The Red Cross at Fiesta del Sol

The Red Cross at Fiesta del Sol

At Fiesta del Sol this weekend there were sights, delicious smells, music, and reconnecting with fellow global Red Cross colleagues. Outside of being a beacon of cultural amusement and celebration, Fiesta del Sol attendees were able to access valuable information by spinning the Red Cross trivia wheel on a variety of topics like fire safety, disaster preparedness, and first aid training. Additionally, attendees were able to sign up to be blood donors and volunteers, and learned about the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program.

“This weekend was about community,” stated Brian McDaniel, Executive Director of the Illinois River Valley Chapter. “I met families and individuals who expressed genuine interest in volunteering, learning first aid, or having the Red Cross help them locate a missing loved one through our Restoring Family Links program. Connecting the community to valuable resources is what we set out to do this weekend and I can confidently say that Fiesta attendees who saw us in Pilsen received that and more! We can’t wait to be back again next year!”

Held over the course of four days in Pilsen, a Chicago neighborhood, Fiesta del Sol provided live entertainment, great food, a soccer tournament, activities for children, art exhibits, performing arts, carnival rides, and different Expositions. Through a wide range of sponsors and vendors, attendees were also able to obtain information and guidance on topics such as housing, immigration consulting, Covid-19 vaccinations for all ages, live painting art-performances, college workshops, and more.

“We were incredibly proud to be at Fiesta del Sol,” stated Celena Roldán, American Red Cross of Illinois CEO. “Participating in events like Fiesta del Sol not only brings us closer to the people we serve, but it gives us the opportunity to recruit great volunteers to our team as well as blood donors – as there is always a need for blood. Additionally, with our participation at Fiesta del Sol, we are able to provide community members with information on services and resources available at the Red Cross that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to receive.”

Celena Roldán, Chief Executive Officer for the Red Cross of Greater Chicago, third from the left, pictured with Red Cross staff and volunteers.

Red Cross staff and volunteers had a great time serving Fiesta del Sol attendees and continued its work of sharing the Red Cross mission ‘al cruzar la calle, a través del pais, y alrededor del mundo’.

Written by Illinois Communications Manager Connie Esparza

Giving Back Runs in the Barton Family: Red Cross Founder’s Legacy Lives On

Clara Barton with Red Cross bear (2)(CHICAGO, IL)March is Red Cross Month when volunteers are celebrated for helping those in need right in their own community.  Park Ridge resident Dick Barton is a Red Cross volunteer and donor. He is also a descendant of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, and his son honored this legacy by naming his third daughter, age two, after their famous ancestor.

“My son chose the name because of our special connection and because it’s an organization we believe in,” he said.

While it will be some time before baby Clara Barton can actively participate as a volunteer, her grandfather was drawn to take action by the organization’s commitment to caring.

“They’re among the first on the scene when people are in dire and desperate need,” he said. “They have the comforting word, food, blanket, hot chocolate, whatever it might be; they talk about caring for each other, and I like that about the mission.”

Volunteers make up more than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce, and the organization relies on these generous donations of time, blood and money, especially because it is not a government agency.  In turn, donated time helps the Red Cross invest an average of 91 cents of every dollar it spends towards humanitarian services and programs.

Dick Barton has already been giving back to his community in areas of health and the environment, and now he’s looking forward to joining the ranks of the Red Cross everyday heroes as a volunteer this month.

“People who are the boots on the ground, making things happen, making a difference inspire me and that’s what I want to move towards,” he said.

Red Cross Month is a  tradition started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 and all United States Presidents since have designated March to recognize how the Red Cross helps people across the country and around the world.

Clara-Barton_1Read the entire Presidential Proclamation. “Over a century and a half ago, as gunfire echoed through America’s skies and division flared between North and South, a trailblazing woman, Clara Barton, braved bullets and cannon fire to deliver much-needed care, comfort, and supplies to wounded soldiers of the Civil War. Undaunted by expectations of women at the time, Clara Barton persevered, as she had her whole life, and strived to aid those who sacrificed to save our Union. Determined that humanitarianism could thrive in peace as well as in conflict, she carried her resolve overseas upon the war’s end and was introduced to a relief organization in Europe that inspired her to come home to the United States and establish the American Red Cross.”

During Red Cross Month, anyone can become a community hero by becoming a volunteer; giving blood; making a financial donation; learning lifesaving skills from Red Cross classes, such as lifeguarding or CPR; creating an emergency preparedness plan; and testing your smoke alarm and reminding your neighbors to do the same.

Visit for more information on how to provide support and care to those in need.

Story by American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Public Affairs Volunteer Marta Juaniza

Are You Prepared for Lollapalooza? – Get a “Concert Kit”

In 2012, Lollapalooza was rocked by a severe storm that caused a mass evacuation and a two-hour delay in performances, leading patrons to flee to local stores on Michigan Avenue and underground.

The 2010 festival saw rain as well, as concert-goers slid down muddy hills and frolicked on the flooded grounds.  Besides heavy rain, August is marked as the hottest month of the year in Chicago with an average temperature of 82 degrees, causing many to suffer from dehydration and heat stroke.

In addition to weather, injuries occur during the concert steming from rowdy fans mosh-pitting generally during heavier rock performances that can leave guests bruised and battered in need of medical attention. The venue houses many medical stations in Grant Park that are easily accessible and the staff on hand is trained to handle any emergency.

Beginning in 2013, Lollapalooza officials now allow two sealed, one liter bottles of water for each guest to combat the inevitable heat.

Be Prepared – Get a “Concert Kit”

If you are thinking of attending this year’s three-day event, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago recommends a “concert kit” designed to prepare for any and all potential injuries or weather. Here is what we recommend:

  • Water – Excessive heat is likely in the midst of the summer and dehydration causes fatigue and heat stroke.
  • Band-Aids – Besides the risk of sliding down a muddy hill, most fans wear sandals and are at risk of cuts.
  • Plastic sandwich bag – While not everyone can afford a water-proof cell phone case, a plastic bag can still save your phone on rainy days. Cells phones are generally everyone’s main line of communication, and a water-logged phone puts you at risk in times of emergency.
  • Poncho – The best raincoat in crowded areas and inexpensive.
  • Portable Cell Phone Battery – If your phone dies you have no means of communication, one of these can mean the difference between your friends knowing where you are or not.
  • Sun Screen – Most outdoor concerts are during the summer when the sun is the most powerful and sun screen will allow guests to make it all three days without painful burns.

Lolla KitWhile there are many items one can pack before heading to the shows, these are just a few recommendations based on the conditions seen in the past.

First Aid App by the Red Cross

Before attending Lollapalooza, take a minute to download the Red Cross First Aid App.

The app is a database of treatments accessible to anyone with an android or apple phone free of charge.  The app illustrates treatments from burns and heat stroke, to bleeding and broken bones. In addition, using your phone’s GPS, the app can find the closest hospital, so no searching is necessary in times of an emergency.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the application does not require a network connection to access all the information.  During large sporting events and concerts, data connections tend to fail due to cellular network congestion and with all the treatments built into the app, the internet is not necessary for it to be functional.

You’re ready to go! You have your concert kit in tow with your Red Cross First Aid App installed, prepared to enjoy days of amazing performances.  Being prepared for an outdoor event like Lollapalooza can be the difference between an unforgettable weekend of fun, and a weekend drenched and phoneless.  Be Red Cross Ready and have a great time.

To download the Red Cross First Aid App, click the bandage below

First Aid




Story and photo by Michael Roeder

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

Giving the Perfect Gift Just Became Easy

ARC2013_ProductPage_290x290disv6 (1)Christmas morning is about waking up to spending time with loved ones. It’s about feasting and spreading holiday cheer. Most importantly, it’s about giving.

You can give a gift that with meaning for someone in need. All it takes is just a few clicks of a computer mouse button online at the American Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog.

So, what makes the Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog so special?

Your gift can give shelter to the woman and her children who lost their home to a fire. It provides phone cards and Military comfort kits to a wounded service member to call home to loved ones. There are many people in need and your gift can make all the difference.

For only $50, you can provide infant care supplies like diapers or formula for a baby affected by a home fire. You can help 50 young children live healthier lives through vaccinations.  You can give hot meals that provide comfort and strength when disaster strikes. And, as the Chicago region grows colder this winter, you can wrap people in warm blankets through your gift.

Give something that means something this Christmas. Visit the catalog at

Written by: Diana Brokop

From Red Cross to Golden Arches

Ray Kroc and Fred Turner looking at blueprints of future McDonald's restaurant

Ray Kroc and Fred Turner looking at blueprints of future McDonald’s restaurant

“If I had a brick for every time I repeated the phrase Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value, I think I’d probably be able to bridge the Atlantic Ocean with them.”

McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc never crossed the Atlantic with his franchise’s value statement like the aforementioned quote suggests. However, he almost had to cross the Atlantic as a Red Cross volunteer in 1917.

