2019 Team Red Cross: Dedication, Passion & Perseverance

Team Red Cross brings together runners of all ages and abilities in support of the American Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Team Red Cross prepares runners for success in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K, while also providing a rewarding charitable-giving experience. 

We are grateful for all our runners and are so impressed by their dedication and amazing determination to accomplish such an athletic feat! Our runners come from diverse backgrounds and motivations for running the marathon, and we are sharing a few of their amazing stories.

Sisters Running in Honor of Friend Who Dreamt of the Chicago Marathon

Stephanie Presley and Heather Paeplow: Sisters Stephanie and Heather are taking on the 2019 Chicago Marathon in honor of their wonderful friend and running buddy, Cari Bolet who tragically died in a car accident around Thanksgiving in 2018. It had been Cari’s dream to run the Chicago Marathon, so now her friends are fiercely determined to fulfill the dream that she could not by running it in her place instead of cheering for her at the finish line. Stephanie ran a marathon in 2018, and thought she was done with them, but this time it’s different.

“This time, I am not running it for myself. I am running for Cari – I am going to cross the finish line in her honor.  I am running through Team Red Cross to raise funds for a charity that was so crucial in the hurricane recovery in Cari’s beloved home of Puerto Rico and to keep her memory alive and close to us. My sister, Heather Paeplow, is going to run with me to support and help me carry Cari across the finish line.” #CarryCari

Pennsylvania Red Cross Volunteer Takes on Chicago Marathon

Pamela Edler‘s parents have become highly involved in volunteering with the Red Cross in her home state of Pennsylvania and through their activities she has learned much about the organization. Pamela has even volunteered for several events herself including “Sound the Alarm,” where she went into neighborhoods in the Harrisburg area and install smoke alarms for residents for free. She has also volunteered to write and distribute holiday cards to local disabled veterans.

“I truly feel this initiative by the Red Cross saves lives,” Pamela said. “I can’t think of a better organization to represent. “

She has run races and marathons with her husband and enjoys running as a family activity. Her husband is also running the 2019 Chicago Marathon.

Runner eyes Chicago Marathon to Complete All 6 US Major Marathons

Kevin Crealese will be able to say he’s run all 6 of the major marathons in the U.S. after completing the 2019 Chicago Marathon.
“While running a marathon  involves a certain level of pain, it pales in comparson to the suffering endured by those affected by emergencies worldwide.  When these life changing events occur, the Red Cross is there to do what it can to improve conditions for survivors.  A world-class support network like the Red Cross depends on the generousity of donors like you to provide these desperately needed services,” Kevin said.

Running in Honor of Mother who was Red Cross Volunteer

Carter Evans believes running brings people together of all ages and abilities and he’s happy to be able to support the American Red Cross. Carter is running in honor of his parents of which his mother was a Red Cross volunteer when she was in college.

Registration for the 2020 Chicago Marathon will open in November 2019. Learn more about Team Red Cross here.

2017 Chicago Marathon and Runners Brunch

2017 Chicago Marathon and Runners Brunch

Every year in October the Chicago Marathon is held in the downtown area, this year around 45,000 runners participated in the run. This year 110 runners joined Team Red Cross, helping to raise money for American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois. Before the marathon, the Red Cross held a brunch for the runners in thanks for volunteering their time to the Red Cross. Some of the runners shared why they are not only running but running for Team Red Cross.

Steven Paluck, a runner in this years race, says, “I am running to save lives and help those in need. I chose the American Red Cross because of all the incredible support they provide for those in need. I am alive today because of the selfless donations of blood donors. When I was a child I was very sick and needed multiple donations. After that, I was involved in a vicious dog attack and relied on blood donations again. I am honored to be a part of such an incredible organization that provides life for those in need.”

Pascal Schweitzer says he ran for the Red Cross because, “I like what the Red Cross is doing. I am familiar with the international Red Cross, and I know it is a big, global organization. I trust [its] values and [its] positive impact on communities.”  

Many of the runners that teamed up with the Red Cross wanted to not only run but make an impact on the world while running. Joshua Powell explains saying, “this is my fourth marathon and my first with the Red Cross. I had originally planned to physically go to Greece to help with the refugee crisis there, but it did not work out, so I now am supporting [Red Cross efforts] by running.”

For some, the race was a family effort, Ann Di Paola wanted to run for the Red Cross after witnessing the tragedies that have occurred and the generosity of the people that have responded. She then convince her brother, Jose Di Paola who had previously biked to raise money for Colorado Children’s Hospital, to run with her. Juan DiPaola joined in on the conversation adding that he, “joined the Red Cross [team] because I know that they have helped millions of people and I want to be a part of it.”

Tragedy was the main motivator for Ryan Wisniewski as he explains in his interview saying,“I decided to train for a half with the inspiration of my mentor, Rosanna. She encouraged me to push myself, and so I did. I signed up for my first marathon before I even ran the half, but before I could run either, Rosanna passed trying to fight a house fire. I know the Red Cross would have helped her. I also witnessed the Red Cross help victims of the Boston bombing first hand being in Boston since 2012.”

So much of what the Red Cross is able to accomplish is due to the help of the amazing volunteers, many of which help on a daily basis. For Madeline Kinnaird the wonderful Red Cross volunteers are what largely impacted her choice to join Team Red Cross for her 5th marathon. She explains by saying, “I chose the Red Cross this year because I have gotten to know some volunteers through a telethon I participated in earlier this year, and it is a great organization.”

If any of these stories have moved you, you can join the by visiting Redcross.org and applying to be a volunteer. You can help the Red Cross support people affected by hurricanes by visiting redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters.

Written By: Kelly McCasland , American Red Cross Communications Intern,  and Jessica Hayashi, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer

Why I Run for Team Red Cross

Why I Run for Team Red Cross

I remember the exact spot I was standing when I checked my phone on July 20, 2015 and read the text: “headed to Lake Forest ER, please pray.” Right then I knew something big was happening; change was coming, but I had no idea what an impact it was going to have on my life. I drove right from work to the hospital.

Stage 4 cancer. You could physically feel the ache in the room. My grandma, the center of our entire family was diagnosed with the unimaginable. For 17 weeks we watched the brave woman we knew battle this unrelenting disease. Throughout the entire process, I was in denial—this wasn’t happening, she would beat this, it’s not that bad. But it was bad. I watched the strongest person I know, become physically, emotionally, and spiritually weak.

My cousin Nolan, a US Marine, left three days before we found out about the diagnosis for Okinawa, Japan, where he would be stationed for the next two years. Every day, my grandma would open her iPad and say to the picture of my cousin on the screen saying, “Hi Nollie, I hope I can see you just one more time.” Her one, final wish was to have all her family together just one more time.

The American Red Cross made that wish a reality. My aunt and uncle contacted the Red Cross on Friday, Nov. 20, to explain the situation hoping to set up a time within the next several weeks to get Nolan back to the United States. Instantly they got a response that Nolan would be on a plane the next Monday and would land in Chicago on Tuesday.

On Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, we rushed my grandma to the ER once again where she would leave hours later; sent home on Hospice for her final days. Nolan landed the next day reuniting with my grandma and my entire family. That day was the best she looked in months.

Then she began slipping away from us, beginning her journey to heaven. Those days are the best and worst days of my life. The best, in the sense that I have never felt such a strong, united bond with my family. We laughed together, we shared stories of the past, we cried, we sang, and we prayed. On Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, at 6:50 a.m. my grandma left her weak, diseased body and entered the Kingdom of God.

There are no words I could ever say to express the gratitude I have for the American Red Cross. They gave my family a priceless gift that truly is irreplaceable.

This year I have the honor and privilege to run the 2016 Chicago Marathon with my mother and best friend. I am excited and somewhat nervous to push my body both physically and mentally beyond anything I have ever done.

I am not doing this for myself, but in hopes to give back to an organization that helped me and my family in our darkest time.

Runners who are interested in participating in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon can join Team Red Cross, the official race team of the American Red Cross. General registration for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 is closed, but limited spots are still available through charity partners like the Red Cross until Sept. 15. Team members pledge to raise at least $1,500 to support Red Cross humanitarian programs and services. Register to join Team Red Cross online or email stephanie.patton@redcross.org. For more information about Team Red Cross click here.

Janelle Johnson, 25, of Lake Bluff, Illinois is a first-time marathon runner and member of Team Red Cross running in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9.

For Team Red Cross Runners: the Choice Goes Beyond the Finish Line

(Chicago, IL) – When a Chicago Marathon runner signs up to run with Team Red Cross, they pledge not only their determination and skill, but also the promise of raising $1,500 to support the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross.

Runner John Alegnani from Louisville, Kentucky is no stranger to this promise: this is his third Chicago Marathon running for 21915091680_a1e2472aa7_zTeam Red Cross. “When people decide to run (the Chicago Marathon), they often have a personal connection to the team they choose. I chose the Red Cross because they help so many people in need across the globe, that’s what keeps me coming back.”

131 runners crossed the finish line this year for Team Red Cross: the biggest number yet since the team was formed in 2007. Combined, over $200,000 was raised by our runners to benefit American Red Cross programs and services throughout Chicago and Northern Illinois: such as veteran assistance, reconnecting families, and home fire preparedness.

For first time C22077008226_e82d5d442d_zhicago Marathon runners Tim Hotchandani of New York City and Paola Buitrago of Colombia, South America, the choice to run with Team Red Cross was personal.

Tim, a healthcare investment banker was the  first Team Red Cross runner to cross the finish line  at 2:55.30. “I wanted to match the professional with the personal,” for his first Chicago Marathon, he said.

Paola has followed the work of the Red Cross since moving to the Chicagoland area a year and a half ago, “Many of my friends in Colombia are volunteers with the International Federation of the Red Cross . When I moved to Chicago, many of my friends here are volunteers with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. So it was amazing to pick an organiza21482284723_281fef22f7_ztion to run with that everyone I know is already familiar with.”

An official charity partner with the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the Red Cross is proud to bring together runners of all ages and abilities since 2007 in support of the  its mission. If you or someone you know is interested in running the Chicago Marathon in 2016 with Team Red Cross, visit RedCross.org/chicagomarathon for details and sign up information.

For more photos of Team Red Cross at the Chicago Marathon:


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  

Red Cross Reunites Runners on Race Day

ChiMarathon 2013 - Katie-Michael Metz

Michael Metz of Elgin had a bottle of water in one hand and a banana in the other; excited to hydrate and hug his friend Liz who was running in the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. When he couldn’t find her among the crowd of athletes coming off the course in Grant Park, Michael turned to the Congress Information Tent staffed by the American Red Cross.

Volunteer Katie Wilkes was ready to help. Katie found Liz passed all the checkpoints and based on her running time would be crossing the finish line soon. Katie was also able to share with Michael that his friend hadn’t suffered any medical issues on the course.

“That’s a huge relief! Thank you for your help,” he said.

Michael was one of 600 reunification requests and medical status updates the Red Cross fielded on race day as part of its Patient Connection system.

Patient Connection is a family reunification system the Red Cross activates to help locate injured people who are hospitalized during large incidents or events. The system was designed in 2002 for the Chicago Red Cross chapter to respond to local mass casualty incidents such as major transportation accidents, building fires or structure collapses if a large number of people are taken to area hospitals.

Because of the longtime partnership with the Chicago Marathon, the Red Cross is able to activate Patient Connection on race day. The system has served to be a vital resource to connect runners who may become injured on the course or separated from loved ones.

“The Red Cross brings a large amount of resources to support our event operations, especially the army of volunteers who are vital in helping runners, families and spectators on race day,” said Carey Pinkowski, Executive Race Director, Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Patient Connection expanded statewide in 2013 to cover Illinois. It is currently sponsored by Baxter International Inc.

“We are grateful for the investment Baxter is making to expand this program to ensure our network of 200 Illinois hospitals are ready to participate when needed,” said Fran Edwardson, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. “Together, we can help connect and comfort families during times of emergency through Patient Connection.”

For more information: www.redcross.org/il/chicago/disaster-services/patient-connection.

Written by: Patricia Kemp

Admiration, Gratitude and Inspiration Propels Team Red Cross to the Finish Line

Runners join Team Red Cross for many reasons, but they all share admiration, gratitude and inspiration for the American Red Cross which propels them across the finish line.

Autumn has breezed in and so has the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Oct. 13. Runners from around the world have been hard at work training to be part of American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Team Red Cross, a charity marathon team that offers participants a coveted spot in the Chicago Marathon if they raise funds for the Red Cross mission.

Runners share in common similar reasons for running on behalf of the Red Cross. Stephanie Reid, has admiration for the work and help that the Red Cross provides other people. Others, like Ashley Sanislo Casey and Jeff Laube, have sentiments of gratitude for the Red Cross. They all felt inspired to join the team.

Reid noted that there are many charities that a runner could choose from. So why choose the Red Cross?

Reid has run many races before, but she never ran for a charity until this year. “After the Boston marathon bombing, I noticed that the Red Cross had set up info hotlines for people to find runners that they knew. Red Cross was there for the running community and I wanted to do something to give back to Red Cross.”

Casey also has noticed the efforts of the Red Cross, “Sadly, a lot goes wrong in our world from flooding to horrible atrocities brought on by fellow humans, but I feel better knowing that the Red Cross is there as some of the first people on the scene, helping people get water, food, shelter and reconnect with loved ones.”

For Casey, it was important to run for an organization that had far-reaching impact locally and globally. “The Red Cross is an organization that touches so many lives from natural disasters to terrorist attacks to aiding our military and their families,” she said.

Laube can attest for this personally.

Having been in the military, the Red Cross reached out to him while he was stationed in Hawaii in the 1990s when his father suffered a heart attack. The Red Cross also paid for his plane ticket home.

Now a Park Ridge fireman and his third time running at the Chicago Marathon, Laube is raising funds through his registration that will benefit the Red Cross. One of the reasons he runs the marathon is “to meet new people and hear the obstacles they overcome.”

Written by: Diana Brokop

Former “Biggest Loser” contestant runs Chicago Marathon for Red Cross

Cassandra Sturos is a big dreamer. Prior to competing on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” some of the Michigan native’s dreams included moving to New York, becoming a writer and running a marathon. After leaving the show, she has completed the first two. Now she plans to complete the third through the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Run Red team, a charity marathon team that offers participants a free spot in the Chicago Marathon if they raise funds for the Red Cross mission.

“The marathon is a bucket-list thing for me that I’ve always wanted to do, but wasn’t sure I could work up to,” Sturos said.

Before her stay on “The Biggest Loser,” Sturos enjoyed the sense of pride that accompanies running races, but a 5k was the longest distance she had ever run. While on the show, she challenged herself with her running goals and passed significant running milestones (pun intended). Now she can run a half-marathon without thinking.

Running for charity isn’t new for Sturos. Every race she has run has been for a good cause. So when she began looking for a place to complete a marathon, running the Chicago Marathon through the Red Cross made sense to her.

“I love the idea of running for a charity,” Sturos said. “Running for an incredible cause makes it mean much more. It really sealed the deal for the Chicago Marathon for me, running the marathon for the Red Cross.”

The October 7 date for the Marathon may seem a ways off, but Sturos has been hard at work preparing for race day.  She alternates days between long-distance runs and full-body strength training. Sometimes it isn’t easy (Sturos described one run where she was so hot and thirsty she considered jumping in the Hudson River), but she’s found that the combination of strength workouts and distance conditioning have improved her endurance.

With her training in full swing, Sturos is well on her way to crossing a marathon off her bucket list. But it isn’t just about completing the marathon for her.

“Not only is it a huge personal goal for me, I also do feel really passionate about the Red Cross,” Sturos said. “It’s an amazing organization and running for it will be an amazing accomplishment.”

A marathon can be a mind-bogging, seemingly unattainable running distance to some people. Sturos joked that even her mother, who she said “would support [Sturos] buying an elephant and riding it cross-country,” can’t wrap her mind around her daughter running the 26-mile distance.

But, clichéd as it may seem, Sturos thinks anything can be accomplished with hard work and determination. Sturos, who has completely transformed her life and followed her dreams to New York, is a living testament to the power of determination.

“Half the battle is telling yourself you can do it and being kind to yourself. I don’t think there’s anyone who couldn’t run a marathon,” Sturos said.

If you want to help Sturos realize a dream through the Red Cross, you can donate to Sturos’ Run Red fund. Or you can join the team if you want to realize a dream of your own. Also, if you have a chance, take a look at Sturos’ blog to see what this adventurous dreamer is up to at http://adventuredame.blogspot.com/.

Written by Patrick Cavanaugh

Marathoner shares Run Red experience


Leah Cato had never been to Chicago when she joined the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Run Red team, a charity marathon team that offers participants a free spot in the Chicago Marathon if they raise funds for the Red Cross mission. She had been running in the Washington D.C. area for a couple of years, but wanted to do a marathon for charity.  Cato joined the team in 2010, following a desire to give back to society.

“I was searching for a way to make a difference, and running to raise money and awareness for charity has become just that,” Cato said.  

With Run Red, Cato found exactly what she was looking for.  Joining the Run Red team gave her the chance to run for a charity organization that’s internationally renowned for service.

“I’ve always been aware of the Red Cross’ emergency response to large disasters such as hurricanes, or through seeing it in my work abroad,” said Cato. “I’ve seen the impact the Red Cross has on a daily basis with emergency response.”

Giving back is a large part of the Run Red experience, but it’s not all it has to offer.  For Cato, human connection was the cherry on the Run Red sundae.  Cato cherished the opportunity to meet and bond with new people through Run Red.  From the moment she entered Chicago, she knew she was surrounded by a good group of people.

“Coming to Chicago for the first time and getting such a warm welcome from the Run Red team made my first visit to the city a great experience,” Cato said.

To Cato, being with a great team made the experience more valuable.  The Run Red team’s welcome gave her the sense that she was part of something special, that she was part of a community.  As Cato finished the marathon, it became clear that the camaraderie among the team had easily endured the 26-mile distance.

“Being one of the slower runners I was really excited that they [my teammates] were still there at the end of the race cheering me on,” said Cato. “The entire experience was really a positive one.”

Run Red also taught Cato about the many different services the American Red Cross provides.  She knew about the Red Cross’ work during large disasters and armed conflict, but hadn’t heard of the lesser known day-to-day activities, such as Disaster Action Team fire response and blood collection.  Joining the Run Red Team increased her awareness of the Red Cross’ work.

For people who are considering participating, Cato recommends going for it.  She also advises newcomers to reach out to family and friends early in order to make the fundraising process run smoothly.  Cato acknowledges that running a marathon and raising funds isn’t always easy, but she finds it immensely rewarding.  To Cato, it’s much more than just a marathon.

“Run Red is an opportunity to meet new people and give back to your community. It’s not a race.  It’s an experience. It’s an opportunity to expand on your horizon,” said Cato. “Have fun.  Happy running.”

Written by Patrick Cavanaugh

Patient Connection: Connecting Families to their Runners at the Chicago Marathon

Red Cross volunteers are buzzing around the medical tents at the Chicago Marathon. In the biggest tent, like a scene from M.A.S.H., rows of injured and exhausted runners recover in temporary cots from the previous twenty-six mile test. Spectators converge on Red Cross booths, desperately seeking their loved ones, fearing they’ve been injured or rushed to a hospital. The volunteers work with the Patient Connection program of Red Cross—set up to respond to mass disasters when they occur.

45,000 runners participated in the Chicago Marathon this year. With this many people pushing their bodies as far as they can go, you can imagine that quite a few drop out from exhaustion or injury. Even those who finish may not be capable of making it further than one of the cots in a medical tent. In cases like these, mothers and sons easily lose each other in the confusion. A woman might hear that her sister was injured, but has no idea where in this massive city she could be. That’s why Red Cross is here.
A man with his son approaches a volunteer at one of the tents. He’s heard that his wife, a runner, was being held in a medical tent, but can’t find her. “They said she might be sent to the emergency room!” he says. The volunteer takes down the runner’s name and checks the runner’s location in a computer system, which shows the exact tent and cot number where the woman is. She tells the man his wife has been found, and she’s being treated by the marathon’s team of trained medics. In 45 minutes, she’s on her feet and reunited with her family.
Volunteers on site enter the names of runners being sought by families into a computer system. Back at the Chicago Red Cross headquarters, Carol Mosley is on a computer in her office, with the “sought” list up on her screen, busily switching between websites, cross-checking the list with hospital admittances, tracking participants as they run, speaking to families on the phone. If a runner is admitted to the hospital, Carol contacts the person seeking them, and lets them know where to find their runner. Without this system in place, family members would be separated—they may find out that their runner has been hospitalized, but have no idea to which of the Chicago area hospitals they’ve been admitted.
The Chicago Marathon is a great opportunity for the Red Cross team to test out their ability to respond to large disasters where many people are hurt. Granted, we won’t get prior warning of a stadium collapse, or a train derailment, but the marathon gives volunteers an opportunity to implement their disaster response skills, and it’s reassuring to know that the systems in place have been put to the test. In the event of disaster, the primary concern is making sure loved ones are safe—Red Cross is here to help.
For more information on the Patient Connection program, visit:

Written by: Jonathan Bressler

Get a Spot in the Sold-Out Chicago Marathon!

Listen up runners! There is still a chance to run in the Chicago Marathon. You can join the Red Cross’ Run Red Team and help raise funds for the American Red Cross.

Your support makes it possible for the Red Cross to help disaster victims avoid hunger and homelessness and bring CPR and other preparedness classes to more that 250,000 people in our area. Run Red Team members will receive training, team gear, and the camaraderie of an awesome team of people. So, please sign up! For information on how to sign up, please go to http://www.runredteam.org/.