March is Red Cross Month-Honoring Heroes Everywhere

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross volunteer

“Hero” is defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Ideally, that should describe all of us.

In this age of political and social conflict, one thing remains clear. In times of need, people in this country rally together to help one another; and the American Red Cross has been recognized for years as the organization that maximizes their efforts.

Every 8 minutes, we help someone in need

Last year, thanks to Red Cross training:

  • 7 million people received CPR and first aid training nationally.
  • 7 million relief items were distributed to victims of countless disasters
  • Shelters provided 658,000 overnight stays for victims of hurricanes, floods, fires, and power outages.
  • Here in Northeast Ohio, we responded to approximately 1,000 fires and other incidents.
  • About $800,000 of financial assistance was provided to those NEO residents.
  • Almost 77,000 military families were connected with their service person through Red Cross emergency communication services.
  • 7 million people donated blood or platelets that saved lives in 2,600 hospitals.
  • More than 15,000 smoke alarms were installed in homes in Northeast Ohio by Red Cross and other area volunteers and partners.

Volunteer Vernita Whittenburg holds a mayoral proclamation, signed by Frank Jackson, Mayor of Cleveland.  Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Back in 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the impact of our organization and declared March as official American Red Cross Month. That tradition has continued through today and recognizes the efforts of all the volunteers that enable it to complete its mission. Approximately 96-percent of the work the Red Cross accomplishes is done by local volunteers in communities across this nation.

Release your inner hero

If you have time, volunteer. If you already volunteer, suggest a friend join with you. If your time is limited, take a class or donate blood. Cash donations are always welcome as well, and help fund the life-saving activities Red Cross provides.

Get involved – then pat yourself on the back – you’re a hero!

My first time donating blood – and why I can’t wait to do it again

KyleBy: Kyle McPhillips, student at Bay High School

Most of my life, I’ve known right from wrong. I’ve known things I should do, and I definitely have been taught things I shouldn’t. I’ve learned by watching my parents, sister, grandparents, cousins, friends, reading and just hearing stories. I’ve learned how to be a better person by watching and listening to people around me.

I often hear how great my Great-Grandpa Kowalski was, and how great the world would be if we were all like him. He was Papa to my mom and her brothers and sisters, and a hero and best friend, especially to my grandma and my Uncle Andrew. He was in the Army, served in the war, lived his life to serve others, and donated blood any chance he could. Over his lifetime, I was told he gave countless gallons of blood.

The stories about my great-grandpa were in the back of my mind when Bay High had a blood drive. Also, one of my sister’s friends passed away from a rare blood disorder, ITP. These thoughts helped me realize that a few seconds of pain from getting poked by a needle would be worth it to help someone who really needed it. Who knows how many lives he saved over his years of donating blood, or how many people with ITP survived because of a blood donation?

Aside from wanting to do the right thing, I also found out that my blood type is O+, and that this blood type is in high demand. Because I’ve been fortunate to grow up healthy, I realized it’s also my responsibility to donate whenever I can.

Did you know that you can donate blood every 56 days? My first experience went really well. Our school had a blood drive, we all signed up, and it was as simple as missing a class or two and doing a good deed. The volunteer staff made me feel very comfortable. They knew it was my first time, as it was for many others there. After checking my iron level and getting me settled into a chair, they cleaned up the area of my arm, marked a “good vein” and then told me to look away while she inserted the needle. It wasn’t super comfortable, but it also wasn’t horrible either. After breaking my elbow and having stitches in my lip a couple times, this was easy in comparison.

I know there is so much pressure on kids today to do well in school, excel in sports, get good test scores and so much more, but things like the blood drive helped me realize that there’s more to life than many of those things, and that simply being a good person and helping others is most important of all. It’s also nice to know I’m helping someone who doesn’t even know me, and it’s a good feeling to do that and not expect anything in return, except some juice and cookies.

I told myself that 56 days after my first donation I was going to do it again. It’s been almost 70 days, and I haven’t been back because I’ve just been so busy with school activities. But, I can’t make excuses, because donating blood is as important, and maybe more important, than other things I am doing. I know my great-grandpa, who only got to spend three months with me before he died, is smiling knowing that I’m trying to walk in his footsteps.

Extraordinary things happen every day…

Imagine waking up to a blaring smoke alarm.

 Through the bleary haze of your sleep-filled eyes, you begin to realize what is going on.

 Your first thoughts are of others who occupy your home – maybe your spouse, the children, a pet. You think about how to get them to safety. You trace the routes in your head.

 But then an extraordinary thing happens. In the fog of fear and smoke, you hear a neighbor calling out to you.

 “Are you all right? How can I help?”

 In that single act of selflessness, a hero is born.

This March, during national Red Cross Month, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio will honor the heroes – those ordinary members of our community who acted in extraordinary ways – in two communities.

The Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter will host the 20th Annual Acts of Courage on Thursday, March 3 at the Akron/Fairlawn Hilton. All through 2015, people were asked to submit their heroes. We will feature the stories of the honorees on this blog following the event. Tickets are available by going to the website: www.redcross.org/acts16

The Greater Cleveland Heroes event will take place on March 11. For information or to order tickets, please visit www.ClevelandHeroes.com, email laurie.klingensmith@redcross.org, or call 216-912-4091.

Celebrate March is Red Cross Month by Rolling Up Your Sleeves

March is Red Cross Month, and the Red Cross has an urgent need for blood and platelet donors to give now to help restock its shelves following recent winter weather.

Winter storms in March forced the cancellation of more than 200 Red Cross blood drives, resulting in nearly 7,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations. This shortfall follows more than 26,400 uncollected blood and platelet donations in February due to severe weather across 27 states. Regardless of the weather, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood – from cancer patients to accident victims to premature babies with complications.

March was first proclaimed Red Cross Month in 1943 by former President Franklin Roosevelt. Since then, every president has called on people across America to support the organization’s humanitarian mission in March.

You can help support the Red Cross and ensure blood and platelets are available for patients in need by scheduling an appointment to donate now. To find a donation opportunity near you, download the Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS. You can also help support the Red Cross by asking others to donate or creating a SleevesUp virtual blood drive.

Why I volunteer: Kevin

By Kevin Murphy, American Red Cross Volunteer

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 A few years after I graduated from high school I adopted this quote as the mission statement for life.  Having been born with a disability, I had learned that the world isn’t always fair. Even though I had setbacks of my own, I could still do something that would benefit others.

My first experience with the American Red Cross was in the summer of 2013 when the City of Barberton experienced devastating flooding and my employer, the Lake Anna YMCA, was selected as a shelter site for the city.  The next nine days were a whirlwind of activity, but in the end we were able to help a lot of people and do a lot of good in our community.  I knew from that point on that the Red Cross was the place for me!

Disasters do not pick and choose who they affect.  They can strike any person, in any neighborhood, at any time — even at 3 a.m. or when it’s -10 degrees outside. Being a part of the Disaster Action Team has helped me to make a big impact on my community.   It makes me feel good to know that I can help someone at a time when the help matters most to them.

Across the country the Red Cross is a strong organization that helps numerous men, women and children each day.  I strongly believe that our work should be shared with as many people as possible.  I often post on my personal Twitter handle (@macfankevin) when I am responding to a disaster.   It’s not for personal recognition, but rather to help raise awareness of the needs in our community.

Imagine what would happen if I could inspire someone else to help and then they inspire another person. It’s a never ending cycle of good in the world!

I strongly encourage you to do something to give back to your community.  Give. Volunteer . Advocate. Small things that you do today can have a big impact on what happens tomorrow. I have found my niche with the Red Cross. I look forward to many more years of developing my self-capacity and helping others.