Marathoner shares Run Red experience

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Leah Cato had never been to Chicago when she joined the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Run Red team, a charity marathon team that offers participants a free spot in the Chicago Marathon if they raise funds for the Red Cross mission. She had been running in the Washington D.C. area for a couple of years, but wanted to do a marathon for charity.  Cato joined the team in 2010, following a desire to give back to society.

“I was searching for a way to make a difference, and running to raise money and awareness for charity has become just that,” Cato said.  

With Run Red, Cato found exactly what she was looking for.  Joining the Run Red team gave her the chance to run for a charity organization that’s internationally renowned for service.

“I’ve always been aware of the Red Cross’ emergency response to large disasters such as hurricanes, or through seeing it in my work abroad,” said Cato. “I’ve seen the impact the Red Cross has on a daily basis with emergency response.”

Giving back is a large part of the Run Red experience, but it’s not all it has to offer.  For Cato, human connection was the cherry on the Run Red sundae.  Cato cherished the opportunity to meet and bond with new people through Run Red.  From the moment she entered Chicago, she knew she was surrounded by a good group of people.

“Coming to Chicago for the first time and getting such a warm welcome from the Run Red team made my first visit to the city a great experience,” Cato said.

To Cato, being with a great team made the experience more valuable.  The Run Red team’s welcome gave her the sense that she was part of something special, that she was part of a community.  As Cato finished the marathon, it became clear that the camaraderie among the team had easily endured the 26-mile distance.

“Being one of the slower runners I was really excited that they [my teammates] were still there at the end of the race cheering me on,” said Cato. “The entire experience was really a positive one.”

Run Red also taught Cato about the many different services the American Red Cross provides.  She knew about the Red Cross’ work during large disasters and armed conflict, but hadn’t heard of the lesser known day-to-day activities, such as Disaster Action Team fire response and blood collection.  Joining the Run Red Team increased her awareness of the Red Cross’ work.

For people who are considering participating, Cato recommends going for it.  She also advises newcomers to reach out to family and friends early in order to make the fundraising process run smoothly.  Cato acknowledges that running a marathon and raising funds isn’t always easy, but she finds it immensely rewarding.  To Cato, it’s much more than just a marathon.

“Run Red is an opportunity to meet new people and give back to your community. It’s not a race.  It’s an experience. It’s an opportunity to expand on your horizon,” said Cato. “Have fun.  Happy running.”

Written by Patrick Cavanaugh

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What’s your number?


“Have you ever been asked ‘What’s your number?’ or, better yet, ‘What’s your friend’s number?’
In this tech-dependent culture, you may not know even your best friend’s digits off the top of your head these days. I know I don’t. Here we are in the midst of a Blackberry outage and have I saved my phone numbers somewhere on hard copy in case I can’t access them on my phone? Nope.
To admit this may render me a public disgrace to my employer (the Red Cross), but shamefully it’s true. I have a preparedness kit in my home, office and car and I’m trained in CPR and first aid but haven’t backed up all the contact information on my phone. I haven’t taken this one simple step that could really make a difference if something unexpected happens. I talk to my sister in Michigan at least once a day but could I tell you her phone number if I needed to? Umm, sadly no I could not. She has an Indiana area code for some reason and that’s about all I know…
Today I pledge to do one thing and that’s to print off my contacts in case I need them. I may even go a few steps further and save them to a zip drive and email them to myself so they live online too…
Read about more easy things you can do to save yourself a headache in a disaster or something as simple as a smart phone outage.

Martha Carlos is the Communications Director at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. She’s hoping this shameful public confession will spur her on to(finally) do the right thing.

Patient Connection: Connecting Families to their Runners at the Chicago Marathon

Red Cross volunteers are buzzing around the medical tents at the Chicago Marathon. In the biggest tent, like a scene from M.A.S.H., rows of injured and exhausted runners recover in temporary cots from the previous twenty-six mile test. Spectators converge on Red Cross booths, desperately seeking their loved ones, fearing they’ve been injured or rushed to a hospital. The volunteers work with the Patient Connection program of Red Cross—set up to respond to mass disasters when they occur.

45,000 runners participated in the Chicago Marathon this year. With this many people pushing their bodies as far as they can go, you can imagine that quite a few drop out from exhaustion or injury. Even those who finish may not be capable of making it further than one of the cots in a medical tent. In cases like these, mothers and sons easily lose each other in the confusion. A woman might hear that her sister was injured, but has no idea where in this massive city she could be. That’s why Red Cross is here.
A man with his son approaches a volunteer at one of the tents. He’s heard that his wife, a runner, was being held in a medical tent, but can’t find her. “They said she might be sent to the emergency room!” he says. The volunteer takes down the runner’s name and checks the runner’s location in a computer system, which shows the exact tent and cot number where the woman is. She tells the man his wife has been found, and she’s being treated by the marathon’s team of trained medics. In 45 minutes, she’s on her feet and reunited with her family.
Volunteers on site enter the names of runners being sought by families into a computer system. Back at the Chicago Red Cross headquarters, Carol Mosley is on a computer in her office, with the “sought” list up on her screen, busily switching between websites, cross-checking the list with hospital admittances, tracking participants as they run, speaking to families on the phone. If a runner is admitted to the hospital, Carol contacts the person seeking them, and lets them know where to find their runner. Without this system in place, family members would be separated—they may find out that their runner has been hospitalized, but have no idea to which of the Chicago area hospitals they’ve been admitted.
The Chicago Marathon is a great opportunity for the Red Cross team to test out their ability to respond to large disasters where many people are hurt. Granted, we won’t get prior warning of a stadium collapse, or a train derailment, but the marathon gives volunteers an opportunity to implement their disaster response skills, and it’s reassuring to know that the systems in place have been put to the test. In the event of disaster, the primary concern is making sure loved ones are safe—Red Cross is here to help.
For more information on the Patient Connection program, visit:

Written by: Jonathan Bressler

Did you see Contagion and did it freak you out?


Doctors say that spread of a pandemic type virus in the movie Contagion has a kernel of truth. We aren’t trying to freak you out or scare you into bathing in vats of germ sanitizer but it’s something we should probably think about-especially when we all know flu season is coming to schools, daycares and offices near us. Below is an excerpt from story from USA Today on the subject and some of our thoughts on it.

Contagion has already has brought in more than $44 million at the box office in its two-week run. USA Today chatted with doctors and pharmacists who spend their days thinking, and sometimes experiencing, real-life worst-case scenarios when it comes to deadly epidemics. Contagion shows a world where the people who keep civilization together — police, firefighters, sanitation workers, supermarket clerks — are either sick, dead or at home with their families while garbage piles up, buildings burn unchecked, and gun-toting thieves ransack the suburbs for food.

The story goes onto say that it happened to a much lesser extent in Toronto during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, which killed 44 people in Canada. “Support staff didn’t figure their jobs were important,” says Tom Kirsch, a doctor of emergency medicine and co-director of Johns Hopkins’ University’s Center for Refugee and Disaster Response, Baltimore. His center has been thinking hard about what he calls the “willingness to respond.”

Tom Kirsch is also a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council. The American Red Cross recommends taking simple precautions like hand washing to avoid the spread of any type of flu. Here are some tips that we recommend on this matter including prevention, symptoms and how to care for others with the flu and if you have little ones, we have a super cute free anti-germ program for kids 4 to 7 called Scrubby Bear.

Related link
Spike Lee (a different one, not that one)talks how hand washing cleanses your mind

Reporting a Robbery via Facebook. Strange News?


The Associated Press reported today that a woman used Facebook to ask friends to report a robbery.

I love reading the news, not just the regular stuff but the water-cooler-conversation inducing fodder too. I was looking for a mindless diversion, something like this, “Pumpkin Found Hanging in Pear Tree” when I clocked on the “strange news” link in my e-mail this morning.

Today’s story hit a little closer to home, it was about a woman who used Facebook to ask for help after a robbery. Maybe it’s because I work where I do and stories about “tweeting for help” have become commonplace for us at the Red Cross but I think this is actually pretty common. We even did a recent study “Social Media in Disasters” that backs this up. It showed that about half of the respondents said they would consider asking for help during a disaster or to report a crime via social media channels; 3 out of 4 of those would expect help to arrive within an hour.
Would you turn to social media for help in a disaster or emergency? Have you already done so? Tell me your story.

Martha Carlos is the Communications Director at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

24 Hours of Passionate Service

Once you get into the routine of working a 9-5 job, you may say that it’s not too bad. But what if you worked a job with an unset schedule where you’re on call on certain days, you don’t know what to expect and your job is never finished? You’d say that’s crazy, right? Well guess what—American Red Cross Disaster Service workers do this everyday. Talk about working a 24-hour job, and loving it.

This is the type of job where volunteers serve others because it’s their passion to help in devastating situations: being impacted by fires, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes. Red Cross does not see this as work but as a service rendered to the human population at the right moment.

Every 80 seconds there’s a home fire in the U.S. and on average, the Chicago Red Cross responds to three to four home fires per day in the Chicago land area. On Tuesday night a fire destroyed the entire side of an apartment and Chicago Red Cross saw the need to set up a shelter for the affected residents. The next day, I was able to get a glimpse of what the neighbors went through with the fire’s aftermath and what it’s like to serve people in need.

We arrived on the scene of where the apartment fire took place at 2:15 p.m. As we stepped out of the truck, I looked across the street to see how the building looked. It appeared that a couple of windows were shattered. The fire didn’t even touch the left side of the apartment complex, but the destruction on the right side took my breath away. What remained of the apartment rooms we looked in was rubble. The stairwell that spiraled down the outside of the building hung suspended in the air burnt to a crisp. I thought the inside apartment was devastating, but the back of the apartment and house is really where all the destruction took place. What used to be the garage no longer existed and the van still sat there but the insides were demolished.

Right then and there I began to see why the people had to evacuate the apartment building and the need for a Red Cross shelter. Not everyone in the apartment units was affected, but everyone was told to pack up and leave the premises. I will never forget the response I heard from one of the apartment residents, “There is no good or bad side to this situation when you have to leave your home.”

It wasn’t until I talked to some of the neighbors that the whole story began to make sense. Initially, the fire started in the garage and set the van that was in front of it on fire. After the van caught on fire the wind carried the flames to the pole that sat in between the house and apartment building. Once the fire traveled up the pole it spread to the apartment’s back porch where the staircase sat.

One of the stories I remembered was a resident saying he was cooking in his kitchen when he heard a loud boom, looked outside his window, and saw fire and smoke coming from the garage. All he could do was tell everyone in the house to get out. “We weren’t just worried about ourselves, but my friend and brother went to the garage and kicked the door in to make sure no one was in there,” said Steve Williams.

Immediately, I began to see the positive impact the Red Cross had on the community. In the 90 degree weather, Red Cross provided bottles of water, snacks and sandwiches, as well as providing information. Red Cross worker Cam C. Anton was on duty at the shelter and when guidance and comfort was needed, he was there to help.

Besides giving people food, drinks and shelter, they needed someone who would listen to them about their frustrations, sadness and fear. Red Cross helped fill the gap.

Red Cross volunteers who provide disaster relief are needed daily during national disasters. Their compassion and commitment to others develops overtime from serving those in their community. That’s what Red Cross did for these residents: provide a sense of hope that life will continue.

For more information about how to volunteer with Red Cross, click here.

Written By Rachel Moten

Timber: June Showers Topples Tree

A severe thunderstorm touched the City of Chicago on the early hours of June 9, 2011. The sky was illuminated by the blue of lightning and the earth shook from the vibrations of the thunder. Many people in the Chicago area did not sleep for worry that their homes might flood.

Janice Davis, resident of Dolton, Ill., placed her mother Janet and grandchildren to sleep and closed her eyes for the night, flooding was not a concern. At 4 a.m. she was suddenly shaken awake by a loud bang. Janice ran quickly to her mother’s room for she feared lighting had struck the home. After making sure that her mother and children were safe, she peeked out the window and to her shock saw that the tree had split in half and was hanging from her roof.

The collapsed tree pulled the electric lines and cracked the foundation, leaving the home without electricity.

Janice stated, “Being without electricity and my mom, who suffers from seizure and needs a respiratory aid, scared me half to death.” Janice tried to call friends and family for help without success.

“Before you guys came, I did not know who was going to help us,” Janice told Red Cross responders. The Red Cross provided the family with the security of knowing that they would have a place to rest, plug in the respiratory aid, store medications, and think about taking their next step.

Janice and her family were caught unprepared and without a plan. During disastrous weather, expected or unexpected, it’s key to be prepared. The Red Cross urges families to make a kit that includes some the following:

• Water—at least a 3¬-day supply; one gallon per person per day
• Food—at least a 3-¬day supply of non-¬perishable, easy-¬to¬-prepare food
• Flashlight
• Battery-powered or hand¬-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
• Extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Medications (7¬-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
• Multi¬purpose tool
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items
• Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease
to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
• Cell phone with chargers
• Family and emergency contact information
• Extra cash
• Emergency blanket
• Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
• Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
• Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes

Next time the unexpected may occur to you. Be prepared make an emergency kit. For more information visit: chicagoredcross.org