A Giving Community in the Illinois River Valley

At the corner of 4th and Grant Streets in Peru, Illinois in LaSalle County, a familiar scene unfolds. Donors from around the community walk, bike and drive to the American Red Cross Illinois Valley Donation Center to roll up a sleeve and give blood. img_5778 “It’s so convenient, I work just across the street,” one donor said. There is a blood drive at the center nearly every other Tuesday, which makes it easy for regular donors to continue to give. IMG_5774

Shawn Bekelski has been donating blood for over 30 years since he started giving blood on a whim in the 1980’s as a member of the National Guard.

“They said anyone who donated got to leave two hours early that day,” he said with a laugh. Linda Barnard is also a regular donor. Having the O- blood type, she knows how important it is to give consistently. She also donates in honor of her dad, James Barnard, who donated over 15 gallons of blood to the Red Cross during his lifetime. IMG_5780
Linda Barnard and Shawn Bekelski are both regular blood donors at the Red Cross Donation Center in Peru.
“I want to continue his legacy,” she said of his persistent giving. Kathy Koscielski has been volunteering with the Red Cross since 2011, and currently helps with the snack area at this blood drive along with other volunteers. A gift left by the family of long-time volunteer Jane Duncan allows the post-blood donation snacks to be extra special at this drive, including extra desserts and BBQ sandwiches. IMG_5782
Volunteers Shelley Sines, Kathy Koscielski and Mary Kibilka help staff the canteen area for people to rest and enjoy snacks after giving blood.
These volunteers say it is a great community to be a part of and how exciting it is to see not only donors return to give but when there is someone new donating for the very first time. Jennifer Fabish is not a first-time donor, but she encouraged her 16-year-old son, RJ, to become a donor and he certainly made it count by doing a Power Red donation on his first time giving! She hopes to make donating blood a family tradition as it was for her grandfather and understands the impact both of their donations can have. IMG_5788 “And with the shortage right now, as someone with O-, it helps so many more people to do the Power Red,” Fabish said. In celebration of the upcoming Independence Day holiday on July 4th, the center will be giving out mini American flags to donors through a sponsorship by current long-time volunteer Esther Sparks. Make your appointment to donate blood at an upcoming drive by going to www.redcrossblood.org and consider doing a Power Red! #givelife

Written by communications manager Holly Baker

Where Your Blood Goes After You Donate

In the Chicago Red Cross office, there is a poster stretching down the length of a wall. On the right side of the poster, printed in white text on a red background, a paragraph tells the story of Amy. At the age of ten, Amy was told that she had leukemia. As she battled this, she went to chemotherapy every six weeks. Also during this time, Amy received over 100 pints of blood from donors to help as she fought the disease.

Heidi Reed sits in a chair after her donation

When people donate blood to the Red Cross, it can be easy to forget the impact that their blood is having. Volunteers give their blood at a blood drive, and once the drive ends, the Red Cross packs up and leaves. The donors walk away and continue on with their normal day, and they do not get to see where their blood has gone or, more importantly, to whom. Part of the nobility of blood donation is that those giving blood, without knowing where their blood will go or whom it will help, give anyways.

At the Chicago Red Cross building, I learned about the great lengths the Red Cross takes to maintain the integrity of their blood services branch.

For instance, after donation, donated blood is given a unique identification number, and samples of the blood are sent to a national testing center. There, the Red Cross catalogs the blood type of the donation and ensures that it is pure of disease. While the sample is being tested, the donation is spun in a centrifuge and divided into three parts: The red cells, the platelets, and the plasma. Each of these three can be donated to different people for different situations. In this way, one blood donation can save the lives of three people. Once the testing center confirms that the donation is free of disease, it is delivered to a hospital, where it is given to people who need it.

Nicole Thompson finishes her donation

Every two seconds, someone in America needs blood. This could be a mother experiencing complications in childbirth, a car accident victim, or someone, like Amy, who require regular blood transfusions to battle cancer. Donations save these people. Donations saved Amy.

