First Preparedness Month Give-away!

Here’s a quick contest to get you started on your kit: Get the first five items (that’s water, food, first aid kit, flashlight and medications) into your kit and take a photo of it all together. The first person to email their photo to me will win an American Red Cross Emergency Radio (it’ll make a great addition to your kit!). Send me your photos (by clicking this link) for your chance to win!

There’s a look at what you’ll win – it’s also listed in our store here.

Keep Your Head In The Game (Or Take It Way Out!)

Editor’s note: Amy Guth is training for the Chicago Marathon with the Run Red Team this fall. She’s also giving tips for her fellow runners’ training. Learn more about Run Red here.

It’s true that a good portion of any race is mental. On race day, we’ve already trained our bodies to go the distance, and all that remains is getting our brains to will us to the finish line. And, it’s true that our minds are capable of very weird things in a race, as well as very awesome things. Here are a few tips to keep your monkeys in check when and if the mind starts to fall in a hole during the race:

1. Fake it. Pretend you’re in the Olympics, or some other huge event, and you are so about to win and the whole world is screaming– in the stadium, at the television sets, all over the place– for you to win. And you can, as long as you hold off the guy/gal inches behind you. Push that edge then hold it until you feel yourself getting into a better place.

2. Pick them off. Pick an object like a tree or a stop sign, or a loudly-colored shirt of a fellow runner (if you absolutely must be stone cold like that), and pick ‘em off. Just focus on running to the target, or focus on passing your target person. Then pick another target and so on. Just don’t over-pace and run out of steam too early. That’s a common mistake, but a big mistake to make.

3. Go someplace else. Go ahead and trip out a little bit. Your body will likely keep doing what it’s doing, so mull over an issue, plan a dinner party, imagine cooking a huge meal upon which you’ll feast at the finish line, whatever. Just don’t zone out so much that you forget where you are, slow down and run off the road or crash-land into anyone. I once let my mind drift and suddenly, it was four hilly miles later. Not bad.

4. Have an emergency playlist in the reserves. I have a few songs on this short list. Songs that I’ve run with before that I equate with really outstanding running successes. Just the song is mental cue enough to make me feel better. I do this one a lot. It’s my lucky charm for sure. But, do check that your race allows on-course music; many have banned iPods and other personal players for safety reasons.

5. Make a mantra. I hear these all the time towards the end of a race. Some make sense, some absolutely do not. A friend of mine always chants “you’re going home, let’s go home, you’re going home, let’s go home….” to herself towards the end of a race, which is cool, and I’ve heard everything from “do it for Billy” to “tater tots” being mumbled over and over in the final miles. Hey, whatever works. I’m not here to judge! I once ran past a Jamba Juice during a marathon and got “jumba jumba jumba juice” stuck in my head. Ahem. Like I said, whatever works. Truly.

HAPPY FRIDAY

The topic of our blog today will be tonight’s big gala event – the MISSION: RED Experience Auction.

The journey started one year ago in the Chicago Red Cross offices with a handful of visionaries and a very ambitious dream: to create the marquee event of the Red Cross social season during, what would become, one of the biggest recessions in recent history. Looking back, it truly was a “mission” from the very beginning. But our core group did not waver. We met for weeks until we created our marketing idea – event vision, mission, goals and objectives.

Then came the auction items, with a team dedicated to securing unique experiences to auction off, matching the themes of the Red Cross’s own mission. Logistics worked alongside marketing and auction to secure the right location with the perfect setting. Sponsorship came into play after the event had more structure and was able to meet our goal for corporate sponsorship, giving us the ability to deploy the event that we dreamed out in the beginning.

As time passed, we gathered new team members and new experience auction items, sponsors and marketing momentum. As the economy toughened, so did our team. We met the challenges of the tightened finances of potential auction item partners and sponsors by getting creative and tapping our vast networks of contacts.

After months of meetings, hundreds of emails and thousands of hours of planning, we’re finally here. This is a HAPPY FRIDAY for the Chicago Red Cross, and especially for those of us who have dedicated the last year of our lives to this amazing event.

To all of you who will join us tonight, we look forward to a magical night and appreciate your support. And to all of my colleagues on the MISSION:RED committee, I say Thank You and Congratulations on a job well done!

Those dangerous tomatoes…

Photo by Hazel I.

Last night I made gazpacho for dinner. It was HOT outside, we don’t have AC and there was no way I was going to turn on the stove or anything that gives off heat. Did you know you have to peel tomatoes before they get pureed for gazpacho? Have you ever tried peeling a tomato? It’s so slippery and not that easy and you might see where this is going…I was peeling along with my little paring knife and sliced into my finger. Ouch.

There’s a reason I didn’t go into healthcare. I get a little woozy at the sight of blood. Ok, a lot woozy. But it’s important to be able to deal with injuries, and I did make my way through a Red Cross First Aid course. So, I knew it wasn’t a big deal, even if there was a LOT of blood. Like, four whole DROPS of it. I wrapped my finger with a paper towel and went hunting for my Red Cross first aid kit.

That thing is STOCKED! A little bit of antiseptic, a little bit of antibiotic, a bandage, bam! Back to the gazpacho!

So now I want to know: What was the last time you had to break out your first aid kit? Take a spill on a bike? Your kid bonk her head on a swing? Tell me about it in the comments!

P.S. These vintage first aid kits (they just look vintage, the products are new!) are on sale this month—just $8.50 and a good addition to your car, backpack or purse.

Stretch for smoother running with Run Red

While most of my volunteer hours are spent with the Disaster Action Team of American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, I’m also a distance runner and enjoy helping coach new runners. While I’ve run plenty of races of various distances, this year I’ve very proud to be running the Chicago marathon with Run Red Team, the official Red Cross nationwide running team.

Training for a race isn’t just about running. There is the cross-training, the gear shopping (my favorite!), making sure to properly fuel and hydrate, and (my other favorite) many minor tweaks and hacks which can be done throughout the day to contribute to better fitness and an easier time training.

Spending time hunched over the laptop and the general stress of certain jobs (or, the absence thereof, sometimes, too) causes tension in the neck and shoulders, which, believe it or not, carries over to running. Granted, running, as those of us initiated already know, eats stress nicely, but still! The smart runner is all about being proactive and training smart, rather than waiting to address an issue once it’s a big issue.

When you have stiff shoulders due to tension, it limits the ability to swing arms freely forwards and back. When this happens, the arms take a less neutral side to side motion, which does not a lot to propel the body forward and mostly just wastes precious energy and causes unnecessary fatigue. Hello? Not good. So, here’s a quick fix you can start doing today:

  • Take mini-stretch breaks throughout work time. Seems minor, but it matters.
  • Lower your right ear to your right shoulder. Press gently on your left temple with our fingertips. Hold, release, and repeat ten times on each side. Aim for a stretch here, not a neck-crack.
  • Raise right arm up, keeping your elbow locked straight and palm facing forward. Hold your arm between your elbow and shoulder with your left hand. Pull (gently please!), hold, release, and repeat ten times on each side.

Twice a day, then, to strengthen the shoulders:

  • Let your arms hang relaxed at your sides with your palms facing in. In one slow, constant motion, rotate your shoulders up, backward, downward and forward, bringing them toward each other. Hold them for a second. Do it in reverse, rolling shoulders until arms return to starting position. Do two sets of ten reps. Hold dumbells to make it more challenging as strength improves.

How easy is that? Very. So easy you can start right this second! And, as an added benefit, these mini-stretch breaks help you feel more alert during the day too. Pro-tip: there are several simple downloads you can utilize to remind you via email or pop-up to take a second and stretch during the workday. It doesn’t get easier than that.

Hope to see everyone at the Team Run Red fun run on Wednesday August 5th at 6:30 on the west side of the North Ave. bridge.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

You’re invited to an exclusive party to reserve your discounted tickets for the hottest event of the summer – Mission: Red Experience Auction!

Mission: Red Experience Auction Ticket Pre-Sale Party — Get $25 off your Mission: Red ticket – an exclusive offer for pre-sale party attendees on:

Monday, July 27
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Theory
9 W. Hubbard St., Chicago

Also, if you are interested in attending Mission: Red for free, we’re going to draw two of our fans on July 27, and each of them will win a pair of tickets to the August 14 Experience Auction at the Chicago Cultural Center! Recruit your friends to become our fans and be prepared to experience the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago like never before at the event of the summer

Free Admission / Complimentary appetizers
$4 Goose Island 312
$4 Import Bottles
$6 Skyy Cocktails

Reservations required
RSVP for pre-sale ticket party.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

If you’re one of the 9.5% of Americans that is unemployed, volunteering for the American Red Cross is a great way to avoid employment gaps and keep you active.

Layoffs are slowing, but jobs are scarce, leaving nearly 7 million Americans collecting unemployment checks and retailers looking for customers. The bad news is joblessness is at a 25-year high, with almost 1 out of every 10 Americans out of work. The good news is that the number of newly laid-off workers requesting unemployment insurance fell by 52,000, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

If this alarming figure includes you, there’s an opportunity to make the most of the situation by volunteering or interning at your Chicago Red Cross chapter. While you wait for the economy to rebound, keep your skills sharp and, network and make contacts while giving back to your community. At last, the up side of the worst unemployment to batter the country since the early 1980s.

Career counselors routinely advise people who’ve lost their jobs to volunteer for charitable organizations, both to broaden their resumes and to fill their unemployed hours. Although the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, released last September, show only a slight uptick in the number of Americans doing volunteer work, experts think the numbers this year will tell a different story.

According articles in The Examiner, The Baltimore Sun and Crain’s Cleveland Business, many recently-laid-off volunteers are looking to stay involved and broaden their own skill set to assist in their transition to another job. The volunteers are not looking to sit on the nonprofit’s board, but they instead hope to join committees in which they can use their skills to help lead the organization.

I’ve personally loved my experience as a Red Cross Auxiliary Board member, with tremendous opportunities to network, take on leadership roles across a variety of projects and be a part of one of the most respected organizations in the world! For information on how you can volunteer: Complete the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago application. You may also request a hard-copy application form by contacting chicagoVR@usa.redcross.org or (312) 729-6222. To join the Auxiliary Society to participate in one of our many event and fundraising committees, click here and complete your membership by paying here.

American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Wishes You a Safe and Happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July is my favorite Holiday. It is a time where I get together with friends and family to spend hours in the sun, swimming, grilling, relaxing and watching fireworks. To me nothing could be better.

A few years back I had some friends who decided to light bottle rockets off in an alley near our house. Simple and seemingly harmless. However, as the night progressed, these same friends began to entertain themselves by lighting off multiple bottle rockets at a time. I wanted no part of it, but I let them be because they seemed to be having fun.

It was no more than minutes later that a friend of mine walked into the house with his entire hand bleeding. He was not being safe, and the bottle exploded in his hand, cutting his entire hand open, and needless to say ruining his 4th of July fun. We were having a blast until this simple act of carelessness, put fear into all of us.

Now, I know you may not believe that this will happen to you, or maybe that this story was not that bad. But I am left wondering if he wasn’t hurt then, would things of escalated? Things like this happen all of the time, and it is important to remember that despite the hours of relaxation and fun you are having you must first watch out for your safety and the safety of those around you.

As you travel to lake houses, vacations, to visit friends or family or stay home, be careful not just with fireworks, but with all activities. Whether grilling, swimming, or other activities you do, practice safe actions. I am not here to lecture, nor do I want to put a damper in your mood before this great, and to me the best, holiday weekend, but I do encourage a little safety. Don’t let not being prepared ruin your weekend.

That is why I am offering these safety tips, encouraging you to have fun, but be safe. American Red Cross even has tips and kits to provide you with all your Preparedness needs.

Have a great weekend and an amazing Fourth of July!

~Megan~
Photo courtesy of Merrick Brown

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Today’s blog is dedicated to recruiting runners to our Run Red Team to join the Red Cross the Back of America Chicago Marathon, Chicago 13.1 and Chicago Half Marathon.

Join runners from all over the country and become part of a growing community of philanthropic athletes. Our Run Red Team members are generous runners who raise much-needed funds for the Red Cross as part of their marathon preparation.

Join the team to train and participate in the following events. You can sign up for:

Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Chicago 13.1
Chicago Half Marathon

Since its inception in 2001, the Run Red Team has raised more than $300,000 for the Greater Chicago Chapter and has run nearly 300,000 miles in their training. In exchange for reaching runners’ fundraising goals, we provide expert training, team gear, and the support of a cohesive team.

As a team member, you’ll support our services. The Red Cross helps disaster victims avoid hunger and homelessness and also brings CPR and other preparedness classes to more than 250,000 people each year in our area. Learn more about the Red Cross here.

Our runners are generous individuals who train together for the Bank of Chicago Marathon to raise much-needed funds for the American Red Cross to help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.

Visit www.chicagoredcross.org/runred to learn more.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Griffin Lounge was the latest site of the Red Cross of Chicago’s most successful social event series for young professionals, Flirting for Disaster.

Yesterday’s event raised several thousand dollars and was host to almost 100 coquettish Chicagoans in an event created to support chapter functions and provide tips for a trendy Chicago summer.

The night was filled with playful chatter, the usual lively atmosphere of all our flirting events, and amazing drink specials all night. But it didn’t end there…There was a fashion show featuring the latest apparel from AKIRA draped over gorgeous models, complimentary appetizers for the most discerning taste buds, and a raffle with special prizes provided by our generous donors and sponsors.

The night kicked off with a Red Cross-sponsored Smirnoff cocktail reception from 6-7pm followed by a Sake tasting and the fashion show while DJ Huu T. Ly provided live music all night to set the stage for the intimate gathering of the friendly locals that migrate to our mixers.

Special thanks to Red Eye, our Media Sponsor, for getting the word out about the event. Thanks to Griffin Lounge for providing the perfect venue, great drink specials and Smirnoff for the complimentary cocktail reception. Thanks to DJ Huu T. Ly for donating his talent and providing the great beats, District 5 jewelry for displaying their gorgeous accessories, Ra Sushi for appetizers, as well as Tamarind Sushi and Southern Wine & Spirits for providing the sake tasting.

The AKIRA fashion show, with hair and beauty by Zazu Hair Salon & Day Spa really made the event come alive. Thanks to our volunteer models and the planning committee—your tireless efforts were much appreciated and truly made this a successful event!

Photos of the night’s events will be available soon at www.chicagoredcross.org/flirtingfordisaster.

Join us on August 14, 2009 at 8 p.m at the Chicago Cultural Center for our newest event, Mission: Red, The Experience Auction. You can purchase discounted tickets online if you picked up the flier at last night’s event. Or, you can purchase tickets for a discounted rate at our Pre-Sale Happy Hour next Wednesday at Goose Island, starting at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.chicagoredcross.org/missionred.

Also, become a fan of our Facebook fan page, follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn group!