A Second Chance at Life: Erin’s Story

“You just never know when it’s going to make a difference in someone’s life. Don’t hesitate to give blood. It’s such a worthwhile thing to do, and it can be life-saving – it saved my daughter’s life. People need blood.”
-Stephanie Brown

Stephanie Brown knew something wasn’t right. Her newborn daughter, Erin, was listless and rarely opening her eyes. Stephanie asked her pediatrician to run a blood test.

This particular blood test was familiar to Stephanie. She had worked as a lab tech at Duke University Medical Center’s neonatal unit, and the outcome often times was not a good one, in these types of scenarios.

The blood test confirmed what Stephanie had feared. Erin’s bilirubin level was 22, which is considered extremely high and dangerous. It was higher than any level Stephanie had seen, during her professional experience. Brain damage for Erin was a possibility at that moment; the condition also carried potentially fatal consequences.

Neither Stephanie nor her husband had a matching blood type. That’s when donated blood changed the narrative.

“Nobody’s blood matched hers, so we had to get emergency blood, said Stephanie. “Thank God someone had donated some A negative blood, and that’s when she got the total transfusion at four days old. It was a lot to go through.”

Erin stayed five days in the hospital after the blood transfusion, but the blood products used in that transfusion were instrumental in turning things around for her.

“It was truly an emergency. If we had waited any longer, who knows? We had a great outcome, but it didn’t have to go that way. If that blood wasn’t available, it wouldn’t have gone that way,” said Stephanie.

Now, Erin is a successful television news broadcaster, healthy and thankful for the people who chose to give the blood that helped save her life.

“Everyone deserves a chance to live. Blood donation can give someone that second chance at life, whether that’s a sick baby, or a cancer patient or someone who got into an accident,” she said. “We deserve a chance to live our lives and be the people we’re supposed to be.”

Erin understands some people are hesitant to give blood, but offers her real-life example of why it is so important to do so.

“A number for some people isn’t enough for them to take that step to donate blood, but there are people and families behind those numbers. In my situation, there was a really traumatized and heartbroken mom. I wouldn’t want any parent to go through that, and I definitely wouldn’t want any parent to experience what could have been my outcome, if that blood were not available.”
-Erin Brown

Visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment near you. Thank you for giving the gift of blood!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Volunteer Spotlight: Terrence Cook

“I like to get out and mingle with the people and find out exactly what their needs are, try to resolve it and help them out as much as I can.”
-Terrence Cook

Terrence Cook of Mount Vernon, Illinois has been an American Red Cross volunteer for approximately 10 years. During his time volunteering, Terrence has responded to home fires, along with deploying to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other disasters.

After a home fire, Terrence arrives on scene and helps individuals with providing comfort kits, financial assistance to help with lodging and food, assistance with referrals for replacing medications, information about case work and additional assistance.

“You always run into different people, different families and situations,” he says. “Our main goal is to help them with their immediate needs.”

Terrence has deployed to numerous parts of the country for large-scale disasters, including California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. He spent time helping before and after a hurricane in Mississippi in 2017, where he worked as a supervisor during the Red Cross disaster response, there.

“It is good to work with people after disasters. I was surprised at how many people were willing to help, even though they were thinking about, ‘Is my home alright?'”

Terrence says, numerous people thanked him for being there. He recalls a story of two children sharing their concerns about the impending storm. They asked Terrence, “Are we going to have a home to go home to?” Terrence tried to comfort them and the boys thanked him for listening.

For Terrence, his favorite parts of volunteering include working with his fellow volunteers and helping people. He likes the camaraderie and says he truly enjoys being able to talk with the people he meets as part of his duties.

“My life goal is to keep helping people like that,” he says.

Here is a short video that highlights a recent Red Cross home fire response in the South Central Illinois chapter. Terrence is one of our volunteers who responded to help.

Thank you, Terrence! Visit redcross.org/volunteer to join the team as a disaster volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Volunteer Spotlight: Ramon ‘Ray’ Castro

“I just wanted to make a difference in my community.”

This is what motivated Ramon ‘Ray’ Castro to become a volunteer with the Northwest Illinois chapter of the American Red Cross Illinois region.

Since becoming a Red Crosser 11 years ago, Ray, a U.S. Navy Veteran and retired art teacher, has deployed four times. His first deployment was to North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew, which coincidentally he told us is the name of one of his sons. Ray drove an emergency response vehicle from Chicago to North Carolina to provide much needed relief to those impacted.

He lives in Freeport, Illinois with his wife who also volunteered with the Red Cross for 12 years. Ray is an accomplished artist who created a seven-foot bronze sculpture of Abraham Lincoln (pictured here), which is located at Blackhawk Battlefield Park in Stephenson County, Illinois.

When asked why others should consider volunteering with the American Red Cross, he quickly replied, “because the Red Cross makes everything better.”

Thank you Ray for your service and for making a difference in the lives of those in need! Visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up as a Red Cross volunteer.

Written by Communications Volunteer Isis Chaverri

Giving Blood: David’s Story

“We have a shared humanity, and some other person in a desperate situation is going to need an anonymous blood donor to make it possible for them to regain their health. If it’s a very small thing you can do that can have an enormous effect on someone else’s life, it’s incumbent on you to do so.”
-David Singer

March 2019 was first time David Singer gave blood. It was not his last.

Since then, David has donated more than two gallons of blood, and is now a Power Red donor.

“I was shocked at how non-invasive and quick it was,” said David. “I realized if that’s all it is, and if this is a thing people really need, then why don’t I do it as much as is reasonably possible for me to do it? I found it to be a very minor inconvenience, for me to go spend a small amount of time doing something that can have such a big impact on someone else.”

David urges others to do the same, as there is a constant need for blood products – every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.

“The need is there. Every one of us believes that should we end up in the hospital, there would be blood available for us if we need it. Those are not reserves we have a limitless supply of. We all need to pitch in and do this.”

As for the time it takes to give blood? David says he barely notices he is there, before his appointment is done and he is on his way.

“It isn’t painful, it doesn’t take a long time. You go in, you fill out a few forms, you lie down and are on your phone for a few minutes and it’s over,” David said. “Everybody should get in the habit of spending 20 minutes every six weeks doing something that takes less time than shopping for groceries, and that has a big result.”

You are needed. To join David as a blood donor, visit redcrossblood.org and set up an appointment at a location near you. Thank you to David and all blood donors!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Volunteer Spotlight: Tina Martin

“I just want to give back to the community, because the Red Cross was there for me, and if they hadn’t been, I would probably not be here.”
-Tina Martin

Tina Martin is a Red Cross volunteer in the Central Illinois chapter of the Illinois region. She serves, because others chose to serve before her.

In 1973, Tina needed a blood transfusion. She says, donated blood helped save her life. From that point on, Tina has felt motivated to help others.

“That’s the reason why I got started in volunteering, was to give back to the community,” she says. “I just really appreciate how everything worked out.”

Tina has been serving as a volunteer in Florida this week, helping people affected by Hurricane Ian. She has helped with serving food and distribution of supplies, among other tasks.

Tina says, it has been a rewarding experience, being able to help others who need it. She is enjoying working as part of the disaster response team serving the community, there.

“People are very nice and friendly. Everyone is just working together to help out and doing their very best. I just enjoy being here an part of the team as a volunteer,” says Tina.

Thank you very much, Tina for volunteering your time and helping others.

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to join Tina as a disaster response volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

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

Ready To Help When Help Is Needed: American Red Cross Home Fire Response

Greg Voyles was fishing one night, when he learned his apartment was on fire. He returned home and found the building uninhabitable. He also found South Central Illinois chapter volunteers, Keith Hertenstein and Terrence Cook, ready to help him with his immediate needs.

Hear what Greg has to say about his experience in this video, and visit redcross.org/volunteer if you’d like to join the team as a disaster volunteer.

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

Volunteer Spotlight: Angela Baker

Angela Baker (right) receives her 10 years of service pin from
Disaster Services program manager, Jamie Beaver

10 years ago, Angela Baker was at a local church, where disaster shelter training was taking place. It was at that moment she realized she wanted to volunteer with the American Red Cross, in case a shelter were to ever open in her community.

A decade later, Angela is a dedicated disaster services volunteer for the South Central Illinois chapter of the Illinois region. As part of her role, Angela frequently offers support to individuals who have gone through disasters, such as home fires.

“When you see the clients who have had such devastation, it’s nice to offer comfort and concern to them, and this is a way to do that.”
-Angela Baker

For Angela, this is a way of doing things for others that she would want others to do for her loved ones, if it were necessary.

“If anything like that, a fire or something, happened to my loved ones, I would want someone to be there to help them, so this is a way I can reach out to help others,” she says.

Angela describes the work of a disaster services volunteer as fulfilling yet challenging, as many situations can be emotional, working with individuals who have suffered losses such as homes or pets.

“Some of them break down and cry, you just kind of have to listen and see where you can help, what you can say if anything and how to respond and just comfort them as best you can,” she says.

Angela recommends volunteering with the Red Cross, as it is “a great opportunity, and a way to comfort and help other people who have gone through a hard time.”

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to join her on the disaster response team. Thank you, Angela for your service to the community as a volunteer!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Dedicated to Service: Rich Dansizen

“It’s good for everyone to give back to their community and this is a great way to do that. There are lots of opportunities within the Red Cross.”
-Rich Dansizen

Rich Dansizen has spent most of his life serving others. For 23 years, he served our country in the United States Air Force, starting in the veterinary service and then spending the majority of his years doing communications work.

As part of his duties, Rich hosted radio and television broadcasts, doing everything from spinning tunes to delivering the news. “Our mission was to provide that touch of home to the servicemen and women who were serving overseas,” he says. “Quite often, I did the morning show on the radio and the TV news at six. It was a dream job, and I was so happy to have done it.”

In addition, he helped the American Red Cross during his time with the Air Force, serving as the point of contact with the Red Cross for soldier emergency communication situations, for example, if there was an emergency in a soldier’s family.

Rich recalls his mother starting a job with the Red Cross years ago, shortly after his father retired from his career. She too, worked with service members as part of her role.

Fast forward to today, and you will find Rich volunteering for the Red Cross, helping with tasks for the Communications and Service to Armed Forces teams. He says, “When I retired I was looking for some more things to do and I thought the Red Cross would be a good fit.”

Rich helps the Service to the Armed Forces team with completing follow-up work and helping with referrals for military members and their families. He helps Communications, by organizing a list of volunteers, coordinating and delegating volunteer responsibilities each week, along with other tasks.

“We are glad to have Rich on the team,” said Crystal Smith, regional director of Red Cross Service to Armed Forces & International Services. “His background and expertise as a retired service member help him provide valuable insights as a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer and relate to military families in crisis. Rich is a great asset to the Red Cross and the military community.”

When he is not volunteering his time, Rich loves to travel with his wife, Judy. He lists New York, Las Vegas, Sturgeon Bay, WI and Indiana Dunes as some of his favorite trips.

Thank you, Rich for your service to our country and for all you do for the Red Cross!

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up as a Red Cross volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen.