Women’s History Month: Lyn Hruska

Lyn Hruska joined the American Red Cross nearly 25 years ago, in 1997.

Lyn has served in numerous important roles during her time with the Red Cross, starting as executive director in Bloomington. Little did she know, that was just the beginning of her career with the organization.

“I joined the Red Cross, thinking it would be an opportunity that might last a couple of years. But, obviously, 25 years later, you can see that once you are immersed in the Red Cross mission, you can’t leave,” she said.

Currently, Lyn is executive director of the Central Illinois chapter, which serves more than 900,000 people in 17 counties. She enjoys being able to cultivate relationships with staff and volunteers in her chapter.

The chapter is where those really strong connections and bonds can happen, and where people are serving their own communities.”
-Lyn Hruska

Lyn has seen changes happen during her time with the Red Cross. But, she embraces the changes and says it is a critical part of how an organization succeeds in the long run.

“The Red Cross is all about change and that is why they are so successful, even on a grand scale. We have been able to change as change has been needed,” she said.

Among the many things Lyn has contributed during her 25-year tenure with the Red Cross, in 2020, she led the Red Cross partnership with the United Way of McLean County to support a community care fund feeding more than 500 families a week in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, Lyn also leads two active Red Cross chapter boards in Central Illinois, one based in Bloomington and the other based in Peoria.

She has a heart for her team and has seen the power of compassion at work in the people who represent the Red Cross, during everyday operations and during times of extreme need.

“The reason I am still at the Red Cross after 25 years is our volunteers and community partners. These are people who truly want to help. We see the best of people during the worst of times. These individuals want to be part of that.”
-Lyn Hruska

Lyn and her husband live on a corn and soybean farm, west of Normal in McLean County. She rescues cats on their farm, socializing them and helping them get healthy so they can find new homes.

You may find Lyn on a tennis court as well. She has played since high school and continues to play local club competitive tennis.

Thank you, Lyn for your dedicated service and commitment to the Red Cross and its mission!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Red Cross Month: Getting Involved and Making a Difference

Shelly Oliver started volunteering for the American Red Cross in 2018, shortly before Hurricane Michael made landfall in the U.S. She has traveled to Florida, Oregon, Louisiana and elsewhere to provide disaster relief after hurricanes, wildfires and other disaster scenes.

Shelly lives in Macon County, near Decatur and responds locally to home fires and other incidents, providing immediate assistance to people who have been impacted by disasters. She also helps install smoke alarms as part of our Sound the Alarm program.

“I like the disaster response work, being on scene with the clients. You take these people with you. I call to check up on them and they will call me sometimes,” she said.

Despite the challenges presented during the COVID pandemic, Shelly still has been able to assist in a virtual setting, and she is glad to have had to have been able to serve during this time.

“I love the virtual intake process because I am still able to meet with the clients, even though it has not been in person during the pandemic,” she said. “When we do intake over the phone, we’re able to connect a little deeper because we have more opportunities to talk after the initial response.”

Shelly has been a great asset to the Illinois region and beyond. Her positive attitude and strong work ethic have helped people in numerous situations during her time as a volunteer. For Shelly, it is something she enjoys doing.

“I love everything about Red Cross. I wish I had known what the Red Cross did a long time ago, I would have gotten involved long before I did. Four years ago, I had no idea all they did; it just amazes me.”

If you would like to sign up as a Red Cross volunteer, please click here.

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

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

Red Cross Month: Service to the Armed Forces

The American Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans, their families and caregivers cope with the challenges of service, providing more than 513,000 services each year through a worldwide network of volunteers.

Military and veteran communities face unique circumstances. The Red Cross offers a variety of resiliency workshops with effective tools for the whole family to help improve communications, face challenges and manage stress. These programs are free, confidential and offered in person or online by licensed mental health professionals.

The “Coping with Deployments” program helps military families to manage stress and communicate effectively while their service member is deployed. Participants learn how to help their children cope with stress, in addition to building a family communication plan and discussing psychological tips on handling separation. These workshops are available in person or as a self-guided online course.

Reconnection workshops are designed to help service members, veterans, their families and caregivers learn how to cope with military-specific challenges and are available for adults, teenagers and children. These discussion-based workshops encourage participants to share their experiences and practice resilience-building activities to help reconnect with family members, work environments and communities.

Mind-body workshops focus on how emotional, mental, social and spiritual factors can directly affect physical health, and provide tools to stay grounded and refocus during times of stress. One workshop teaches participants foundational techniques like mindfulness, breathing and stretching, which are proven to lower stress and improve well-being. Another workshop guides participants through techniques for personal and professional growth, such as drawing, journaling and meditation. These workshops were developed and reviewed by a team of experts in mental health, mind-body practice, military culture, and complementary and integrative healing.

The Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network offers peer-based support to those providing care to wounded, ill or aging service members and veterans. This is a global network created by caregivers for caregivers, supporting one another to decrease feelings of isolation and increase feelings of connection, hope and well-being. The network also supports veterans who are caregivers.

The Red Cross works with military aid societies to connect eligible military, retired military, veterans and their families with financial assistance in times of hardship. This assistance can include funds for emergency travel, food and shelter and more.

Volunteers are needed to support the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces mission. Please visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up as a volunteer. Also, visit redcross.org/saf to learn more about how the Red Cross serves members of the military and their families.

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

Show Chicago Some Love During Red Cross Month

While I was living in New York during college, I was constantly surprised by just how often I would randomly meet other people from Chicago. Of course, it would not be long before I would learn that so-and-so was not really from Chicago, but rather from some suburb about 40 miles away. Everybody seemed to have their own reasons for saying that they were truly [or nominally] from the City. Either way, I learned that whether they were fervent Sox fans, deep-dish pizza aficionados, had really thick, nasally accents, or had never been south of Fullerton, everybody identified with Chicago on some level and felt that in some way, they too belonged to this big neighborhood. Clearly, it is all about the Chicago pride!

I know that I love all things Chicago, especially the great people. But what would I do if a disaster occured down the block or the other side of town? Would I be prepared and there to help my neighbor? And what are the chances of a disaster happening anyway?

Well, actually, there is a lot going on all the time in our backyards. I did not realize that until fellow blogger Erick Laseca had mentioned just the other day that our chapter responds to about THREE disasters in our communities…DAILY.

Also recent news to me, President Obama officially declared March as Red Cross Month! Keeping the tradition alive since FDR’s first proclamation in 1943, President Obama recognized the Red Cross’ long history and enduring commitment of providing relief services to individuals and communities in the event of both large- and small- disasters.

Additionally, he noted that the mission, daily efforts, and successes of the organization would not be possible if not for the humanitarian spirit, collaborative support, and dedication of the thousands of volunteers across the nation. After all, 96 percent of the American Red Cross workforce is made up of volunteers! This month, let’s celebrate all the great folks who make this organization so critically important for our neighbors next door and abroad.

There is always something going on around town. You can change a life, starting with your own! Be a part of the action, be a part of Chicago.

Here is just a smattering of ideas of how you can act locally this month:
-Flirting for Disaster: Coqueteo con Próposito
-CPR Training Days [Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at 10 different Chicagoland locations]