Making the Most of His Time: Kaleb Hall

“I feel like it’s good to always help people. If you help people, they’re going to end up helping someone else, and it’s just like a cycle of helping people.”
-Kaleb Hall

Kaleb Hall is a high school senior in Decatur, Illinois. He volunteers for the American Red Cross in the South Central Illinois chapter of the Illinois region.

Having completed the necessary credits to graduate, Kaleb has extra time during this semester and wanted to devote it to doing something productive.

“I only have two classes and get out of school early, so I have more time. I wanted to volunteer my time, instead of just sitting at home watching TV,” Kaleb says. “I have a whole semester of free time, so I am going to be doing this a lot.”

Kaleb’s father, Xavier inspired him to get involved with the Red Cross. Xavier served on the disaster team, installing smoke alarms and performing other tasks as a volunteer.

Recently, Kaleb served as a blood donor ambassador at a Red Cross blood drive in Decatur. He helped sign blood donors in as they arrived for their appointments, provided them with helpful information and answered questions.

Kaleb enjoyed the assignment and is looking forward to getting involved even further, in the weeks and months ahead.

“Everybody is nice, it’s a good environment. There are a lot of options,” he says.

Thank you, Kaleb for choosing to give your time and serve as a Red Cross volunteer! To join Kaleb as a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Service and Scholarships

“It’s a good way to let your school connect with your community, letting people come in and see what your school’s all about. Also, it teaches students how to reach out and be active in their community and give back; these are things everyone should know how to do, and it helps you know how to do that.”
-Lainey Campbell

The American Red Cross High School Scholarship Program gives high school students the opportunity to help others, while helping the students as they move on to higher education. The scholarship program is available for high schools that host at least one Red Cross blood drive during the year.

For 17 years, Marty Green has helped successfully run this program at East Peoria High School. The school coordinates five blood drives every year, primarily thanks to the efforts of the students who are involved in the program.

“My role is purely supplemental. If they need something, I get it for them, but other than that, it’s completely driven by students,” says Green. “They come to me, I don’t go to them.”

The larger number of units of blood a school collects, the larger the amount of scholarships are awarded to participating students.

Lainey Campbell played an integral role in the East Peoria High School program the past few years, and received a scholarship for her efforts after graduating earlier this year. She is now using that scholarship to help pay for college.

“It’s very helpful, because college is expensive, so it’s very nice,” she says.

Perhaps more than the financial benefit, Campbell says the life skills she learned while coordinating blood drives and interacting with the community were very helpful for her. She encourages other high school students to get involved at their schools.

“For people who want to work on community service but also want help with funding for college, it’s a great program for that and it really rewards you – it rewards you for doing something outside your comfort zone. A lot of schools like to push leadership, teaching students to give back to their community. If you’re looking for that, it’s a great way to do it.”
-Lainey Campbell

Green, who is retiring after this year, recalls how Campbell and other students have answered the call to take charge of this program during his time being involved with it.

“Each year, a different student steps up to be the leader. They’ll come to me and say, ‘Mr. Green, I’d really like to run this,'” he says. “At the beginning, it was some work to get things going – now, it runs itself. I am fully confident that when I leave, it’s going to keep the momentum.”

Campbell echoes those sentiments, saying other students helped her, even while she was leading the program. She received support from previous student leaders, her fellow school band members and her friends along the way. She says, “I had a lot of support from my friends. I would send them the (blood drive) flyer and ask if they would post it on their Snapchat story or Instagram, and they did.”

Campbell also recalls the positive interaction with Red Cross staff, the day of the first blood drive she hosted. In addition, seeing so many people come in to give blood that day left a lasting effect on her.

“Everyone from the Red Cross I worked with that day was wonderful, they were all so nice and they explained it all to me,” she says. “It was my first experience seeing a community come together for a good deed, giving back to the community.”

