Northern Illinois Flooding Follow-up

After the flooding which started on July 12th, response efforts from the American Red Cross continued with the opening of a MARC in Stephenson County on August 4th.

The American Red Cross opened three multi-agency resource centers (MARCs), one in Lake County, McHenry County, and the third in Stephenson County. These MARCs collectively served over 2,000 families with 20+ agencies on hand to provide a variety of resources along with hot meals, relief supplies and financial assistance

Testimonials from the Stephenson County MARC, like this one from Allison Hartman, showed the impact the American Red Cross had:

“The experience was horrible from the rain, I mean we lost everything. The Red Cross really helped out. They helped me get some new clothes for the baby and a few groceries. They really helped a lot”

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: The Red Cross depends on financial donations to provide immediate disaster relief. Help people affected by Illinois tornadoes and severe storms by visiting or calling 1- 800-RED CROSS. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.

By: Rebecca Pilipchuk, Marketing & Communications Intern at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Roller Derby’s Make em’ Bleed Kicks Off In Chicago

Known for being a tough contact sport, roller derby has a soft spot for giving back.


August 13th kicked off World Roller Derby week with the sport’s 82nd birthday celebration at Coliseum Park in Chicago where the sport was invented by Leo Seltzer, a Chicago native. World Roller Derby week pays homage to its Chicago roots while giving back to the community. During the celebration, donor registration was open to attendees for the blood drive “First Blood.”

The “First Blood” blood drive will be hosted at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois on Sunday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Roller derby athletes will be there in full uniform (skates too!) signing autographs, taking photos, handing out buttons, giving temporary tattoos and hosting some fun giveaways. You can register to donate by going here and entering the code DERBY to find the Chicago drive or you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-773-2767).

Roller derby is giving back nationwide! In collaboration with Brown Paper Tickets and the American Red Cross, roller derby will be hosting a series of blood drives across the country, called Make em’ Bleed. Over the past 4 years, this collaboration has collected more than 900 units of blood.


By: Rebecca Pilipchuk, Marketing & Communications Intern at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive
Monserrat Figueroa spent her 10th birthday up close with a southwestern hawk while her mother rolled up a sleeve to help save lives. She and her siblings gathered around Saguaro the hawk with wide eyes to learn more facts about the bird. As her mother exited the blood donation room, Monserrat detailed the experience. The 3rd Annual Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive gave the chance to donate life-saving blood while also enjoying a day at the zoo with family. 

35503184044_bf34042c07_o Monserrat and Red Cross Volunteers pose with Saguaro the hawk.

“Are you proud of your mom for helping people today?” I asked Monserrat. She nodded her head excitedly. Her mother, Rocio Figueroa, was one of over 200 people who donated blood at the event on August 2nd. 
Many of the donors had given blood before. A couple donated together for the second time, a young girl donated for the third time, and an elderly man shared that he had donated to the Red Cross over 15 times before. When asked about his reason for donating, he answered that it was because he felt like he should. Without a direct connection to someone in need of blood, he had the empathy and the drive take action.

36338052695_3c759f4677_o Woman donates blood for the third time.

Thank you to all of the donors who found their reason to donate to blood at the Brookfield Zoo.
Join the American Red Cross at a blood drive near you to help save lives.
By: Lucia Varlotta, American Red Cross Communications Intern

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.

Red Cross Celebrates Holidays with Veterans

The holiday season is a special time for the valued partnership between the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois and the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center.

The Red Cross was honored to volunteer at the Lovell holiday party. Veterans like Nathaniel Davenport, who served in Vietnam, enjoyed a children’s choir and dessert, along with the company of friends and volunteers.


A volunteer, Nathaniel Davenport, and Chaplain Lyle Swanson at the holiday party.

“I hope we never have to do something like that again,” Nathaniel reflected with gravity on his time in the military. But while the children sang, he smiled. “The is the best one so far,” said Nathaniel, “The kids are great.”

Nathaniel sat next to a friend, Chaplain Lyle Swanson, a retired navy chaplain who used to deliver Red Cross messages (an emergency request to contact a service member). One time, he received a Red Cross message himself, telling him that his mother had a stroke. The Red Cross enabled him to get home with enough time to say goodbye to his mother before she passed away.

“It was 32 years ago almost to the day,” said Chaplain Swanson.


Ralph Barzowcsi and Gloria Cardenas.

Ralph Barzowsci, who also served in Vietnam, was enjoying the festivities with his care companion, Gloria Cardenas. They share meals together and do activities, like go to the mall.

The Red Cross also collected gifts for veteran families in need to make sure their holiday was a special one.

Learn more about both holiday programs in the video below!

Volunteers Map the Unmapped to Aid Disaster Relief

Volunteers Map the Unmapped to Aid Disaster Relief

Missing Maps is a global effort to map the most vulnerable places in the developing world. It’s something the American Red Cross considers immensely valuable to aid disaster responders.

On December 8, Motorola Solutions organized a massive volunteer event where employees from around the world pitched in to create maps in Malawi in preparation for a measles campaign.


Volunteers for Motorola Solutions pitched in for Step 1 below. (Learn more about the process at!)


Started by the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and Doctors without Borders, these free and open source maps are used by local NGOs and individuals to be able to respond to crises with solid on-the-ground data.

Mike Dwyer, a Motorola Solutions employee and Missing Maps volunteer for about a year, said that he feels motivated by the immediate impact of the work. He’s happy to help in a way that provides direct support for those on the ground. Listen to him talk about the event (it was a bustling, busy place, so there is background noise!).

National Volunteer Week–Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway in Milan ,1918When you read one of Ernest Hemingway’s works it might not strike you that he was once an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross! As we celebrate National Volunteer week, we would like to highlight the contributions of our devoted volunteers to the Red Cross mission particularly, of renowned American author Ernest Hemingway.

During World War I, Chicago-born Ernest Hemingway responded to a Red Cross recruitment effort in Kansas City and signed on to become an ambulance driver in Schio, Italy and then as a canteen worker at the Piave River until he was wounded. While Hemingway was distributing chocolate and cigarettes to Italian soldiers in the trenches near the front lines, an explosion seriously wounded him. But regardless of his injuries, Hemingway carried an Italian soldier on his back to a first-aid station, for which he received the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valour.

The Italian government cited with the award that, “Ernest Miller Hemingway of Illinois Park (Chicago) Lieutenant of the American Red Cross responsible for carrying sundries to the Italian troops engaged in combat, gave proof of courage and self sacrifice. Gravely wounded by numerous pieces of shrapnel from an enemy shell, and with an admirable spirit of brotherhood before taking care of himself, he rendered generous assistance to the Italian soldiers more seriously wounded in the same explosion and did not allow himself to be carried elsewhere until after they had been evacuated”.

He spent five days at a field hospital where he allowed other soldiers who were more seriously wounded by the same explosion to be treated before he was and remained with them until they were all evacuated. He was then transferred for recuperation to the Red Cross hospital in Milan for six months where he also found his first love in Red Cross nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky.

But Ernest Hemingway’s association with the Red Cross went beyond his voluntary work. Hemingway always admired the work of the organization, and when he returned home from the war he often wore his Red Cross uniform proudly around town. Ernest Hemingway’s Red Cross enlistment was one of the most influential experiences of his life and his development as a writer and a thinker. It also provided much of the source material for his work ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and his writings about Italy and the Great War. His involvement with the Red Cross led to some of the finest American literature on the Great War.

Ernest Hemingway represented all the values of a Red Cross volunteer—bravery, sacrifice, service and compassion for others. The Red Cross always respects the incredible hard work put in by all our volunteers all over the nation. Thousands of volunteers are out there every minute helping the community with emergency disaster response, providing life saving health and safety training and constantly trying to meet the immediate need of blood. The Red Cross celebrates the efforts put in by all supporters everywhere through National Volunteer week. Visit our website to find out ways in which you can volunteer.

Written by: Amisha Sud