Rochelle Crump Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Military Hero

Rochelle Crump served in the Women’s Army Corps during the Vietnam War (ERA). She received the National Defense Service Medal for honorable service during a period of national emergency (Vietnam) and a Certificate of Recognition from the Secretary of Defense for military service during the Cold War. Rochelle has always had a heart for her veteran family and worked for 23 years for the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Having witnessed the difficulty facing many women veterans upon returning home, in 2005 Rochelle and several women veterans founded the National Women Veterans United (NWVU), a volunteer-based organization for women veterans and those in active duty, reserve duty, and national guard. The NWVU is one of few organizations across the nation with a mission that includes assisting women veterans in navigating the complicated systems of Veterans Affairs Hospitals and benefits.

“After a deployment, veterans do not come back the same (person), families don’t understand what they have been through or what they have seen. It is the role of the NWVU to help female vets understand they are not alone,” Rochelle says. “Veterans have VA benefits, but the bureaucracy is complicated to navigate, we ease this burden.”

The NWVU is a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ The organization also assists disabled women veterans through peer support programs and helps women veterans who are homeless or housing insecure to find housing, management services, and wellness support programs to help them get back on their feet. The NWVU also works with many women veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), depression and other mental health challenges, promoting hope, wellness and recovery. They also support military families, whose mother may be deployed or may have returned from active duty. The NWVU hosts a variety of programs including art therapy, plant-based healthy cooking, and financial literacy programs. In 2018, NWVU developed a partnership with the Women Business Development Center and the United Relief Foundation to assist military women entrepreneurs. 

In 2015, NWVU opened the only Military Women Veterans Center in the state of Illinois. On September 7, 2019, NWVU renamed the center in honor of Sergeant Simone A. Robinson, an Illinois soldier who died as a result of an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Sergeant Robinson’s daughter was two years old at the time, and the NWVU has mentored her and helped her family for the last seven years.

The ultimate goal of the NWVU is “to make sure female veterans maintain their independence, get the support and assistance they deserve, and ensure the women veterans who served so well are included as part of history – they all deserve that,” Rochelle states.

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

Lt. David Chmelar & FF/PMD Chad Tinsley Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Firefighter Heroes

On June 30, 2019, Lt. David Chmelar and Firefighter Paramedic Chad Tinsley, along with other members of the St. Charles Fire Department, responded to a call of a disabled boat that was getting dangerously close to going over the Fox River dam.

FF/PMD Chad Tinsley and Lt. David Chmelar

As soon as they reached the river, Chmelar and Tinsley got in the rescue boat and hurried towards the disabled vessel, “I remember that I told our command which was actually our chief [Joe Schelstreet] that we were en route downriver to the disabled boat, and he asked right away what our ETA was, so we knew that they must be getting close to the dam,” says Chmelar.

The boaters had been caught in a severe storm with an abrupt downpour and high winds. Their anchor was not holding, and the strong winds from the approaching storm were blowing the boat increasingly closer to the dam. 

It took about a minute for the firefighters to reach the stranded boaters. As they reached the people on the boat, a couple with their teenage son, both Chmelar and Tinsley remember how terrified the family was, “The look on their faces, they were really scared and very thankful for us to get there,” observed Tinsley.

The firefighters positioned their boat next to the disabled vessel, tied off quickly and helped the three passengers into the rescue boat and started back up the river, leaving the disabled boat behind. About 40 seconds later, the boat tumbled over the dam, crashed and capsized.

Firefighter Tinsley says that they are used to rescuing stranded boaters, but nothing to the extent of what they witnessed that day with a boat so dangerously close to the dam, “our job was just to get to them in time and get them off the boat and it all just worked out, thankfully,” adds Tinsley.

Thanks to the firefighter’s bravery, the family was quickly transported to the dock where paramedics attended to them. The victims were wet and distressed but had no physical injuries.

This incident has started dialogues between the Fire Department and the St. Charles Park District to identify ways to encourage increased boating safety in the community. Together, they are also exploring new ways to notify boaters of potentially dangerous conditions on the water.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we could have had fatalities that day,” retired Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet said.

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

Dr. Kaleem Malik Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Disaster Services Hero

For twenty-five years, Dr. Kaleem Malik has been a physician specializing in emergency medicine and trauma. In medical school, Kaleem decided to focus on emergency response to “do the most good and administer to the needs of many.” Trained early on as a Flight for Life physician, he witnessed the severity of emergency medicine and the sanctity of life each time he boarded a helicopter and administered to a critical needs patient. This vital work inspired Kaleem to dedicate his life to emergency medicine, and to focus on serving Chicago’s most vulnerable and providing critical and life sustaining care, where empathy is of the utmost importance.  

As a volunteer for Humanity First USA, a nonprofit organization that provides disaster relief and development assistance in 52 countries across 6 continents, over the past 17 years, Kaleem has held leadership roles including Chief Medical Officer. He is currently the U.S. Course Director and Faculty lead for Medical and Global Disaster Relief Training. Kaleem is also a practicing emergency staff physician with the DuPage Medical Group and is the CEO of TriLab, an academic lab partnering with healthcare systems to combat the U.S. opioid epidemic, a crisis that Kaleem has witnessed firsthand impacting “a vulnerable population with a stigma that has dehumanized.”

Kaleem has volunteered for many global disaster emergencies with Humanity First USA, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake, 2010 Pakistan floods, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, hurricane Katrina and more. Despite the tough medical disaster situations he has encountered, his time as Medical Lead for Humanity First USA in Coopers Town [Abaco, Bahamas] challenged all his disaster relief skills.

Hurricane Dorian was one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the Bahamas, causing at least 70 deaths and widespread destruction. Kaleem and Humanity First USA were part of the first medical relief team invited to the Coopers Town Clinic on Great Abaco Island, one of the islands hit hardest. They were summoned by the Bahamian Ministry of Health, the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization, based on their ability to nimbly and effectively assist in the devastating humanitarian health crisis. Within 48 hours of the hurricane making landfall, Kaleem and his team of 10, spent all night packing four tons of medical equipment and flew to the Bahamas where the death toll was increasing, and the health crisis was escalating.  Hundreds of people were trapped on the Abaco islands including many undocumented Haitians who were afraid to heed the evacuation warnings.  

“This particular disaster, in my experience, contained all of the elements that we train for,” he said. “There was a paucity of resources, primarily communications, so no way to get word out. No power, running water.”

After a 13-hour boat ride to Abaco, Kaleem and his team, along with their four tons of medical equipment, were tasked with restoring a badly damaged clinic on Abaco Island. The team brought medicine, tents, food, generators, pumps and a desalination unit to help provide drinking water. The devastation, destruction and debris on the island was unfathomable. “you would think a nuclear bomb had gone off,” said Kaleem. The clinic had major roof and water damage, no water, power or cell signal and the team began near-impossible tasks of cleaning and sanitizing the flood damaged clinic, while prepping sterile conditions to see patients. Sleeping on the clinic floor, cleaning again and again after rain continued to pour in and caring for the many patients, was difficult, but Kaleem and his team persevered.

The need was so great, that Kaleem extended his initial 5-day deployment to nearly 12 days and returned only because he had to leave for Guatemala on another relief trip, where he and Humanity First USA had opened a hospital. Kaleem serves as the chair of the emergency department and administers medicine in remote Guatemalan villages. 

In between disasters, Kaleem and his wife are raising three teenage daughters who have accompanied their dad on some medical missions and training programs. Kaleem also serves as Humanity First USA’s Course Director for Disaster Response Training, where he prepares others to deploy on humanitarian relief missions. What Kaleem is most proud of is “training (others)… It is the key to disaster response, scalability is what I have focused on the last 10 years, working to mobilize others and get them excited to go, to be that spark that may inspire empathy.”

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

Ivan Escobar Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Nurse Hero

Nursing was not Ivan Escobar’s initial career path. After working for 10 years in pest control, he opted to go back to school with the intention of transitioning to law enforcement.

Ivan enrolled at Malcolm X College and set out to complete his associate degree in law enforcement. While in college, Ivan had a change of heart and transitioned to nursing, “I think nursing really was my calling without me (initially) knowing,” says Ivan, who at the time was also working at St. Anthony’s Hospital as an Emergency Room Technician.

Ivan has always had the compassion and commitment required of a nurse. On September 28, 2019 Ivan’s compassion and commitment were truly challenged. On this cloudy day, Ivan and his 13-yeard-old son were driving in Humboldt Park to pick up Ivan’s mother and take her to a family gathering. Suddenly, they heard gunshots and a woman’s scream, which seemed to be coming from a vehicle near their car. Instead of rushing away from the scene, Ivan turned his car around to check on the occupants of the impacted vehicle, which had come to a sudden stop.

Fearing for his son’s safety, Ivan told him to stay in the car while he got out to check on the people in the other car. As Ivan opened the driver’s car door, he saw a screaming woman clutching a little girl on the passenger’s side, and found a man on the driver’ side bleeding profusely from the head, “I grabbed the little girl’s teddy bear that was in the car, and I applied pressure on his forehead,” recalls Ivan, who had just become a registered nurse only three weeks prior to the incident.

The shooting had wounded a 44-year-old father who was driving with his wife and three-year-old daughter, who Ivan noticed was in a princess costume. The man was hit in the face by a stray bullet, according to the police report following the incident.

Ivan stayed with the victim until paramedics arrived and kept talking to the man, who despite being shot between the eyes, was conscious and responding to Ivan’s questions. At the same time, Ivan was also trying to calm down the man’s wife and daughter who continued to scream in shock. 

A few days after the incident, Ivan visited the man and his family and brought a special gift to their little daughter, “I went to Build-a-Bear and bought the little girl a nurse bear, I figured to replace her bear that I had used,” says Ivan.

Remarkably, the man made a full recovery because fortunately, the bullet did not penetrate his skull. As for Ivan, he doesn’t consider himself a hero and explains that it would do it all over again if presented with a similar situation because as human beings “we should all just help each other.”

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

Fritzie Fritzshall honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Global Citizenship Hero

As a Holocaust Survivor and the President of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, Fritzie Fritzshall has devoted her life to combatting hatred, racism and intolerance.  At the tender age of 13, after her family was arrested at gunpoint in what was then Czechoslovakia and endured the horrific train to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Fritzie was separated from her mother and two brothers, whom she would never see again.

Based on a tip from a fellow prisoner, Fritzie lied about her age and said she was 15. She was sent to a grueling labor camp and was the youngest among the 599 women prisoners. She made a promise to the 599 women that if she was ever released, she would tell the story of the one million who died at Auschwitz and the 11 million that died during the Holocaust. 

After almost two years in the camp, on a death march from Auschwitz, Fritzie ran into a forest, and was then liberated by the Russian army. After the war, she came to the United States where she was reunited with her father and moved to the Chicago area. 

Fritzie never forgot her promise to the women of the camp. In 1978, when a neo-Nazi group threatened to march in Skokie, the home of an estimated 7,000 Holocaust Survivors, Fritzie knew that she had to speak out. She, along with other Survivors made it their mission to educate children about this dark time. Fritzie recalls, “As Survivors, we were scared. We came to this beautiful country where there was not going to be any hatred or anti-Semitism and so the threat of the march frightened us.”

 “Several Survivors got together and decided we needed to teach and call attention to that dark, dark time that we lived through, and … we started the initial storefront (Holocaust) museum on Main Street in Skokie,” Fritzie remembers. This storefront evolved into the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center of today, where Fritzie is President. The museum has over 400 volunteers, and over 70,000students annually visit the museum to learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Under Fritzie’s leadership, Illinois Holocaust Museum’s “Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories Experience” has taken the preservation of Holocaust Survivor stories to an unprecedented level. This exhibit takes audiences through one of the darkest moments in human history enabling visitors to have life-like conversations with interactive, high-definition holographic survivor recordings. Years from now, long after the last Holocaust Survivor has passed, their stories will survive, thanks to groundbreaking three-dimensional technology.

To participate, Fritzie had to endure five grueling days, answering thousands of probing questions about her Holocaust experience– a truly selfless act. Now, her 3-D representation can reply to approximately 30,000 questions thoughtfully and with emotion. Today, Fritzie is a leading public voice of conscience in Chicago. She fights hatred by tirelessly telling her harrowing story of survival and by articulating her insights on current issues, including the rise of antisemitism and the refugee crisis. In 2019, Fritzie returned to Auschwitz with Cardinal Blasé Cupich telling her story to millions of Chicagoans in a 4-part Television Special. Though Fritzie had said she would never return, increasing antisemitic sentiment and hate crimes, along with an opportunity to create interfaith dialogue made her reconsider her decision.

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

Georgina Adan, Patty Gonzalez & Maricela Wesby Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Blood Services Heroes

Maricela Wesby, Patty Gonzalez and Georgina Adan are members of the Northern Trust Latin Heritage Leadership Council and serve on its community service committee. Through the council, they coordinate blood drives at Northern Trust. In the last three years, they have organized 17 blood drives and collected close to 700 units of blood. Their dedication and determination have had an impact on many in our community.

From left to right: Maricela Wesby, Georgina Adan and Patty Gonzalez

Each of these women has witnessed their loved ones battling severe illnesses that require life-saving blood products. And one particular young woman has touched them all very deeply.

In January of 2015, Patty and Maricela’s 13-year-old niece AnaVictoria was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The women recall that AnaVictoria was always full of life, hope and kindness, and this diagnosis came as a surprise to AnaVictoria and her family. AnaVictoria received many blood products during the course of her treatment. While her transfusions helped her in her fight against leukemia, in 2017, AnaVictoria suddenly relapsed and passed away. “I felt like I wanted to do something to help, and blood donation was the ideal thing because she received so much blood throughout her treatment,” says Patty. Maricela remembers that because of the generosity of complete strangers who donated blood, the life of her niece was extended for two more years after the initial diagnosis. “The blood transfusions would give life to AnaVictoria,” recalls Maricela.

AnaVictoria’s beautiful memory propels Maricela, Patty and Georgina’s mission to collect blood. The women are determined to make a difference in the lives of people fighting cancer and other illnesses. Blood cannot be manufactured and can only be donated by generous community members, so the women want to help others understand the impact that donors have on patients and their families, “I don’t think people understand that they are extending someone’s life like in the case of my niece. I really believe she was with us longer because of all that blood she received. So, I share this with people and tell them, you are actually saving lives,” adds Patty.

After increasing the number of blood drives held at Northern Trust, what’s next?

In March of 2020, Northern Trust is moving to new offices on Wabash Avenue and the three women plan to expand the Latin Heritage Leadership Council’s blood drives to all of the building’s tenants. “I do feel that I’m helping people by doing this. So, it’s definitely a great cause,” explains Georgina. “And AnaVictoria’s memory, pushes us to increase our goals, do more drives, and educate our staff.”

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

Jahmal Cole Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Community Impact Hero

Jahmal Cole grew up poor. There were not many positive role models in his neighborhood. He was accustomed to those around him going to jail for drugs, gangs and other crimes. Jahmal recalls growing up with food stamps, “I never knew that food stamps were not real money until I tried to put one in a [soda] machine and [it] broke,” recalls Jahmal. Together he and his siblings, didn’t know how poor they were because, as Jahmal explains, they didn’t have a point of reference beyond their neighborhood. This Jahmal terms the “poverty of imagination.”

Raised in Waukegan, Jahmal spent some of his youth homeless and attended an alternative high school. He hoped that his basketball skills could save him and knew he needed to attend college to improve his chances. Jahmal made his way to Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. “I didn’t know the difference between division three, two or one. All I knew is that I had been accepted to college and I had a chance to go to the NBA.”

Initially, at Wayne State, Jahmal played for the basketball team, but was failing in his classes. However, his basketball coach wouldn’t give up on him and with his guidance, Jahmal was able to graduate with a 3.78 GPA. Ironically, he didn’t recognize his coach was trying to put him on a path to success. On the contrary, he blamed the coach for not making it to the NBA, which motivated him to write his first book. That book, Jahmal explains, led him to volunteer at the Cook County Jail where he met young inmates that were also making excuses for bad choices. “That’s when I realized that my coach wasn’t teaching me basketball, he was teaching me to change my philosophy, and was the biggest role model in my life,” says Jahmal. “He helped me out when I didn’t have a frame of reference to show appreciation, but he knew I had potential,” muses Jahmal.

Motivated by volunteering at the Cook County Jail, and seeing many inmates without role models, Jahmal recognized that most had never left their neighborhood and were caught in the ‘poverty of imagination.’ In 2015, Jahmal founded a non-profit organization known today as My Block, My Hood, My City to expose underprivileged youth to a world beyond their neighborhood.  My Block, My Hood, My City subjects young people to different cultures, careers, people and businesses including culinary arts, STEM, finance, volunteerism, and much more. Each exploration allows them to see the vast range of opportunities available, providing a vision of life beyond their neighborhood.

Jahmal also recognized the impact that a positive and beautiful surrounding neighborhood environment can have on kids, so he also collaborates with community block clubs to beautify their communities.

My Block, My Hood, My City is also committed to educating low-income communities about financial literacy. According to Jahmal “in North Lawndale there 13 currently exchanges and no banks.” Jahmal recognizes that helping their residents understand the banking system and develop good financial habits can empower them to build a better future, and hopefully break the cycle of poverty in which they live. “Things won’t change until we change…start on your block, start in your community. What is something simple you can do to positive impact change? Start with something simple,” concludes Jahmal.

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. Follow #RedCrossHeroes @chicagoredcross on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Instagram and follow ‘American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern IL’ on  LinkedIn .

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

2020 Heroes: The American Red Cross Honors Everyday Extraordinary Individuals

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring fourteen extraordinary individuals from the Chicago and Northern Illinois area for their outstanding acts of heroism, dedication and service to the community.

The 2020 American Red Cross Heroes include the following class of exceptional individuals.

Georgina Adan, Patty Gonzalez & Maricela Wesby, of Chicago are the Blood Services Heroes. Georgina, Patty and Maricela understand how precious blood donations are for patients fighting for their lives. In 2017, Maricela and Patty lost their 15-year-old niece, AnaVictoria to leukemia. Her illness and the impact of blood donations on her young life, motivated the women to organize blood drives to help patients like AnaVictoria. Together, the three women have coordinated 17 blood drives at their workplace, Northern Trust, and have collected almost 700 units of blood, helping hundreds of patients.

Jahmal Cole of Chicago is the Community Impact Hero. Despite growing up in poverty, Jahmal was determined to build a better life for kids facing the same challenges that he encountered. In 2014, Jahmal founded My Block, My Hood, My City, a non-profit organization that partners with schools to expose underprivileged youth to a world outside their neighborhood. Through the ‘Explorers Program’ My Block, My Hood, My City takes young people on field trips in Chicago and across the country to experience different cultures, careers, people and businesses including culinary arts, STEM, finance, volunteerism and more. Each exploration allows them to see the vast range of opportunities available, providing a vision of life beyond the neighborhood. My Block, My Hood, My City also partners with community organizations to beautify neighborhoods and create more positive surroundings for young people and residents.

Kaleem Malik, M.D. of Burr Ridge is the Disaster Services Hero. When not serving patients in disaster zones, Dr. Malik works as an emergency room physician for the DuPage Medical Group. A physician for 25 years, Dr. Malik is also a volunteer for Humanity First USA, a non-profit organization that provides medical disaster relief to vulnerable global communities. Over the past 17 years, he has responded to countless disasters. Most recently, Dr. Malik led one of the first international teams of medical professionals sent to the Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. This response put to the test all of Dr. Malik’s disaster relief skills, as his team worked extremely difficult conditions to restore to working order a badly damaged medical clinic on Abaco island.

Lauren Trylovich of Chicago is the Emergency Medical Assistance Hero. Last October, Lauren, an emergency phone operator and paramedic at the Chicago Office of Emergency Management, answered a call from a woman whose sister was unresponsive. After inquiring about the sister’s condition and assessing the critical situation over the phone, Lauren realized that lifesaving CPR needed to be performed immediately. With no time to waste, she calmly gave CPR instructions over the phone to the caller, who had never been trained in CPR. Because of Lauren’s careful and clear instructions, the caller successfully administered CPR until emergency help arrived, saving the life of her sister.

Lieutenant David Chmelar and Firefighter/Paramedic Chad Tinsley of St. Charles are the Firefighter Heroes. On June 30, 2019, Chmelar and Tinsley responded to a rescue on the Fox River. Three people were stranded on a disabled boat that was getting dangerously close to the dam. The situation became dire, as a severe storm and strong winds kept pushing the disabled vessel towards the dam, and the boat’s anchor wasn’t holding. Chmelar and Tinsley immediately jumped into action. Despite the challenging weather conditions, they were able to reach and rescue two adults and one teenager trapped on the disabled boat. Less than a minute after the rescue, the boat went over the dam and capsized. Thanks to Chmelar and Tinsley, three lives were saved that day.

Fritzie Fritzshall of Chicago is the Global Citizenship Hero. A survivor of the Holocaust, Fritzie has dedicated her life to combatting hatred, racism and intolerance. As President of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, she is ensuring future generations learn about the Holocaust so that history will not repeat. At the age of 13, Fritzie, her mother and two brothers, were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and only Fritzie survived. In 1978, when a neo-Nazi group threatened to march in Skokie, Fritzie made it her mission to educate children about this dark time in history. She has dedicated her life to tell her story and the stories of the many others who did not survive. Today, Fritzie is a leading public voice of conscience in Chicago.

Robert King of Chicago is the Good Samaritan Hero. As Robert was driving home from work last April, he noticed an accident on Lake Shore Drive. Robert pulled over to check on those involved, including a green and white ambulance that had been “t-boned.” One of the men in the ambulance asked King if he could drive them to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, to which he immediately agreed. Once the hospital staff was in his car, King learned that among his passengers was a transplant doctor and inside the coolers they were carrying precious cargo; organs that they had secured from a recently deceased patient. The organs were awaiting patients already prepped for surgery at Northwestern Hospital. King’s selfless act helped save more than one life that day.

Detective Phil Hemmeler of Palatine is the Law Enforcement Hero. Last summer, Detective Hemmeler was having lunch when he heard on his two-way radio of a nearby car crash in the mall where he was eating. The detective rushed to the scene where he saw a car had crashed and was wedged into the brick wall of an empty retail space. To complicate the situation further, the force of the impact also had set the vehicle on fire. The car was penetrated so far into the wall that it proved impossible to pull the driver out. Concerned that the flames would further engulf the car and driver, the detective was able to use a tow strap from a bystander and attach the strap to his police vehicle to pull the car out of the building, saving the man’s life.

Rochelle Crump of Hazel Crest is the Military Hero. Rochelle, an Army Veteran who served in the Women’s Army Corps during Vietnam (ERA), has dedicated her life to helping women service members and veterans. Having witnessed the difficulty facing female veterans upon returning home, in 2005, Rochelle founded the National Women Veterans United (NWVU). In 2015, the organization opened the only Military Women Veterans Center in Illinois. The NWVU provides support services such as navigation of the VA benefits system and wellness support programs to address health needs. The organization’s volunteers also assist with housing, homelessness and help veterans wanting to open their own business. The goal of the NWVU is to make sure female veterans get the assistance they deserve and ensure female service members are remembered in history. 

Iván Escobar, R.N of Chicago is the Nurse Hero. On September 28, 2019, Iván, an emergency room nurse, was in a car with his teenage son going to pick up his mother for a family party when he heard shots fired. At the same time, Iván noticed a white SUV come to a sudden stop as a result of the shots. He decided to check on the car’s occupants and quickly found that the driver had been shot between the eyes. Iván’s emergency response skills kicked in and he grabbed a teddy bear he found in the car to help stop the bleeding. Also, in the car, were the man’s wife and three-year-old daughter, three innocent bystanders on their way to a party. Iván continued to put pressure on the wound and stayed with the man and his family until paramedics arrived. The man was able to make a full recovery.

Rosie Quinn of Chicago is the Youth Hero. At the age of two, Rosie was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease alopecia which resulted in the loss of her hair. Dealing with constant questions from strangers, Rosie learned to embrace her baldness and her difference. In 2016, Rosie and her mom founded the non-profit, Coming Up Rosies, which encourages children affected by alopecia and other illnesses to embrace their differences and find confidence. Rosie creates ‘Smile Kits’ which contain supplies to create artwork, which Rosie and her mom then print on scarves and capes. These items are returned to the original designer so they can wear them with pride. Since 2016, Coming Up Rosies has donated 1,500 smile kits to 20 hospitals and rehabilitation centers in Chicago and the nation.

