American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Celebrates 12 Local Heroes at Annual Breakfast

On May 1, 2019, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois hosted its 17th Annual Heroes Breakfast.  It was a warm and inspiring event, filled with hundreds of people, all gathered to celebrate the actions of twelve local heroes.  The morning’s honorees were those that acted with bravery, selflessness and courage and left an indelible impact on the lives of so many. Read the background on each of the 2019 heroes this year here.

Some of the 2019 Heroes pictured with CEO Celena Roldan

Walgreens was the signature sponsor of this year’s event.  I had the opportunity to speak with Richard Ashworth, the President of Pharmacy & Retail Operations of Walgreens.  He reflected on the “community aspect” of the Red Cross and Walgreens, in that they are both active and prominent in local communities across the United States.  He said that “when something happens in this country, whether it be a fire or whether it be a tornado or a hurricane, the local activation of the people that live in that community to rebuild and to bring back, that’s something that was near and dear to Walgreens’ heart and the partnership with the Red Cross is what really makes that happen.”

Honorary Chair Richard Ashworth speaking to a private reception ahead of the 2019 Heroes Breakfast

Megan Bugg, recipient of the Youth Hero Award, was one of one of the twelve heroes that were acknowledged.  She was recognized for her major contributions in raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer.  At the age of 13, Megan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, known as Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS).  The next few years were very challenging, as she faced many difficult treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.  Megan decided to take her struggle and turn it into a spotlight for childhood cancer.  She spoke to the Illinois General Assembly and at CureFest in Washington D.C., as well as helped coordinate fundraisers at her school.  As a result of her efforts, Megan helped raise over $164,000 for the research of childhood cancer and brought federal funding issues surrounding the illness to the fore.  Currently, only 4% of federal funding goes to childhood cancer research.  When accepting her award, Ms. Bugg, said that she is “so grateful to the Red Cross for noticing [her] work and letting [her] spread the word.”  Megan continues to bring awareness to this incredibly important issue and says that she is “not going to quit, ever.”

Megan Bugg speaking after accepting the Youth Hero Award

The morning was filled with stories of heroes, like Megan.  Officer Mark Dallas, the Law Enforcement Hero, stopped a would-be mass shooter at Dixon High School in Dixon, IL.  Officer Dallas exchanged fire with a shooter at the high school, where 182 students were practicing for their graduation ceremony.  Just before the shooter entered the gymnasium where the students were rehearsing, Mark was able to stop and ultimately apprehend the suspect.  Remembering that day, Officer Dallas says that he “felt like a dad to all those kids” and that “by the grace of God [he] was able to help.”

Law Enforcement Hero Officer Mark Dallas

Like Officer Dallas, Mary Carmody, Military Hero, has made the needs of others one of her life’s top priorities.  She created the Midwest Veterans Closet, an organization that provides much-needed assistance to veterans.  Mary’s establishment gives free food, clothing, job and computer training, household items, and even automobiles that have been donated, to those have have served or are currently serving in our nation’s military, helping 550 people per month.  Without Mary, these veterans would often times have nobody else to turn to for help.  When delivering her remarks on being the honoree of the award, she kept the focus on the veterans.  In a touching moment, Mary asked all of those who had served to stand and spoke directly to them, saying “thank you for my freedoms… and I think I can speak for everyone when I say thank you for all of our freedoms.”

Some of the heroes including Detective Sergeant Paul Clampitt (left) and Military Hero Mary Carmody (right)

This year’s recipient of the Heritage Award went to Rick Waddell for his astounding dedication to philanthropic and charitable endowments, as well as leadership in society.  As CEO of Northern Trust, Rick continued the company’s belief in giving back.  He has used his position to bring his associates together to engage with the community.  Mr. Waddell is also active in the Nature Conservancy, advocating for environmental change and speaking with the youth in underprivileged communities.  Northern Trust and the Red Cross share a long history of partnership.  Rick told me that what he finds so special about the Red Cross is that they are “there when people have the most need – whether it’s a natural disaster, armed forces services members and their families returning home, the American Red Cross, since the 1880s… [has] a brand about them that people trust when they need it most and they deliver.  And I just think when you have that trust and that ability to help people when they are at their lowest moment, it’s an incredible organization and an incredible service that the American Red Cross provides.”