After dropping out of high school at age 15, Chicago native Ray Kroc lied about his age in order to join the American Red Cross as a World War I ambulance driver. Kroc was sent to Connecticut for training and served in the same regiment as another famous Red Cross alum and Chicago native—Walt Disney.

When World War I ended, Kroc had few prospects for the future. As a high school dropout looking for work, he sold milkshake makers, whereby he fortuitously encountered Dick and Mac McDonald’s restaurant in 1954. Kroc became the McDonald brothers’ franchising agent and eventually bought the franchise from them. Kroc went on to build the most successful fast food operation in the world.

Kroc never lost his passion for helping others that he channeled as a young boy when working for the Red Cross. In 1984, the Ronald McDonald House was established in memory of Kroc’s strong advocacy for children. Reflecting on the Ronald McDonald charity’s vision for helping children, one cannot help but think of the Red Cross, which aspires to “Turn compassion into action so that all people affected by disaster across the country and around the world receive care, shelter and hope.”

To find out how you can help make this vision a reality like Ray Kroc did, visit

Written by Michaela Zook

Volunteer Week: Walt Disney

Volunteer Walt Disney 1919      

As the always insightful Mr. Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” The American Red Cross could not agree more, and recognizes the vital importance of volunteers to their organization.

It is National Volunteer week at the American Red Cross, a time when every Red Cross helper should be appreciated for all they do. Dedicated and passionate volunteers have made the efforts of the Red Cross possible for over 132 years. Currently, volunteers constitute 94% of the total workforce to carry out our humanitarian work. In celebration of volunteer week, we decided to give a little background on one of our favorite former Red Cross volunteer. This talented artist and visionary helped children around the world to discover their imagination. He is remembered as a creator, filmmaker, entertainer, and most importantly an American Red Cross volunteer.

In the fall of 1918, Walt Disney attempted to enlist in the military in the wake of WWI. After being rejected because he was a minor, he joined the Red Cross and was sent overseas to France where he volunteered as an ambulance driver. True to Disney form, Walt covered his ambulance with his creative drawing and cartoons, as seen in the picture above. His duties for the Red Cross included being a driver for mechanic supply trucks and an ambulance. Even though Disney stayed busy with his Red Cross duties, he found time to develop his passion for art. He created war related cartoons that were submitted to Life magazine and illustrated posters for the Red Cross. Disney instilled a lasting relationship with the Red Cross and today The Walt Disney Company still donates millions to Red Cross relief efforts.

Disney is just one of many volunteers that have assisted the Red Cross and helped millions of people. Even though this week is dedicated to our volunteers, the Red Cross strives to thank their helpers, who make the organization possible, every day. So next time you drive by a fire, or watch a disaster on the news, take Mr. Rogers advice and look for the helpers, because I guarantee you will spot a Red Cross volunteer. To find ways you can help the Red Cross, visit

Written by: Alyssa Barford

Heidi Klum: Supermodel, Supermom, and Superhero


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 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

Get Blown Away by giving a donation!

      “Hey, good girl.
        With your head in the clouds.
        I bet you I can tell you, what you’re thinkin’ about.”
                                                   -Carrie Underwood, Good Girl
You’re thinking about buying your Carrie Underwood ticket for her Blown Away Tour, just like me!
I am a huge fan of Country music and this year I can enjoy one of my favorite artists while donating to a great cause.
Carrie Underwood announced she will be donating one dollar to the American Red Cross for every ticket purchased. So while her fans are enjoying her concert they will also be helping out the American Red Cross disaster relief.

One dollar doesn’t seem like much but; do you know how many people the Wireless Center in Moline and the United Center in Chicago can hold? A total of about 35,000 people, which is about $35,000 in donations!! And to think that’s just her concerts in Illinois.
The American Red Cross responds to a disaster every nine minutes and these donations can help out in a big way.
Just to give you an idea…
$25 – Provides five blankets at an emergency shelter
$75 – can cover a doctor’s visit for an individual injured in a disaster
$350- will provide emergency food and shelter for 25 disaster victims for one day
$2,500- deploys one emergency Response Vehicle and drivers to a disaster relief operation
$3,200- is the average yearly maintenance and fuel for one Emergency Response Vehicle
I can’t wait to be one of those dollars!
But don’t worry! If you’re not a Country music fan, you can still help the American Red Cross by making a donation of your own. Your donation can help the Red Cross fulfill its mission of helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
So whether you’re getting Blown Away at the Carrie Underwood concert or just sending a private donation you will be helping the American Red Cross help your community.

Written by Dana Morones

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.