For the past 18 years, the Chicago & Northern Illinois Red Cross has honored each class of heroes at its Heroes Breakfast, typically attended by nearly 1,000 individuals. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Chicago & Northern Illinois Red Cross is unable to host this event in person but will honor this class of heroes via traditional and social media coverage.

We invite you to follow us @chicagoredcross on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to learn more about the stories of these Everyday Extraordinary Heroes in the weeks to come.

Through the Heart of a Red Crosser – Blue Sky Efforts – February 2020

The Regional Sheltering Team recently conducted five classes with External Partners in Shelter Training. 

Three local organizations – Benedictine University, Hoffman Estates Emergency Management and the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management – reached out to the Red Cross and requested Shelter Training for their people.

Five Red Cross Instructors over the last month – traveled out to their locations and instructed their people in both Shelter Fundamentals and Shelter Operations Simulation.  A total of 120 people were trained in these classes. 

Steve Wise and Lauren Zimmerman (RC Sheltering Instructors) – and Sarah Marcucci / Emergency Management Coordinator for the Village of Hoffman Estates

Such efforts help the Red Cross extend both our Partnerships and our reach in times of need.  If there ever was a local large-scale disaster – there easily could be the need to stand up numerous Shelters across the Greater Chicago and Northern IL Region.      

A big shout out goes to those Red Crossers who helped out with this instruction – Terri Cunningham, Lauren Zimmerman, Jackie Speciale, and Danny Portman.  Thru their efforts – we now have External Partners to call on for Sheltering Assistance.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, please go to to join us.

This picture was taken at the Shelter Training held at the Hoffman Estates Police Department last Saturday, February 1st. A total of 37 people attended this training.

Written By: Steve Wise, Disaster Volunteer

Marseilles Fire Department Celebrates 3,000th Smoke Alarm Installed with Red Cross Partnership

Representatives from the American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley and the Marseilles Fire Department commemorate the installation of the 3,000 free smoke alarm through the Home Fire Campaign

Nestled along the Illinois River in LaSalle County, Illinois, Marseilles still has the many familiar elements of that small town charm often seen in rural parts of the state. Now this community of about 5,000 is well on their way to being better protected against home fire injuries and fatalities as the fire department confirms 3,000 smoke alarms recently installed in local homes!

Having a working smoke alarm in your home cuts your chances of dying in a home fire by 50% and a recent study by the American Red Cross showed that most people believe they would have 5 minutes or more to escape their home in the event of a fire when really, it is only 2 minutes or less. Having a working smoke alarm can help protect you and your family in the event of a fire.

Each year, the Red Cross responds to an average of more than 60,000 disasters, the vast majority of which are home fires. So we set a goal to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries in the US by 25%. Since it began in 2014, the Home Fire Campaign has saved 699 lives and 2,055,341 smoke alarms have been installed– 3,000 of them in Marseilles.

The partnership began nearly two years ago through the initiative of Red Cross volunteer Kent Terry and the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. When Marseilles Fire Department Chief Michael “Mick” Garrison was approached about partnering with the Red Cross for home fire safety, a new endeavor was launched.

Together, the Marseilles Fire Department and Red Cross were able to reach this installation milestone providing the free smoke alarms to local residents as well as fire safety education. During an installation, the fire department also performs a free home safety inspection.

The reach of the Home Fire Campaign continues to grow further, and Chief Garrison has also installed free Red Cross smoke alarms all throughout LaSalle County by partnering with neighboring fire departments and continuing to promote home fire safety.

“This is the best program ever for Home Safety. We get the opportunity to provide direct communication and protection to our residents,” Chief Garrison said.

The American Red Cross is thankful for this great partnership with the Marseilles Fire Department and the continued dedication to making our communities more resilient and safer through smoke alarm installation.

To get involved with the Home Fire Campaign or to volunteer with the Red Cross, join us as we Sound the Alarm this spring to install even more free smoke alarms!

Looking to volunteer with the Red Cross? Find an upcoming installation event here:

Do you need a working smoke alarm? Sign up for a free installation appointment at: