage the nurses to become Disaster Health Services Volunteers down the road. 

On this morning, Ruth Richardson–a registered nurse who is a supervisor for Disaster Health Services–walks the group through classes needed to deploy for a disaster and the processes involved in helping disaster victims get assistance. “It can be overwhelming to people when they first join, so it’s nice to break it up and talk about it,” says Richardson.

Registered Nurse and Red Cross volunteer Ruth Richardson discusses Disaster Health Services with a group of Benedictine University nursing students

Sarah Zmola, a Red Cross volunteer and a Benedictine University student herself, spearheaded the partnership between the two organizations last fall. She stepped in as a leader and mentored six of her classmates who also took part in the program.

Clinical experience in the community has long been a hallmark of Benedictine University’s nursing program. Assistant Professor Margaret Delaney is hoping the partnership with the American Red Cross will continue, calling it a positive experience for those already involved.

“It has also offered them a glimpse into some of the challenges facing the population, making a far greater impact than reading about these challenges in the local paper of text book,” says Delaney.

Zmola is quick to point out that becoming a health services volunteer is a big commitment because a 24-hour shift doesn’t stop after 24 hours. “You have to follow up with clients. It’s similar to case work because it’s difficult to complete anything in a 24-hour period. It can take a few days.”

But, at least one of the student nurses may already be ready to take on the challenge of volunteering with Disaster Health Services. Amanda Geier is interested in international work with the American Red Cross. 

“I think I have always had the drive to help less fortunate people in other countries,” says Geier. “I work with a nurse who spent a month in Africa with an alumni group from her nursing school. When she came back and told me about it, it was eye-opening!”

Written by Red Cross Communications Volunteer Diane Eastabrook

Learning how to save a life

Learning how to save a life

One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for an emergency is to get CPR certified. As a Red Cross intern, I could see different classes being set up and knew that this was definitely an opportunity I should take advantage of.  My high school had required me to get certified as a freshman, but that was almost eight years ago, and my current medical understanding was largely based on fictional medical TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. I realized that was far from sufficient and began to worry that I would find myself in a life or death situation with no idea what to actually do. So, after looking through the available classes, I signed up for the Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED class at the Red Cross’ 2200 W Harrison location.


The class was scheduled for a cold Tuesday morning in March. When I got there, I found a classroom with around a dozen people from a variety of professions and backgrounds, paper packets, and a DePaul grad student named Kelly as my instructor. Over the next five and a half hours the class covered how to respond to a wide variety of different medical emergencies. With so much information in one day I was a little worried about getting overwhelmed and retaining everything. However, that was not the case at all. The combination of instructional videos, interactive exercises and practice on CPR dummies made everything easily digestible and memorable.

I cannot recommend taking the CPR/AED training enough. In just a few hours, you’ll learn how to react to emergencies ranging from a sprained ankle to cardiac arrest. I left the class with a newfound confidence and sense of preparedness. Signing up takes five minutes or less. Just go to to find the class and location that best suits you. You never know when you’ll be the person others look to in an emergency. You could be the one to step up and save a life.

Written by Hannah Nicholson, Communications & Marketing intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

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




Making a splash with the World’s Largest Swim Lesson

Making a splash with the World’s Largest Swim Lesson

The Red Cross is proud to have partnered with the Chicago Park District to help thousands of kids and families be a part of the World’s Largest Swim Lesson. on June 22, 2017. It’s part of a global initiative to spread awareness about the importance of teaching children to swim to prevent drowning.

This was the eighth year of the event, and the Chicago Park District invited families to take the lesson at 76 pools across the city.

A class of swimmers in Norwood took to the water yesterday, joining the thousands of other swimmers around the world.

Research shows risk of drowning can be reduced by 88 percent if children participate in formal swimming lessons between the ages of 1-4. Yet, a survey conducted by the American Red Cross in 2014 found that more than half of Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the basic swimming skills.
Whole Class WLSL 2017 NorwoodLifeguard and boy WLSL 2017 NorwoodKicking WLSL 2017 Norwood
Swimming lessons for Chicago kids and families are still available this summer. The Red Cross offers Life guarding training classes as well as swimming and water safety.