After many rounds of chemotherapy and many transfusions, Amy defeated cancer. She has been cancer-free for almost twenty years now, is married, and has a son. “I hope people realize that blood and platelet donations cannot only help a patient in need, but can have an impact on future generations,” she once said. “My family and I are living proof of that.”

It is unlikely that any of the people who donated to Amy know of the effect that they have had. And Amy is not alone. Everyday, there are people who require blood to survive, people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or undergo a medical emergency. It is donations from normal people with normal lives, who may never meet the people they donate to, that save lives.

To all of our blood donors, thank you.

Written by Gordon White, American Red Cross Communications Intern

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

Blood Donors Help Prevent a Summer Shortage at Brookfield Zoo

(BROOKFIELD, IL) – “This is my sixth time donating blood,” said Tom Bierwith of Chicago as he reclined at a donation station at the Brookfield Zoo. “When the Red Cross called me to let me know they were hosting a blood drive today, my wife and I didn’t hesitate, we knew we would be here no matter what.” 20327020962_b9c283d609_z

Temperatures in the 90’s couldn’t keep blood donors, like Tom, away from the Chicago Red Cross Summer of Connections Blood Drive at the Brookfield Zoo. Partnering with ABC 7 Chicago, the blood drive was held Aug. 5 to ensure hospital patients have enough blood products during the summer, a slow time for blood donations.

The Summer of Connections Blood Drive was the second largest regional blood drive for single-day collections with 228 units of blood collected. To put that number into perspective, those 228 units of blood have the potential to save 680 lives.

The call to donate was a commonality among the hundreds of donors, particularly for Rebecca Puskar of Chicago who visited the zoo with her son after donating.

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“I want to teach my son today that this (giving blood) is an important part of giving back to your community,” she said. “If a time ever comes when I need blood, I hope that there will be people who have stepped up to provide me with the same life-saving gift that I’ve been able to provide today.”

If you are interested in an easy way to save a life, you can give the gift of life-saving blood by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visit redcrossblood.org, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to find a blood drive near you.

Story by Alexandra Sobczak, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by Danny Diaz, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Volunteer  

Blood Donors Give Blood Bank a Boost Before Holiday Weekend

Michelle Blood Drive Photo(CHICAGO, IL) – Summer can be a challenging time for blood donations. A recent Red Cross blood and platelet donor survey found that more than
40 percent of eligible blood donors plan to travel the week before or after Independence Day.

But the lack of blood and platelet donors isn’t just an issue these two weeks every July: most donors are less available to give during the summer months due to vacation and summer activities.

Fortunately, today at the Chicago Red Cross headquarters, a blood drive provided our blood bank with a much needed boost for the holiday weekend.

“Blood drives are one of the most life-saving forms of volunteerism,” said Red Cross disaster program specialist Betsy Johnson, who gave blood for the fourth time this year. “You can save three lives with just one unit of blood. Plus, it only takes 30 minutes of my day.”

Besides the motivation to donate blood as a Red Cross employee, Betsy’s sister is currently undergoing chemotherapy, fueling her personal desire to contribute to the need for blood.

A few chairs over, Red Cross international services and service to the armed forces manager Michelle McSweeney, was admiring her Red Cross embroidered baseball hat that she received courtesy of the national American Red Cross “100 Days of Summer” blood donation initiative. From July 2-12 anyone who donates blood at a Red Cross blood drive will receive a free Red Cross embroidered baseball hat, while supplies last.

Michelle was all smiles as the nurse initiated the blood collection process, “(Blood drives) provide me with an opportunity to serve outside of my every day role, and guaranteeing I will be making an impact in people’s lives.”

If you are interested in an easy way to save a life, you can give the gift of life-saving blood by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visit redcrossblood.org, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to find a blood drive near you.

Story and Photo By: Alexandra Sobczak, American Red Cross Volunteer

Hundreds Roll Up a Sleeve to Give at the 100th Anniversary Blood Drive

KHill_oKyle Bellin has been donating blood every three to six months for as long as he can remember. He knows his donation is needed and can help save a life.

“Just do it, why not? There is no reason not to. It’s quick and it’s easy,” he said.

Kyle joined hundreds of blood donors who rolled up a sleeve Jan. 21 at the American Red Cross 100th Anniversary Blood Drive at Union Station. The event was the start of a year-long celebration to mark a century of service of the Red Cross in Chicago. More than 430 units of blood were collected in one of the largest day-long blood drives during National Blood Donor Month.

The overwhelming turnout will help keep a steady supply of blood available, which can be challenging during the winteroverview_o
months amid cold and flu season or cancelled appointments from inclement weather. The need for blood is great when you factor in more than 41,000 donations are needed every day to meet the demands of patients nationwide. Providing lifesaving blood and blood products to patients is a key component of the Red Cross mission to help people in times of emergency and disasters.

“If you believe in karma, it’s a good way to give back,” said blood donor John Pabich.John_o

Lori Wade, whose daughter works with the Red Cross, encouraged people, “to give it a try. It’s worth the time.”

Jim Dee, who has donated blood around 20-30 times in the past, donated double red blood cells for the first time. There are about one billion red blood cells in two to three drops of blood and they are the most transfusable component. Patients who benefit most from this include those with chronic anemia, trauma and surgery patients, or those with blood disorders such as sickle cell.

“This feels like the right thing to do and it barely hurts,” Jim said. “It’s an easy thing to do for people who need it in desperate situations.”

Doug Gornowich, who also donated double red blood cells, agreed. “Someone has to do it. It’s (the donation) is a small part of your day that makes a great difference.”

Vee_nApart from double red blood cells, donors also came forward to donate platelets. Veronica Vasquez, a Red Cross Blood Services
staff member, was one of them. Platelets are obtained by drawing blood from the donor into an apheresis instrument, which separates the blood into its components, retains some of the platelets, and returns the remainder of the blood to the donor. Patients who benefit most from platelets include those undergoing cancer treatments, organ transplants and surgical procedures.

The common reason across all donors was they gave blood because they wanted to help someone.  Many also understood the value of blood donations after watching a loved one need it.

Kiarra Hill, who donated on her birthday, had a friend who needed regular blood transfusions.

“Think about how many people you may be helping, including friends and family,” she said. “It doesn’t take long and you are saving so many lives.”

Muslims_oApart from individual donors, the blood drive also saw support from organizations such as ‘Muslims for Life’ who have been partnering with the Red Cross for several years by sponsoring and coordinating blood drives at malls, colleges, mosques and churches. Also present were a number of volunteers from Fresenius Kabi, a company that supplies blood packs and medical equipment to the Red Cross to collect platelets and red blood cells.

“Blood donation is something that should come without asking for it. You should do it because you want to do it,” said Shaun Connelly, after finishing his donation and walking to the refreshment table.

The Red Cross has also launched the Sleeves Up virtual blood drive this month which is a new online tool that allows you to create a virtual blood drive and encourage colleagues, friends and family members to give blood or platelets, or make a financial donation – no matter where they are located across the country.

For more details about blood donations or to sign up for an upcoming blood drive, please visit American Red Cross Biomedical Services. We look forward to seeing you at the next blood drive.

For more photos of the American Red Cross 100th Anniversary Blood Drive go to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoredcross/sets/72157650418773425/

Written by: Amisha Sud, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Blood Drives and Biking Motivate Volunteer

Two things really Kathy Schubert bikerget volunteer Kathy Schubert moving – riding bikes and giving blood.

“I need a destination on my bike, so I’ll ride to a Red Cross blood drive,” Kathy said.

The avid cyclist has been a Red Cross blood drive volunteer coordinator since 2001, organizing one of her first events for the organization days after 9/11 when there was an urgent need for blood.

Kathy continues to bike to blood drives around Chicago and the DePaul University campus, recruiting donors and helping collect more than 5,000 pints over the years.

“I volunteer because people out there need my help,” she said.

Story and photo by Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Blood Donor Rolls Up His Sleeve for the 63rd Time

photoAmerican Red Cross volunteer Gerry Holmes believes donating blood is something significant he can do to help save lives.

Gerry first donated blood on his college campus when he was 18 years old. He had a good feeling knowing his blood helped someone in need back then, and still does today.

Since his college days, Gerry continues to roll up his sleeve three times a year at blood drives in the Greater Chicago Region. He has given blood 63 times over his lifetime, earning a 7 gallon pin in July 2014.

Congrats Gerry and thanksyou for helping save lives!

Story and photo by Catalina Alzate, American Red Cross Volunteer

The Power of a Blood Donation: Amy Jones

Growing up, Amy Jones made simple goals for herself: Attend college, become a teacher and start a family. She has accomplished everything she set out to achieve and enjoys life alongside her husband, Ryan, and their young son, Carter. But Amy’s journey was not easy. In fact, it almost never happened.

At 10 years old, Amy started to always feel tired and lethargic. She seemed to develop bruises on her body easily, and her skin turned yellow. Realizing this was not a typical condition, Amy’s mother took her to their doctor.

More than 100 blood and platelet donations helped save Amy’s life when she was younger, and now she encourages others to donate.

More than 100 blood and platelet
donations helped save Amy’s life when she was
younger, and now she encourages others to
donate.

Amy was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent high doses of chemotherapy treatments every six weeks. Like many other cancer patients, she received several blood and platelet transfusions.

“Chemotherapy was a difficult process because it’s just so draining,” she said. “But it was the donated blood and platelets I received that gave me the strength to help fight the cancer.”

Amy’s leukemia went into remission after two and a half years of ongoing treatment, then she was released from her doctors.

“My family and I thought we had beaten this,” Amy said. “But, unfortunately, this was just the beginning.”

Amy relapsed when she was 15, forcing her to endure more intense chemotherapy. After receiving more than 100 pints of donated blood and platelets, Amy’s cancer went into remission again.

Now, Amy has been cancer-free for several years and encourages others to donate lifesaving blood and platelets to help patients in need.

“Without dedicated blood and platelet donors, I wouldn’t have been able to grow up, get married and have my son,” she said. “I hope people realize that blood and platelet donations can not only help a patient in need, but have an impact on future generations. My family and I are living proof of that.”

©2012 The American National Red Cross.

redcrossblood.org | | 1-800-RED CROSS

Frequent and first-time blood donors share a desire to help

Paul KruegerPaul Kreuger has donated blood 10 times. This time, the American Red Cross gave him a golden pin for donating a gallon of blood over the years.

Paul says he is glad he can help someone in need. “If I can and am eligible, then I should donate,” he said at a Chicago blood drive. “What’s stopping you?”

The Red Cross is grateful for long-time donors like Paul, and for first-time donors like Christina Theodorou, who overcame herChristina Theodorou fear of needles because she wanted to help save lives. As a medical student, Christina understands the need for blood through her research in thalassemia, a disorder that requires patients to undergo regular blood transfusions. Blood donations help these patients and many more. A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States and more than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day.

Christina and Paul are not alone. They are joined by other donors who want to help save lives. Kristin Cleary, a frequent blood donor, realized her O positive blood is the second most needed blood type. Her time in the military reserves encouraged her to roll up her sleeve to donate to the Red Cross.

The donation process is simple. Start to finish, the process takes about an hour. The donation itself lasts about 8 to 10 minutes, but the gratification remains long after that.

Blood donors are extraordinary for stopping to take time out of their day to contribute to the urgent need for blood. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Join the cause by looking up a local blood drive near you.

—Written by: Amisha Sud