By participating in the American Red Cross High School Scholarship Program, your high school can help build a stronger community. Click here to learn more, and to find out how your school can get involved!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Honoring Your Hero Could Help Save a Life

“Statistics show everybody will know somebody who received blood once in their lifetime. We never know what can happen, and the blood need doesn’t stop – patients still have cancer, burn victims are still in the hospital. The only way we can source blood is through volunteer donors.”
-Ellen Emerick

Ellen Emerick is a district manager for the American Red Cross biomedical team in the Illinois region. She is also a member of Heart of Illinois Blue Star Mothers. Her son, Joe Mickels, is a gas turbine systems technician for the U.S. Navy, and he has served our country for six years.

“If we have a new mom who has one of her children that just got deployed, what a great resource to have other moms who have been there and understand and can give them resources, or point them to the Red Cross. It’s a fantastic group of moms who understand,” she says. “I’m really proud to be a Blue Star Mother and to work for the Red Cross.”

Blue Star Mothers and the U.S. Coast Guard are teaming up to host the “Hometown Heroes” blood drive at 101 Holiday St in East Peoria from 1-6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4 in an effort to help bolster the blood supply, and show support to military, emergency services, hospital staff or even neighbors who are there to lend a hand.

Click here to sign up to donate blood at this event.

Ellen says, “This is just another way we can support and honor our local hometown heroes. It’s vital to donate blood.”

Karen Frazier is the Heart of Illinois Blue Star Mothers chapter president. Her son, Christopher served as a specialist in the U.S. Army for four years, including nine months in Afghanistan.

Karen says, “It was my worst nine months, and I needed to find something for camaraderie. No one knows what you go through like another mother. It’s nice to have somebody you can lean on and show you it’s going to be ok. We support each other.”

In addition to supporting each other, her organization supports the mission of the Red Cross.

“I’ve been a blood donor since 1984. It just makes sense – there’s no reason for us not to do it, because we’re moms and this is a way to give back to our community in a bigger, broader aspect. If you can save a life through blood, why wouldn’t you do that?”
-Karen Frazier

Thank you for rolling up a sleeve in honor of your hero. Each blood donation could save a life!

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

Volunteer Spotlight: Amy Kinsinger

Amy Kinsinger of Washington, Illinois started volunteering for the American Red Cross of Illinois earlier this year, after making a New Year’s resolution to give more of her time as a volunteer.

Amy retired from a career in advertising and sales, along with substitute teaching. She has volunteered for other agencies, but has a special interest in the Red Cross. Amy decided to get involved in the footsteps of her father, Owen Ackerman. Owen has given more than 26 gallons of blood in his lifetime, and his commitment to our mission inspired Amy to join Team Red Cross.

Amy has participated at numerous events as a blood donor ambassador, welcoming and directing blood donors and making them feel at home when they come to blood drives.

“I’ve always believed in the Red Cross, so I wanted to do whatever I could. I determined this was a good fit for me, because I’m social and welcoming. I like being able to greet people and make them feel comfortable, and I am an advocate for the donors.”
-Amy Kinsinger

Amy has another personal reason for getting involved with the Red Cross. She remembers the impact the organization made in the aftermath of the EF-4 tornado that destroyed hundreds of homes in Washington in November 2013.

“I saw what they did when the tornado came through my hometown. I see what they do nationally, and I know blood donation is very important. I really believe in the Red Cross and I love the mission,” she said.

Thank you, Amy for all you do as a volunteer! If you would like to get involved, please visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Challenge on 74: Illinois State University vs Bradley University Blood Battle

The Challenge on 74 brought in blood donors from Illinois State University and Bradley University, to help bolster the American Red Cross blood supply.

The Redbird Red Cross Club took on the Bradley Red Cross Club for bragging rights and while there could only be one winner of this battle, the real winners are the people who will receive lifesaving blood during their time of need, because of these blood donations.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this event!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a location near you and schedule an appointment to donate blood.

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

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!

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