World Blood Donor Day: Gary’s Story

When you hear about the need for blood, what do you think about?

United States Air Force Major Gary Novak (Retired) thinks about the times he cared for wounded soldiers, while flying thousands of feet in the air and having no time to wait for administering lifesaving blood.

Major Novak completed several tours as a Critical Care Flight Nurse for the Air Force Nurse Corps. His dedication and talents helped keep injured service members alive, as did the blood kept on board the aircraft.

We always made sure we took blood with us. A lot of the patients, we had to give so much blood to keep them alive. I saw such a need for that and, because of that, I just feel it’s my duty now to give blood.”
-Major Gary Novak

Major Novak went on to a career as a nurse and continued to see the need for blood on a daily basis. He regularly donates blood, and recently did so at the Danyel Pitts blood drive in Springfield.

He says, “You just never know. The blood you give may save somebody’s life that you know and love. It’s always good to help out where you can.”

Thank you, Major Novak for your brave and selfless service to our country, and for giving the gift of lifesaving blood!

If you would like to give blood, please visit redcrossblood.org.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Giving Blood for the First Time

“I had never donated blood before. I was a little nervous, but I feel good, now.”
-Nahum Rabin

24-year-old Nahum Rabin is a Springfield, Illinois resident and recently gave blood for the first time at a local American Red Cross blood drive. His friend had suggested giving blood, after doing so numerous times herself.

“She was just telling me about donating blood; she’s done it a few times in the past,” said Rabin. “After she told me about it, I realized it does help people and it is something good to do, to give back to the community. I decided to do it.”

When asked if he would consider a repeat visit to give blood in the future, here was Rabin’s reply:

“For sure, I would definitely do it again, especially if it could help somebody. It felt like I was only in there for 10 minutes, tops. I’m young, I have enough blood. It’s always good to help somebody.”

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. If you have never donated blood before, here are some resources for you, and a look at what to expect when you go to donate.

Visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment at a blood drive or blood collection facility near you. Thank you to Nahum and all who give the gift of lifesaving blood!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Employee Spotlight: Shaquetta Booker

I love my job, because I love the fact we are saving lives. I definitely enjoy being on the front line. I like to serve people and make people feel great.”
-Shaquetta Booker

Shaquetta Booker is a team supervisor at the American Red Cross blood donation center in Bloomington, Illinois.

Shaquetta started working for the Red Cross five years ago, and it was family that led her to go into this career. Her mother passed away due to cancer and needed blood during her battle with the disease.

Shaquetta learned how the Red Cross works to help provide that blood, while caring for her mother. She wanted to be a part of this process and help others.

“There is definitely a need for blood every day. Someone needs blood all the time. I love that people come out to help others,” she says. “When we are out here helping people, that’s a great thing to do. If that’s something you are willing to do, it doesn’t take much, it doesn’t cost anything and it’s definitely something that is needed.”

When she is not working, Shaquetta enjoys spending time with her children and family in Decatur. Thank you, Shaquetta for being an important part of our biomedical team!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment opening near you.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Jackie & Manooch: Former News Photographers Now a Driving Force Behind Biomedical Delivery

“I can’t think of any place in the city where we haven’t done a live shot.”

Manooch Shadnia points to the familiar places among the city streets of Chicago as friend and colleague Jackie Denn navigates the Red Cross car through traffic.

“I may not remember the stories….” He laughs and trails off his thought. After nearly 40 years each as news photographers, the people behind the camera at Chicago’s ABC-7 station, they’ve both covered nearly every type of story imaginable in the Windy City including many late-nights covering various elections over the years. Between assignments and deadlines, they also struck up a life-long friendship along the way.

Jackie started working at a small TV station at Michigan State as a studio camera person before coming to ABC-7 in 1980. Born in Iran, Manooch came to America in 1977 and joined the staff at ABC-7 in 1982. For decades they were reliable and creative members of the well-known news team bringing coverage of current events and moments of history to local news viewers. Then in 2019, they both decided it was time to hang up the microphone and put the camera away one last time.

After a fond farewell from their team, they are fully embracing their lives in retirement. Even with their days now filled with hobbies, family time and fun, Jackie and Manooch still managed to find just enough space in their new lives to give a little bit back.

Jackie got started right away volunteering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Lakeview Food Pantry,  and even as an election judge. But after many years at ABC-7 she couldn’t ignore the partnership and incredible event created through the ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive with the Red Cross. In its 8 years, thousands of units of blood have been collected. So it seemed like the perfect place to start as a Red Cross volunteer; helping with the blood drive and bringing Manooch along as well.

“I thought the Red Cross seemed like a great organization to volunteer for,” Jackie said.

Manooch stepped out of the news van and onto a bicycle for his retirement riding many miles a day as a “long hauler,” and enjoying other sports like snow shoeing- thanks to a new set of snowshoes gifted by Jackie. He also has a goal of running a marathon in a different state each month. Manooch has already crossed Louisiana, Illinois and Indiana off the list among others.