Heritage Award Recipient Rick Waddell giving a speech

Local heroes, like those honored at the Heroes Breakfast, make outstanding contributions to their fellow human and to society every day.  Acknowledgment of the sacrifices and contributions of these heroes is so important and something that is very meaningful for the Red Cross.  Our sincerest gratitude goes out to this year’s class of honorees!

See all of this year’s hero videos on YouTube here.

Nominations for next year’s heroes is now open.  If there’s a hero in your life, nominate them here!

For more information on how to become a volunteer for the Red Cross, visit https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html

Written by Red Cross Communications Volunteer Vicky Arias

Mr. Nasir Bin Zakaria Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Global Citizenship Hero

Mr. Nasir Bin Zakaria Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Global Citizenship Hero

“We can do so many things when we are organized,” said Nasir Bin Zakaria, reflecting on what he has achieved in Chicago by creating a community space for Rohingya refugees for learning, healing and advocating.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. As a young Rohingya child growing up in Myanmar, Bin Zakaria and his family were in physical danger. He faced discrimination when he was finally able to attend school and the one constant in life was a sense of unpredictability. Over half a million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

At the age of 14, Bin Zakaria was captured by the military, driven to the middle of the jungle and narrowly escaped. “I had never been in the jungle before, but I escaped the group and found the energy to run so fast for so long,” said Bin Zakaria. “I knew I couldn’t go back because the soldiers would kill me.” After a long journey through Bangladesh and Thailand and more than 15 years living in Malaysia, Bin Zakaria connected with the UNHCR to request refugee status. The application process required background checks and five interviews, but after seven years, his refugee status was approved. He arrived in Chicago in August 2013.

“If I could build one place, it would be easy to help everyone at once. Like a village. Our village,” said Bin Zakaria.

As a newly arrived refugee, getting a foothold on life in the United States was difficult. “I felt nervous because I wouldn’t be able to keep up if I wasn’t educated,” said Bin Zakaria, who had attended only a few years of school. He was losing sleep over the losses he had experienced and the challenges of integrating into a new place – and he knew he wasn’t alone in these feelings. Rogers Park on Chicago’s north side is home to about 400 Rohingya families, the largest Rohingya population in the country.

“If I could build one place, it would be easy to help everyone at once. Like a village. Our village,” said Bin Zakaria. In 2016, with the support of the Zakat Foundation, he opened the Rohingya Culture Center where individuals can go to speak their own language with those who understand them and receive vital support during their difficult journey. “It is amazing. Everyone is coming to us to process their trauma – to cry together, to pray together – because we have a place,” said Bin Zakaria.

Bin Zakaria established more than a meeting place. He created a platform for teaching others about the struggle of refugees and the Rohingya people. At a 2017 press conference at the Rohingya Culture Center organized by Bin Zakaria, Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky met with him and members of the cultural center, spoke about a recent fact-finding trip they took to Myanmar and learned more about the atrocities that Bin Zakaria and others like him experienced.

Bin Zakaria is amazed at what is possible when people come together like they have at the Rohingya Culture Center. “With everyone’s support, we can do anything,” said Bin Zakaria.

The Global Citizenship Award is presented to an individual(s) who volunteered or worked to meet the needs of the world’s potentially vulnerable populations by building safer, more resilient communities and providing needed relief.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

 

Miss Charmin BoClaire Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Youth Hero

Miss Charmin BoClaire Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Youth Hero

At only 9-years-old, Charmin BoClaire became a hero to her entire family when she used the fire safety training she learned in school to quickly and safely evacuate her family from their burning home in October 2017.

Charmin was in the kitchen when the fire started. She saw her Mom’s legs catch on fire and rushed to bring her a blanket to douse the flames. Then, she hurried to get her 8-month-old brother, who has Down syndrome, and her 4-year-old sister, out of the house. Her sister was in the shower and didn’t want to leave because she wasn’t dressed, but Charmin wrapped her in a towel and urgently convinced her to go outside with her brother. Charmin then ran back inside the burning home to get her Mom, who was struggling with her wounds.

 … Charmin stepped up and took control in the unexpected situation, getting her siblings to safety and motivating her Mom to go outside with her, saying “You have to get up and get out. I’m not leaving you.”

During a house fire, a child’s natural reaction might be fear or bewilderment, said her aunt LaTiffanie Jackson, who explained that Charmin can be very shy. But, Charmin stepped up and took control in the unexpected situation, getting her siblings to safety and motivating her Mom to go outside with her, saying “You have to get up and get out. I’m not leaving you.”

It all happened in just a few moments. But, Charmin was prepared for those moments. Just one week before the fire, she and her classmates attended fire safety training at Nathan Hale Primary School. Charmin said that fire safety is important for everyone, “so they won’t get hurt and they’ll know how to help keep their family safe.”

Jackson, who is caring for the three children while their mother is recovering from injuries, said that Charmin has always been a caretaker for her younger siblings. She’s not surprised that Charmin went into quick action that day.

Charmin is still processing the experience, said her aunt. They lost everything in the house, including the family’s pet cat. Charmin is still focused on the distressing experience but she’s slowly getting more comfortable talking about it. “At first it really upset her to talk about it,” said Jackson, who said that Charmin’s responsibility to her family runs so deep that she sometimes has to remind her to go out to play.

Charmin’s life-saving actions taught her classmates to really pay attention because, even at their young age, “They have the power and the ability to do something amazing,” said Jackson. “Something that changes lives.”

The Youth Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who is 17 years old or under and has performed an act of heroism involving an unusual, significant or unexpected incident, or is involved in an ongoing situation in which a commitment is made to the community through acts of kindness, courage, or unselfishness in response to an identified need.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

 

Captain Michael Casagrande Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Firefighter Hero

Captain Michael Casagrande Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Firefighter Hero

As a 41-year veteran firefighter, Michael Casagrande has faced more than 2,000 fires. A Kankakee Fire Department captain, Casagrande is experienced in putting out fires, but knows that fighting fires before they happen is the ultimate battle.

Casagrande, who leads the Fire Prevention Division for the City of Kankakee, is dedicated to fire prevention and education. He has led the installation of more than 10,000 smoke alarms across Kankakee since 2015. This number of installations is extremely significant, given that the city of Kankakee is home to approximately 10,000 households. Casagrande and the Kankakee Fire Department, in partnership with the American Red Cross and through a grant from FEMA, blanketed Kankakee homes with smoke alarms.

As this program was launching in 2015, Casagrande felt particularly shaken by several tragic home fires. That year, four small children died in Kankakee home fires. One of them was a young girl who lost her life when her mother tried to carry both her and a sibling through the fire to the front door, passing possible escape windows. Casagrande knew that fire education paired with working smoke alarms could have prevented this tragedy and would prevent future heart break.

Casagrande and his Fire Prevention Division began educating Kankakee children about fire prevention through programs like the Fire Safety House program. Initially, these school programs targeted children only, however, Casagrande and his team quickly realized that the message also needed to be relayed to parents. Casagrande altered the program to involve parents and continued his quest to install smoke alarms. For the past two years there have been no fire fatalities in Kankakee.

For the past two years there have been no fire fatalities in Kankakee.

According to Casagrande, “It didn’t matter who you are or what your housing situation is, whether you rent or you own, we educated and installed the alarms necessary for all populations in need in the community.” Casagrande’s close relationship to his community was critical to the program’s success. Some of the people served were members of the migrant worker community who do not speak English and were fearful of authority. The team strategized carefully around community needs to ensure every household felt comfortable receiving this life-saving resource.

Casagrande and the Kankakee Fire Department know their program is saving lives. In several cases, the Fire Department uncovered substantial gas leaks during smoke alarm installations which were repaired, averting potentially fatal crises.

In 2017, Marsean Harris and her young family escaped a house fire because of the smoke alarms that Casagrande and his team installed. Harris said, “It was terrible. We woke up to the smoke alarm. By the time we made it out, the house was engulfed in flames. I thank God for those smoke alarms, having two small kids and a baby on the way.” To hear about this family’s story in a video, click here.

The Firefighter Award is presented to a professional, volunteer firefighter(s), or medical personnel related to dispatch operations at a fire department who acted above and beyond the call of duty, exhibiting heroism either in response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

 

Mr. Roy B. Sartin & Mr. Eli Williamson Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Military Heroes

Roy Sartin and Eli Williamson are kindred spirits. They met in a freshman year Latin class at Kenwood Academy High School and attended Luther College in Iowa. During college, both men enlisted in the Army and deployed overseas to the Middle East.

After years of military service as a staff sergeant in special operations as a psychological operations specialist and an Arabic linguist with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Williamson found himself back in Chicago thinking about his next chapter as his student loans came due. Coincidentally, his old friend Sartin had also recently been discharged from his Army Heavy Combat Engineer Reserve unit as a sergeant and was contemplating his new purpose as a civilian. He too was grappling with student loans.

The difference between military and civilian life felt stark. They spent years fostering a very specific skill set to find it underutilized upon their return. And they weren’t alone in this feeling. They found that many veterans had trouble reconnecting with their communities after their service ended and that student debt and underemployment were major burdens for many returning service members.

“When you recognize a problem, your duty as a member of society is to do something about it,” said Sartin.

Sartin and Williamson thought there was a solution to the problem of service members feeling disconnected from their communities and lacking resources upon return. They launched Leave No Veteran Behind in 2008 to invest in veterans to build better communities through retroactive scholarships, transitional jobs and community engagement. Leave No Veteran Behind connects veterans with service opportunities that utilize their unique skill set, all while helping them pay off student debt.

They launched Leave No Veteran Behind in 2008 to invest in veterans to build better communities through retroactive scholarships, transitional jobs and community engagement.

A fantastic example of utilizing veterans’ skills as assets for the community started in 2009, when they partnered with Chicago Public Schools to position veterans on the corner of 35th and Martin Luther King Drive near several schools to help alleviate violence. The veterans, understanding the neighborhood, helped make sure students had a safe experience traveling to and from school each day.

The veterans became known and welcomed in the school area and violence decreased. Because of its success, CPS expanded the program across the city and it became known as The Safe Passage Program. Thanks to Leave No Veteran Behind, more than 700 veterans are helping to keep the children of Chicago safe.

Sartin and Williamson paved the way for other organizations in Chicago to consider the contributions of veterans as vital for our communities. “Helping communities to thrive is work we are all supposed to do,” said Williamson. “We are so glad to see the positive impact of Leave No Veteran Behind, both on the veterans we work with and on our community.”

The Military Award is presented to an active, reserve guard, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), or veteran member(s) of the Armed Forces, or military supporter, who acted above and beyond the call of duty or have made an ongoing commitment to the community

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

 

Miss Olivia Shorter Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Blood Services Hero

Miss Olivia Shorter Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Blood Services Hero

Olivia “Livy” Shorter is just 7 years old and, in many ways, Olivia is a typical little girl. She loves cheerleading, baking cookies and listening to Beyonce. She is the little sister to brothers Adam, 11, and Dylan, 9. As typical as Olivia is, she has lived with the burden of a chronic, incurable illness for all of her young life – something most children will never understand.

When Olivia was just seven days old, she was diagnosed with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that causes red blood cells to become misshapen and break down. For Olivia, it requires many treatments and transfusions to care for or prevent sickle cell-related complications. She is also at risk for bacterial infections and other complications.

Olivia has been treated for sickle cell since she was 5 months old, undergoing blood transfusions and IV fluids every three weeks. This equates to more than 100 transfusions in her short life. Olivia’s regular hospital visits for transfusions and treatments last hours because it takes at least two hours for the blood to be matched as closely as possible to minimize complications, then the transfusion itself can take an additional two to three hours. On top of this regular treatment, Olivia had her spleen surgically removed when she was only 6 years old in order to ease the blood transfusion process.

Amid all of the challenges Olivia faces, her spirit remains generous and kind. For her seventh birthday, Olivia told her parents that she wanted to host “a party for the children with sickle cell, to see them and meet them and have fun with them.”

For her seventh birthday, Olivia told her parents that she wanted to host “a party for the children with sickle cell, to see them and meet them and have fun with them.”

Olivia’s mother knew that the family had to honor her selfless request. “Despite her illness, Livy is so loving, caring and joyful,” she said. “Her birthday is September 20 and September is Sickle Cell Awareness month, so we decided to throw a party for all the kids and families that make every day a triumph.”

On September 16, 2017, Olivia and her family hosted not only a birthday party for children with sickle cell and their families, but also a blood drive with the American Red Cross. The event, which attracted over 200 people, was terrific. “While the children were partying, parents and friends donated blood to help children with sickle cell,” her mother explained.

The best blood match for an African-American child with sickle cell disease usually comes from an African-American donor. At Olivia’s birthday blood drive, African-American blood donors could mark their blood donation with a blue tag. The American Red Cross blue tag program, a national effort that partners regionally with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, identifies donations that should be earmarked to go specifically to sickle cell patients like Olivia.

“We are going to try to have a sickle cell birthday party and blood drive to honor Livy and the children with sickle cell every year,” her mother said. “Livy manages her situation with such patience and grace, it is an honor to celebrate her.”

The Blood Services Award is presented to an individual(s) or organization that is involved in activity that creates awareness of the importance of blood donation, helps to ensure a sufficient and safe blood supply is available to patients, and/or serves as an advocate for the blood community.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

 


Officer Joseph McDermott & Officer Ryan Davenport Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Law Enforcement Heroes

Sacrificing their personal safety, Belvidere police officers Ryan Davenport and Joseph McDermott saved the lives of a mother and child in a dire situation. McDermott and Davenport both reflect on that day with the same sentiment: it was one of the most challenging days on the job, ever.

McDermott responded alone to a call in the middle of a chilly March night, arriving at the Kishwaukee River where a minivan was sinking in the deep water with two passengers inside. He took off his vest, boots and belt and stepped into the cold river. He was immediately submerged in deep, cold water and swam to the sinking van.

Adrenaline and panic were starting to set in. McDermott recalls, “I couldn’t believe what was happening. I couldn’t touch the bottom and the water was freezing cold.”

He didn’t know it at the time, but his friend and fellow officer, Davenport, was right behind him ready to help. Davenport heard the dispatch call on his way home from a 13-hour shift and voluntarily headed to the scene of the accident to make sure McDermott had support. McDermott says, “We back each other up on everything. I depend on him. I know he’ll show up when I need him to. I’m not surprised Ryan was right there.”

It only took three minutes for the van to submerge completely. In that short time, McDermott and Davenport had saved the lives of both passengers.

Davenport, arriving soon after, watched McDermott swim to the van and began gauging the best place to enter the water. At that moment, McDermott yelled, “There’s a kid in the car!” Davenport jumped into the water to join his friend in this frightening save. When he heard this, he wasn’t thinking about how cold or deep the water was, he was just thinking about how to save the child.

“I could hear in his voice that this was something different,” Davenport remembers thinking when he heard his friend and colleague yelling from the water.

McDermott broke a window to gain access to the vehicle and the mother handed him the infant. Davenport was right there, ready to swim the child to shore safely. “The mother grabbed my shoulder from behind and the baby’s legs dipped into the water — I could see the infant’s eyes get really big,” said Davenport. “I held the baby above my head with my right arm and attempted to swim back to shore.”

Davenport managed to keep the infant almost completely out of the water while swimming her to shore, which likely saved her from hypothermia.

It only took three minutes for the van to submerge completely. In that short time, McDermott and Davenport had saved the lives of both passengers.

The Law Enforcement Award is presented to a professional police officer(s) or related law enforcement official(s) who exhibited heroism either in response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Mr. Sheldon L. Smith Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Community Impact Hero

Mr. Sheldon L. Smith Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Community Impact Hero

Sheldon Smith’s father was incarcerated when he was just 7 years old. A decade later, Smith was incarcerated himself for robbery at the age of 17. “I never thought I’d live to see 23. I thought I’d be dead by 23,” said Smith. But he didn’t let these experiences guide the trajectory of his life.

When Smith was 21, he found out he was going to be a father. He quickly decided that he wanted to do it right and he wanted to help others do the same. The same year he became a father, he created The Dovetail Project, a nonprofit that empowers young African-American fathers to be great dads.

The Dovetail Project provides African-American fathers, ages 17-24, with employment skills, educational resources and tools to be better fathers and men through a voluntary 12-week program. Fathers learn parenting skills, job interview tips, financial literacy and how to interact with law enforcement, among other topics.

“He’s like a beacon of hope, a symbol of fatherhood … The Dovetail Project has really changed me,” said Pool.

Dovetail participant Devonte Pool said that the program provides fathers with an opportunity to better themselves. “He’s like a beacon of hope, a symbol of fatherhood … The Dovetail Project has really changed me,” said Pool.

“The city of Chicago can be tough … especially if you live in a community with a lack of resources. It can be tough. [Dovetail participants] wake up every day, come to the program and avoid the roadblocks that exist in front of them,” said Smith.

He says this voluntary program is a training for fathers, but it’s really about their babies. “The most impactful thing you can do for your child is make sure they have a better life than you had,” said Smith. “It’s all about making sure you leave your legacy.”

Since 2010, 336 fathers have completed the program. The waiting list to participate has more than 300 people on it and this year marked the largest graduation number to date. The Dovetail Project, which started in Woodlawn, is now expanding to new neighborhoods and using a larger space for its main office to account for a growing participant base. Smith’s goal is to go from 120 to 325 annual participants by 2021 and to expand to a new city by 2022.

Smith credits the program’s success to his childhood mentors who stuck by him unconditionally. “I’m making the bet that everyone made on me,” said Smith, who believes that the world can be better if we all participate even in small ways.

The Community Impact Award is presented to an individual(s) who displays leadership and commitment to his or her community by making a positive, noticeable and significant impact on society.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Ms. Claire Liszkay Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Disaster Services Hero

Ms. Claire Liszkay Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Disaster Services Hero

In 2005, Claire Liszkay went on a trip to Nicaragua and what was originally a personal mission to learn Spanish turned into a life-changing experience. Liszkay watched workers at a local hospital strike over a lack of resources and funds. “I saw the disparity between folks who have and folks who don’t have. I had never considered healthcare as a profession until this moment. I applied to nursing school from Nicaragua,” said Liszkay.

Now a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Liszkay has volunteered to support disaster relief efforts near and far with life-saving medical care at every opportunity and at times sacrifices her own safety in order to help.

As a nurse at Rush Rehabilitation Center in 2010, she traveled to Haiti to support earthquake relief through Rush University’s Global Health program. Liszkay and her team provided medical care, prescription services and rehydration treatment. They also established multiple clinics that resulted in a permanent, self-sustaining clinic now run by the local community with continued support from Rush University. “That was when I began to understand, in real life, what disaster response looks like,” said Liszkay. Since then, she has visited the island nine times to be part of the continuity of care. Working in Haiti was only the beginning of Liszkay’s passion for medical disaster response.

In Liszkay’s current role at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, she was the first nurse to volunteer to care for patients coming into the hospital with Ebola symptoms. Later, Liszkay went on to spend six weeks in the epicenter of the Ebola crisis, Sierra Leone on the border of Guinnea. There, she provided care to those who had potentially contracted the virus.

“I knew when the epidemic happened that I would get myself there,” said Liszkay. “I felt a calling. I would have had to talk myself out of going.”

“I knew when the epidemic happened that I would get myself there,” said Liszkay. “I felt a calling. I would have had to talk myself out of going.” In Sierra Leone, she worked at a holding center created to care for people with Ebola symptoms. The holding center comprised little more than a collection of tents, tarps, cots and a generator. It was staffed by a couple dozen people from across the globe. Upon returning to the U.S., Liszkay was quarantined for three weeks to ensure she had not contracted the virus.

Liszkay is committed to providing medical care to those who need it most, both abroad and at home. She knows that you don’t have to go far to find healthcare disparity. In 2016 and 2017, Liszkay provided medical care in Missouri’s rural Mississippi Riverbank where there’s a chronic lack of access to care. Last year, she was part of a medical team supporting those affected by Hurricane Irma in Big Pine Key, Florida. Liszkay also traveled to Houston to assist primary care clinics with the increased patient loads after Hurricane Harvey displaced a large portion of the local population.

She reflects on her commitment to disaster relief saying, “I think I am my best self in situations like these – my best self and my best nurse.”

The Disaster Services Award is presented to an individual(s) who has exhibited heroic efforts in any or all of the areas of disaster services, including preparedness, response or recovery during a natural disaster or emergency situation, or has made an ongoing commitment to a community that experienced a disaster in response to an identified need.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

 

Ms. Kate Dzierzanowski Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Good Samaritan Hero

Ms. Kate Dzierzanowski Honored as American Red Cross 2018 Good Samaritan Hero

Kate Dzierzanowski, a client retention specialist for Knox Insurance Agency in St. Charles, remembers looking at the clock on Nov. 6, 2017 at 4:45 p.m. while at work. She thought the day was winding down. Then, she heard a loud noise and looked out the window to see a car had run into the guardrail right outside her office. She immediately lept into action.

She screamed, “call 911” to her colleague and ran outside to the car. She saw smoke in the vehicle and, having never experienced an accident like this before, wasn’t sure if the car was on fire and possibly about to explode. This fear didn’t deter her from intervening.

She went to the passenger side and yelled, “Turn off the car!” which was still running. When she got no response, she ran to the driver’s side, facing traffic, and tried to get the driver’s attention. She was determined to get him out of the car. He was still unresponsive so she tried to hail help from drivers passing by. She said she was almost in tears at this point, she was so scared. Two people pulled over and one of them checked the driver’s pulse. When they realized he had no pulse, they quickly lifted him out of the car. Someone yelled, “Who knows CPR?” Dzierzanowski responded, “I do.” She started compressions on the spot. She said, “I remember thinking to just keep going until something happens.”

When they realized he had no pulse, they quickly lifted him out of the car. Someone yelled, “Who knows CPR?” Dzierzanowski responded, “I do.” She started compressions on the spot.

Dzierzanowski knew exactly what to do because, in December 2015, the former owners of the insurance agency where she works closed the office for a day to have the entire staff certified in CPR. At the time, she thought, “I have so much to do, I will never use this.” Two years later, her CPR instructor called Dzierzanowski and told her how proud she was after reading the story of her life-saving actions in the news.

As Dzierzanowski looks back on that November day, she said she remembers flashing lights, her hands on the driver’s chest, and watching his mouth to see if it was moving. Help arrived in less than 15 minutes and the man was taken to the hospital. He survived the crash thanks to her bravery and quick thinking.

Dzierzanowski says that she and one of her coworkers often look out the window at the street where the accident happened and ask each other, “did that really happen?” It seems surreal now. Dzierzanowski believes it’s what anyone would do, “I don’t feel like I’m a hero,” she said. “I feel like I did

what was right at the moment and I think anyone would have done what I did if they had been in that situation.”

The Good Samaritan Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who courageously and selflessly responded to an unusual, significant or unexpected crisis.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2018 Heroes. For more information about the 2018 Heroes Breakfast, click here.