Volunteering at the Great Chicago Blood Drive wasn’t enough though, and soon Jackie realized there was more that needed to be done. She started volunteering as a Red Cross Biomedical Transportation Specialist, basically the drivers who take the blood products from the Red Cross to the hospitals that need them. After covering many health and medical stories over the years and getting familiar with the area hospitals, it sounded like the ideal fit.

It was.

Jackie quickly picked up the responsibilities of the volunteer role and was hitting the road each week. The shifts start in the morning picking up the blood in big, insulated boxes from the Greater Chicago headquarters, determining the route to the hospitals and hand delivering the boxes to the blood banks within them. Her role as a volunteer Biomedical Transportation Specialist plays a critical role in the process of getting donated blood to the people who need it.

“It’s a meaningful thing to do with my time,” she said.

Enjoying the experience and interactions with the other volunteers and hospital staff, she thought, “I think Manooch might like this.” She recruited her old work buddy to join her in the job, and they were reunited on the road once again. After Jackie showed Manooch the ropes a few times, they’re now covering the routes several days a week for the Greater Chicago chapter, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city and staying connected to the downtown area in the process.

“I’m proud to do this,” Manooch said. “When we arrive at the blood banks sometimes someone is waiting for that blood which means someone’s life depends on it.”

Even with separate scheduled days, occasionally they’ll tag along on each other’s routes and reminisce about the news days behind them, and the open road ahead of them.

Find your fit at the American Red Cross. Take a look at open volunteer positions here.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Holly Baker

Village of Romeoville Blood Drive Reaches 1,000 Unit Collection Milestone

The Village of Romeoville, Illinois started hosting regular blood drives for the American Red Cross when the global pandemic began in early 2020. They stepped up to take after when the Red Cross saw an increased need for blood donors to help sustain local hospitals during those days of uncertainty.

After having blood drives held regularly over the past two years, 1,021 units of blood have been collected!

On Monday, March 14 the momentous 1,000th unit of blood was donated by long-time and regular donor Kathleen Gubbins.

Thank you to the Village of Romeoville and community for supporting these blood drives and helping us achieve moments like this.

Phlebotomist Joseph Peshel holds the 1,000th unit of donated blood from the Village of Romeoville drives

To sign up to give blood soon please visit www.redcrossblood.org.

Red Cross Month: Family Hosts 5th Blood Drive in Honor of Seven-Year-Old

Photo credit: Kelly Harrigan

A seven-year-old is now responsible for five successful blood drives. This week, nearly 50 units of blood were collected in honor of Anthony, a child who has relied on donated blood to keep him alive.

Anthony’s blood drive at the Mount Prospect Police Department also served as a celebration. He recently turned seven years old, and he just celebrated his two-year anniversary of being cancer free.

Anthony was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) in 2019. It is a rare blood disorder in which the blood does not clot normally. This can cause excessive bruising and bleeding, due to the blood not clotting as it normally should. Anthony has received weekly platelet transfusions, because of this condition. He also needed nearly 20 rounds of chemotherapy treatment, while fighting leukemia.

Anthony’s mother, Kelly, has been coordinating blood drives since then, as a way to help other people who need blood and platelets. She is grateful for everyone who participates and plans to hold two more events, later this year.

As for Anthony, he is doing well and one of his favorite things to do is ride the bus – with his mom. We celebrate his good health and thank his family for their continued efforts to support the mission of collecting lifesaving blood!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment to donate blood, to volunteer at blood drives or to host a drive of your own.

In March, the American Red Cross of Illinois is honoring the people who make its mission possible every day during its annual Red Cross Month celebration – a national tradition started nearly 80 years ago when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first national Red Cross Month proclamation recognizing those who give back through the American Red Cross. Each U.S. president has issued a proclamation ever since. Join Red Cross Month by visiting redcross.org to make a financial donation, sign up to give blood, become a volunteer or take a class in lifesaving skills, such as first aid and CPR.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Celebrating Black History Month: Employee Spotlight on Darren Thompson

Darren Thompson has worked for the American Red Cross of Illinois for 25 years.

Darren’s brother gave him the inspiration to start working for the organization in 1996; he worked for the Red Cross and sparked Darren’s interest in coming on board. Darren started as a technician and, most recently, has been a manufacturing supervisor for the past 17 years. He enjoys being a part of the mission of the Red Cross and has played a big role in the impact Blood Services has made on the community, specifically Peoria and the Central Illinois Chapter.

Darren oversees a team of three staff members and six drivers on his shift and credits his time working in other roles for the effectiveness he is able to have as a supervisor. “Coming from the floor, you have seen every aspect of the job, so that helps a lot,” he said.

The Red Cross provides hospitals with lifesaving blood products 24 hours a day, 365 days a year including: red blood cells, platelets, plasma, whole blood and blood products for research. Darren oversees the distribution of blood products on a daily basis. There can be a fluctuation in the amount of these products coming through his area and the COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on that supply. As Darren says, “We go as the inventory goes.”

Darren and his team inspect the products as they come through their area and make sure they are packed and delivered in a timely fashion to hospitals who need them. It is a job Darren loves and one that gives him a great sense of satisfaction.

“I’ve seen it so many times, where we have products that need to get to people – lifesaving products. You just feel like you’re making some kind of difference. I always visualize myself being at that hospital and needing these products, so it kind of helps you understand the importance of making sure customers get what they need.”

In his spare time, Darren is a deacon at his church, volunteers his time and loves to go fishing. You might find him reeling in a catfish if you are ever at a lake in the Peoria area.

Thank you, Darren for 25 years of service to the Red Cross and for all you have done and continue to do to make a difference!

The American Red Cross continues to face a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care. Doctors have been forced to make difficult decisions about who receives transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available. Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments. During this blood crisis, the Red Cross asks the country to roll up a sleeve to help ensure people in their communities receive the care they need. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Many Milestones at Morrison Blood Drive

The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care.

The American Red Cross of Illinois hosts blood drives every day across the nation to help meet the needs of people in hospitals across the country who need blood to live, including many blood drives in the Illinois Region. Some long-standing blood drives have been held in communities for many years, with local people coming out regularly to donate every 56 days, as often as one can.

The Morrison, IL area blood drive is one of those regular drives that comes about in line with the frequency that a person can donate and its appointments are faithfully filled by members of that community.

Volunteer Blood Drive Coordinator Kaywyn Beswick has been leading the blood drive since 2009, and it’s transformed into more than just a blood collection spot. Especially before the COVID-19 outbreak, the blood drive was more of a consistent social gathering every 56 days where friends could meet and talk and enjoy food together between rolling up their sleeves.

A life-long registered nurse and yoga instructor, Beswick is committed to cultivating this highly successful drive with recognitions and helping donors understand the importance of blood donation. Each one can help save up to three lives, and Beswick believes that should always be celebrated with bells and cheers.

Recently, ten donors were awarded with milestone pins at the January 20th drive at St. Mary Catholic Church:

2 gallons: Trish Kingery, Kelly Smith

3 gallons: Jill Bramm, Mark Bramm, Bryan Vogel

7 gallons: Harvey Tegeler

8 gallons: Stephanie Vavra, Randy Kuehl

15 gallons: Pam Shank

26 gallons: Bill Kuehl

A thumbs up from Bill Kuehl on his donation making him a 26 gallon donor!

Eighty-year-old Lyle Bush was recognized for making his 233rd blood donation, nearly 30 gallons of blood!

And among all these milestones, Kaywyn made her 100th donation that day!

The Red Cross is proud to celebrate every donation and every blood type as we continue to face a national blood shortage. The Red Cross asks the country to roll up a sleeve to help ensure people receive the care they need. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)

Blood donations are needed now to meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease. You can also make an appointment in the days and weeks ahead to ensure the Red Cross can replenish and then maintain a sufficient blood supply.

Written by American Red Cross Illinois Region Communications Manager, Holly Baker

Thank you for donating blood!

Thank you for donating blood!

January is a critical-need time for blood especially when holiday breaks and seasonal weather often reduce blood donations.

ABC 7 Chicago once again generously hosted the annual Great Chicago Blood Drive on Jan. 9, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency and the Drake Oak Brook Hotel. While helping to save lives, participants enjoyed entertainment from Medieval Times and received a free ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive T-shirt.

The event collected a total of 684 units of blood! Watch live coverage from ABC 7 Chicago.

Thank you to all blood donors, volunteers, and sponsors for your generosity!

Like Mother Like Daughter: Passing on Good Habits

24521463025_c034240d57_o(CHICAGO) – Robyn Deren of Oak Brook has been donating blood for nearly 20 years. As a donor at the ABC7 Great Chicago Blood Drive that took place Jan. 20 at Union Station and the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook, she had two special people at her side: daughters Abigail, 5 years, and Madison, 5 months.

“I wanted to introduce the 5-year-old so that she can see that it’s not scary and doesn’t hurt; it’s a few minutes and you’re done,” Deren said. “She sees me giving and hopefully she will do it when she’s old enough.”

Deren was one of hundreds from the Chicago area who ventured into the cold to participate in the blood drive. Winter is especially important as donations typically decrease during this time of year, creating a greater need. Despite this, the Jan. 20 drive collected a record amount of more than 620 units.

Someone is in need of a blood transfusion every 2 seconds in the U.S., and the Red Cross provides approximately 40% of the nation’s blood supply. An adult gives about one pint of blood during a donation and that amount alone has the potential to save up to three lives.

Blood is needed for patients with various medical conditions such as accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

“You can save a life with your donation,” Deren said. “We all need blood one day; it’s free, and your body will make it again.”

Every day, the Red Cross needs 14,000 blood donations to meet nationwide demand. Every donation is important, and the Red Cross is committed to maintaining a diverse blood supply. Eligible donors are encouraged to make an appointment to give blood by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by visiting redcrossblood.org.

Written by: Marta Juaniza, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois