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One Youth Red Cross Volunteer Breaking Language Barriers Within His Community

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 06:48

Meet Mielad Ziaee, a Red Cross volunteer who serves the Texas Gulf Coast Region. He joined the Red Cross two years ago with a desire to do more by serving his community. During his time, he found a unique way to support families impacted by disasters and was recently awarded the 2021 Navin Narayan College Scholarship, a scholarship given to an exceptional graduating high school senior who embodies volunteerism and academic excellence.

Serving the Community

Growing up in Houston, Mielad understood the diversity that surrounds him and embraced his volunteer work at the Red Cross to reflect that.

As a Red Cross volunteer, Mielad has served many different roles. He first joined the Volunteer Services department, where he researched and conducted outreach to diversity organizations. He also worked with Disaster Cycle Services to teach “Be Red Cross Ready” workshops and gave community preparedness presentations. Mielad now works with the Youth department and serves as Chapter Club President. One of his initiatives is “Diversity Calls” for volunteers to explore a variety of cultural topics and enjoy themed meetings about food and music.

Taking Initiative

As a first-generation Persian-American, Mielad’s native language is Farsi. He noticed that, unlike other mainstream languages, there were very few opportunities to learn Farsi. Taking into account that Texas has one of the highest populations of Iranians, this disproportionate access presented an issue; how can volunteers help non-English speaking populations receive access to Red Cross services if they could not communicate with them?

“Language should not be a barrier for people,” said Mielad, “and we shouldn’t expect [them] to learn English either. We should take it upon ourselves.”

Mielad took the initiative to create a language-training program for Red Cross volunteers. With the help of the Texas Gulf Coast Region’s Youth Engagement Specialist and other youth leaders, Mielad organized a program for both adult and youth volunteers to learn basic phrases and scripts in languages including Farsi, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Spanish, Hindi, German, and French.

The program not only taught volunteers how to communicate in different languages but also brought their community closer together. “I can’t emphasize enough how close we all are, both adults and youth. When you have an environment where everyone is excited for a common cause, it creates this warm atmosphere,” says Mielad.

Finding Community Through Volunteering

For Mielad, his volunteer work deeply impacts him. “The most fulfilling part is the smiles on people’s faces. It’s this measurable impact and positive reinforcement that I really appreciate.” Mielad emphasizes how supportive the Red Cross community is and believes it’s why Red Crossers are so dedicated to the mission.

Want to do fulfilling work in your community like Mielad? Become a Red Cross volunteer by visiting redcross.org/VolunteerToday.

 

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5 Must-Have Apps to Download This Summer

Tue, 07/13/2021 - 06:20

This summer, stay safe and be prepared for wherever your adventures take you by having these 5 apps installed on your phone or even on your Alexa and Google devices!

Prepare for Tornadoes, floods and more.

The Red Cross Emergency App gives you easy access to safety tips for all kinds of possible disasters. The app can also send you customized emergency alerts if there’s a disaster nearby. Bilingual and offline content makes this app user-friendly, teaching lifesaving skills across the country.

What really sets this Red Cross app apart is the “I’m Safe” feature. If an emergency happens, you can send a message to notify loved ones you’re okay.

 First AidAccidents can happen unexpectedly. By downloading the Red Cross First Aid App, you’ll have access to first aid information at any time. The app includes information for cuts and bruises but also has steps for more serious situations like performing lifesaving CPR.

If you have an Amazon Alexa enabled device or Google Home, you can enable the app to respond to voice commands and questions. To get started, say “Alexa, enable First Aid by American Red Cross”.

 To learn more about becoming certified in Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED courses or to register, go to redcross.org/TakeAClass.

Blood Donations

The next app you’ll want to download is the Blood Donation App. A staple in helping save lives, this app makes donating platelets and/or blood easier and faster. You’ll find nearby drives, appointment assistance, and more information on how to donate. You can also enable the Alexa skill by simply saying “Alexa, enable Red Cross Blood”.

Fire Safety

Another great Amazon Alexa skill to introduce your family to home fire safety is Pedro’s Fire Safety Challenge. Pedro is a Penguin who helps teach coping skills and how to take action during an emergency. Parents can earn badges with children from 4-8 years old on Alexa Echo and Echo Show. Enable your skill by saying “Hey Alexa, open Pedro’s Fire Challenge!

Pet Safety

Pet Safety

Keep your cats and dogs safer with the Pet First Aid App! From everyday emergencies to daily care tips, this app is designed to help pet owners. Creating multiple pet profiles is a feature, as well as entering veterinary contact information. Travelling? This app includes the ability to locate the closest pet friendly hotels.

Parents & Kids

The Red Cross Swim App was designed to keep you and your family safe around the water. This app assists parents in teaching children to swim, provides drowning prevention tips and safety information if you head to a beach this summer. It’s a wonderful companion to the American Red Cross Learn-To-Swim program.

Be ready to take on the rest of your summer with these five must have apps that are free to download and use from the Google, Apple and Android stores.

 

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Five Common Myths About Caregiving – Debunked!

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 06:51

More than one in five Americans care for someone who is injured, ailing or aging. They are caregivers and might not even know it. In a recent Facebook and LinkedIn Live, Emily Osment, Red Cross senior media manager, sat down with Melissa Comeau, Red Cross Director of the Military & Veteran Caregiver Network, for a live discussion to debunk the common myths about caregiving and provide tips and resources for those caring for injured or wounded service members and veterans.

Myth #1: Caregivers are nurses.

“The caregivers that we’re talking about are not professionals. These are friends, family members, neighbors, maybe even battle buddies that served with you, who are providing care to a wounded, ill, injured, aging service member. There are lots of different types of caregivers that work in the professional realm; home health aides, professional caregivers, nurses, of course, but this is a little bit different. We’re talking about family members and friends. In the military space there are five and a half million military and veteran caregivers, and these people are caring for our wounded, ill and injured.”

Myth #2: It’s obvious when you’re a caregiver.

“My husband deployed both to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has a total of four combat deployments. It was after his fourth combat deployment that we really noticed some of the injuries that he was facing. It was determined that he would need to go to the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton and really focus on his rehab and recovery. In the midst of it all, I didn’t know I was a caregiver.

I’m going to these medical appointments. I’m on base regularly. I’m talking to doctors and learning about medications and treatments. It wasn’t until I was sitting outside of his scan or a test when a nurse came out and asked me, “Are you Steven’s caregiver?” And I was like, “No, no, no, no, no. My husband’s young. I’m just his wife. I’m just his wife.” She smiled kindly and just said, “You’re probably both.”

Myth #3: You must be physically wounded and/or aging to receive care.

“False. There are a variety of different injuries. In caregiving we tend to talk a lot about activities of daily living; showering, feeding, transferring, that all tend to lean towards physical needs. My husband has what they call the invisible wounds of war; traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and you wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at him that he’s faced any of those challenges. Traumatic brain injury can go anywhere from mild to severe. They can be cumulative. We’ve learned a lot from military medicine about the brain, especially in IED, blast exposure type brain injuries.”

Myth #4: If you’re a caregiver, that’s all you are.

“Many caregivers are full-time employees, mothers, teachers, they are students, they are colleagues, they are members of your community, so you are never just a caregiver. I really hope caregivers can latch on and know that you are doing some caregiving tasks, but you are always more than just a caregiver. I’m going to tell caregivers. I know you hear that all the time respite, self-care is so important, but that’s really how you find your way out of that intense caregiving. It’s not always appropriate. There is not always time. I mean, there are very acute stages of caregiving where you might be doing it around the clock. You’re not sleeping. You’re not eating. It’s very intense. And to anyone who’s doing that right now, my heart goes out to you. I hope that you’ll engage in opportunities to step out of that role and nourish yourself, whether that’s book clubs or peer support groups or archery, anything that makes you feel good and brings you back to who you are. I really encourage caregivers to do that.”

Myth # 5: You’re on your own as a caregiver.

“We started this saying that one in five Americans are caregivers and there are five and a half million military caregivers, so you’re most definitely not alone. The key here is to find that network, find those groups, connect with people with a similar lived journey. It really can help you not feel so alone, not feel so isolated. When you start talking to others who have gone through things you’ve gone through or are sharing about a journey you might’ve also been on, it is really important to know you are not alone. We’re better together. That’s what the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network is all about.”

If you missed the recent conversation about caregivers and resources available, you can still watch the full chat on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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Celebrating Bravery and Perseverance: Perspective from Red Crosser Josh Lockwood

Wed, 06/30/2021 - 13:44

For so many of us, being a part of the American Red Cross mission has provided some of the most meaningful moments of our lives. As Red Crossers, our shared mission offers an opportunity for each of us to play a role in helping people confront some of the most harrowing moments of their lives.

What I might not have anticipated in joining the Red Cross nine years ago is how powerful it would be to serve this mission as a member of the LGBTQIA community. Joining an iconic institution like the Red Cross can spark uneasiness in any individuals who might consider themselves an “other.” Can I fit in here? Can I be my authentic self? For those of us in our organization’s Pride Resource Group, an internal space for employees and volunteers from the LGBTQIA community, we frequently return to these questions. Thankfully, more often than not, the answer is an emphatic “yes.”

For so many of us, finding safe harbor at the Red Cross is something to be celebrated this Pride Month. Based on our LGBTQIA identities, all of us in the Pride Group have experienced or witnessed violence, slurs, and discrimination in our lives. Feeling that our organization strongly backs our equal standing, as a resource group and as individuals, is both powerful and empowering.

This starts with our CEO Gail McGovern who serves as the Executive Sponsor of the Pride Group. She has tirelessly supported the LGBTQIA community within the Red Cross, sending a strong message about our values as an organization and our commitment to our fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

This support was never more evident than in 2019 when the Red Cross adopted a new public stance around the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s blood donation deferral for gay and bisexual men (“MSM,” or men who have sex with men, in FDA’s blood donation language). As our Pride Group’s Executive Sponsor and leader of our organization, Gail made sure our Pride Group played an active role in shaping this new position that states, “The Red Cross believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation. We are committed to working toward the goal of achieving a more equitable blood donation process that treats all potential blood donors with respect and ensures a safe, sufficient blood supply is readily available for patients in need.”

The commitment of the Red Cross to achieve this goal continues today via our participation in the ADVANCE study, a pilot funded by the FDA that could lead to a significant change to blood donor eligibility for men who have sex with men.

But for me, the most powerful moments I’ve experienced as a gay man at the Red Cross relates to our response to the Pulse massacre, which occurred five years ago this month. That terrible shooting – fueled by violent, anti-LGBTQIA hatred at a gay nightclub in Orlando – claimed the lives of 49 innocent people and injured many more. I recall learning of the horrific shooting five years ago, immediately leaving my husband and son in NYC, stopping by my house of worship, and then racing to the airport to deploy as a Red Crosser.

Upon arrival, for the days and weeks that followed, we saw LGBTQIA Red Crossers and allies serving devasted families and a shell-shocked community, doing all we could to offer solace and resources wherever and whenever needed. As any Red Crosser can imagine, there are many searing memories from that experience.

Among the people I’ll never forget is Adrian, a 27-year-old convenience store clerk from Cuba. I first met Adrian when he shared at a public meeting how he had lost five friends—and almost his husband Javier—at Pulse that chaotic Saturday night. The couple was on the dance floor when the shooting began, and as they dropped to their knees amid a wave of falling bodies, they became separated. Adrian lay for a time under one of the bodies, then was able to escape out a back door. But when he realized Javier was still inside, he went back into the club to try to find him. Somehow Adrian and Javier, with a bullet in his abdomen, escaped and survived. But so many did not. So many families received the worst possible news.

To see our volunteers and staff from around the country tirelessly giving the best of themselves to support survivors like Adrian and Javier, in addition to the 49 families who’d lost loved ones, as well as the larger, traumatized Orlando community, was not something I’ll ever forget. And it made me, and the LGBTQIA folks who deployed on the Pulse response, so very proud to be Red Crossers.

This Pride Month, we at the Pride Group collectively celebrate the bravery, perseverance, and fabulousness of our membership and of the broader LGBTQIA population across America. And we are so grateful that the Red Cross offers a place for us to openly volunteer and work as enthusiastic and equal contributors. Happy Pride Everyone!

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‘Don’t Give Up’: Advice from Top 75 Mile Challenge Fundraisers

Wed, 06/30/2021 - 09:56

Across the country, people have signed up to walk or run 75 miles this July, while fundraising on Facebook to help us support families and communities impacted by disasters both big and small. And we encourage you to join us! (Details on how at the bottom of this post.)

We spoke to a few of our top fundraisers from our April 75 Mile Challenge on how they’re connected to the Red Cross, what motivated them to participate, and their best fundraising tips.

Patrick Flinchum

What’s your connection to the Red Cross?
I started giving blood last year and want to help others in need. There are so many out there struggling and I just want to give back and help any way I can.

What motivated you to raise money on behalf of the Red Cross?
To help individuals and families impacted by natural disasters. It is great knowing that others can be helped when they are going through a difficult time when they need it most. The Red Cross is an amazing organization and does so much for the community and I am so happy to support such an amazing organization.

What are your top fundraising tips for future 75 Mile Challenge participants?
Post your journey and share with friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask others because if you don’t ask you will never know.

What is your top tip for running 75 miles in 31 days?
You have 31 days to complete and can chip away at the mileage each day. Don’t Give Up. Keep pushing because you can do this.

Jennifer Jett Prezkop

What’s your connection to the Red Cross?
I am the Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager for the Central Appalachia Region. I joined the Red Cross as a staff member in January 2020, and prior to that my only engagement with the Red Cross was in 2016 when West Virginia was hit with historic flooding that impacted my hometown.

What motivated you to raise money on behalf of the Red Cross?
As the Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager, I see the frequency of disasters around the country, I see the impact of disasters on communities, and I hear from our volunteers the impact the Red Cross has after a disaster. I spend my days and many evenings and weekends doing my part to contribute to disaster response/relief from behind the scenes, and the 75 Mile Challenge enabled me to take my efforts to a different level by getting out in front of my peers on social media and taking action.

What are your top fundraising tips for future 75 Mile Challenge participants?
When I created my fundraiser event, I invited most of my friends list, and then I shared the event on my personal Facebook page. I decided about a week before the challenge that I was going to create a list of 75 reasons to support the Red Cross and would post one reason for each mile I ran. This was a lot of work, but I knew that if even one person read the facts each day and walked away with a better understanding of the Red Cross, it was a win. I posted on Facebook every day that I ran and even on some days I didn’t run so I could keep my followers engaged and maintain front of mind awareness. Everyone who donated got a special, individualized thank you post from me on the fundraiser page.

What are your top tips for running 75 miles in 31 days?

  • Run on the first day of the challenge. I knew if I missed that first day, I would set myself up for failure. Starting on Day 1 was critical to my completion of the challenge.
  • Make a plan for how you’re going to get 75 miles done in a month and stick with it.
  • Tell absolutely everyone you are going to do the challenge and put it on Facebook.
  • Take care of your body, hydrate, eat foods that will give you fuel. Rest. Stretch. Ice and Advil as needed.
  • Typically when I run, I listen to an audiobook or crime podcast. Since I did 95% of the challenge on a treadmill at my house.
  • Revel in those post-run endorphins, and celebrate when you cross the virtual finish line. I cried when I completed the 75th mile.
Tara Jones

What’s your connection to the Red Cross?
I don’t really have any connection, rather I just believe it is an extraordinary organization doing absolutely amazing work. Everything the American Red Cross provides to those in need and the help they supply to military families is of utmost importance and it was an honor to be part of their efforts.

What motivated you to raise money on behalf of the Red Cross?
I am a runner who stays motivated by running for a purpose. I gained a lot of appreciation for the Red Cross after having to sign blood transfusion forms during the very scary emergent birth of my daughter. It made it slightly less traumatic knowing there were bags of blood available and at my bedside in the event they were necessary.

What are your top fundraising tips for future 75 Mile Challenge participants?
Share your story, share your progress, share your journey, share the mission and objectives of the American Red Cross.

What is your top tip for running 75 miles in 30 days?
Believe in yourself. Run with your heart. Stay positive. Have fun!

Sign Me Up! 

To register for the July 75 Mile Challenge, follow the steps below:

  1. Join the July 75 Mile Challenge group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/185284730174729/
  2. Register in Messenger to log your miles: https://m.me/AmericanRedCrossFundraisers?ref=sconnect–N75
  3. Start a fundraiser: https://fundraisers.goodunited.io/ARC-75R-N-JUL21
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Severe Blood Shortage: Trauma Survivor’s Story Highlights Serious Need for Blood Products

Tue, 06/29/2021 - 12:07

Beth Hudson knows just how crucial blood products can be after a trauma. She credits the 64 units of blood, platelets and plasma she received – and the generous donors who gave them – with helping her fight the odds.

Four years ago this month – on June 29, 2017 – Beth and her husband, Jay, were on motorcycles returning from a weekend getaway. About a half mile from their house, Jay took a shortcut to open the garage for his wife. Beth, a new rider, never made it home.

“My husband heard the sirens, realized that I wasn’t home, put two and two together,” said Beth. “He jumped in the car, drove down and came upon the accident – and me. That was very difficult for him.”

Beth had collided head-on with an SUV. The impact was devastating. Her wounds were serious; she was struggling to breathe; and she had lost a lot of blood.

The mother of two was flown to the hospital. There, doctors struggled to control internal bleeding, and Beth was given blood, platelet and plasma transfusions. After her first surgery, doctors gave her a 5-10% chance at living. Beth fought those odds.

She spent two months in intensive care, the first month in a semi-coma. Beth underwent 33 surgeries, had one of her legs amputated below the knee and received 64 units of blood.

“If one less person hadn’t given me those 64 units of blood, I might not be here,” she said.

It’s now been four years since her accident – and a few years since the amputation. Beth had to give up teaching – a career she loved for more than 36 years, but she’s staying active. Beth has a prosthetic that allows her to hike, bike, swim and sit-ski. She also works with other amputees and volunteers for the American Red Cross.

Prior to the accident, Beth was a regular blood donor. She hosted her first blood drive in May and now vows to make it an annual event. She wants to replace the blood she used and ensure hospital shelves are stocked for the next trauma victim.

 Severe blood shortage

Beth’s story is a real example of the large quantity of blood products patients can need in a trauma situation. And your help is needed now to ensure hospital shelves are stocked and ready for patient emergencies.

Currently, the American Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage as the number of trauma cases, organ transplants and elective surgeries rise – and deplete the nation’s blood inventory. Over the last three months, the Red Cross has distributed about 75,000 blood products more than expected to meet these needs, significantly decreasing our national blood supply.

The Red Cross is working around the clock to meet the extraordinary blood needs of hospitals and patients, but we can’t do it alone. We need you! All blood types are needed, particularly type O, as well as platelets, to help ensure patients get the care they need.

Please schedule an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible. You can make an appointment by using the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

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“All of who I am”: Celebrating One Red Crossers’ Story

Mon, 06/21/2021 - 06:33

At two years old, my mother lost two sisters in a home fire. They were eight and four years old, and their names were Mary Sue and Gwen. The year was 1958 – many years before in-home smoke alarms were patented and made available, and many more years before rural communities like my mom’s hometown of Warrenton, North Carolina, would gain more access to these lifesavers.

The grief my family experienced has lived on – mostly through my grandmother until she died in 2019. I never knew my aunts, but I grew to know my Gram’s pain through the stories she told. The heartache of losing two of three children (while pregnant with another) was a shared sadness for all who loved her and my grandfather, and a catastrophic example of the impact of a home fire if you’re not well-prepared.

Four years before my grandmother’s passing, I joined the American Red Cross in my current role as Programs Manager in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion Services. I worked in the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) space in corporate hospitality for several years prior, and while I’ll never know if my grandmother truly understood what I did for a living, she certainly knew our organization by name. It was my mother – now a retired U.S. Air Force veteran — who introduced the Red Cross to my grandmother in a letter she wrote while deployed in Korea.

“If you ever need to reach me in an emergency, please contact the American Red Cross.” My grandmother kept that letter, now tattered and faded, as if it were the lifeline she needed for a little peace of mind.   

Reflecting on these stories and other moments in my personal life reminds me of the significant work we do here at the Red Cross every day – and the valuable role I’m honored to have in advancing the DEI objectives to serve all.

As a Red Crosser, I get to lean further into our organization’s commitment to do more – to be more – especially for underrepresented populations and in historically underserved communities that look like Warrenton and for families that look like mine. My greatest joy as a Red Crosser is knowing I have a valued voice here, that my cultural experiences are relevant to the work that I do and the programs we create to drive Red Cross mission delivery.

As a Black man, I recognize that my voice matters in action-planning and partnership toward ensuring our Home Fire Campaign reaches the most rural communities with smoke alarms and escape planning so that fewer families experience loss like my grandmother. I have a voice in our efforts to address unmet needs for patients who have sickle cell disease, most of whom are Black.

As a gay man, my voice matters as we advocate for a MSM policy change and participate in the ADVANCE Study that could lead to updates in FDA blood donor eligibility that currently prevents me from donating blood.

And finally, as a humanitarian, I get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow Red Crossers who also believe that my life matters, that my blood matters, and that all communities deserve access to the resources made possible through the Red Cross mission.

While my grandmother may not have known exactly what I do in my career, I do know that she was immensely proud of me – of all of who I am – in my effort to alleviate for others the kind of human suffering she endured in her lifetime. And I couldn’t be more honored to do it.

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Juneteenth: A Historic Day Inspiring Me to Keep Learning

Fri, 06/18/2021 - 12:12

Juneteenth was a day I had never heard of before, until I moved to Texas while I was a teenager. I didn’t hear about it in history class but more so word-of-mouth, among other Black students and on the radio.

Juneteenth is a day that recognizes the ending of slavery in the United States. It has been observed on June 19, since 1866. On that day one year earlier, enslaved people in Texas learned of the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery, though the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two and a half years earlier in 1863.

In 1980, Juneteenth officially became a holiday in Texas and has since been recognized by 45 other states.

With the day becoming a holiday in Texas during the 1980’s and me not learning about until the 2000’s, it made me wonder is history regional? Or am I not doing enough learning on my own?

I’ve learned to give myself grace when it comes to not knowing everything about Black history. But I open myself up to listening and embracing the stories about this historic day.

I’ve noticed over the years Juneteenth has gained more attention nationwide with celebrations even in my own community here in Illinois and now it has been declared a national holiday!

When I hear the words diversity & inclusion it’s important for me to see it beyond paper but also within the weavings and actions of an organization from outreach, leadership and those we serve. I’m glad I get to witness that every day at the Red Cross.

Crossposted from the Illinois Red Cross blog.

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How Tech is Shaping Mission Delivery: A Chat with Red Cross Chief Innovation Officer Sajit Joseph

Wed, 06/16/2021 - 07:27

It’s been 140 years since Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross, and the need to alleviate human suffering hasn’t changed. How we meet that need, however, is ever-evolving.

In our latest LinkedIn Live discussion, moderated by Jonathan McNamara, regional communications director for our Virginia Region, we asked Sajit Joseph, chief innovation officer, about innovation at the Red Cross and how technology is helping shape the future of mission delivery.

Tell us about your career path and how you joined the Red Cross?

“I spent my entire career in management and digital consulting. At some point in my career, I came to a crossroads where I realized I was spending too much time traveling. I made a change in my career and I joined the Red Cross. That was nine years ago. Since then, I’ve had a blast! I’ve played multiple roles at the Red Cross. I started off with managing our digital platforms and then moved on to managing technology for our blood services. Now, I’ve been the chief innovation officer for the last three and a half years.”

How did the innovation team come to be?

“When we started off, it was just two of us. After a few experimentations we realized, we are going to focus on building products end to end and once it’s built, we will hand it over to our partners in technology, who can take care of it and support it from an ongoing basis.

We have product managers who focus on just the definition of what should be the problem they’re trying to solve. We also have a bunch of data scientists who are experts in data analysis and figuring out how machine learning could be used to solve some of our toughest problems. We have developer testers, and then we have conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts as well. It’s a mix of eclectic folks, but the best thing about it is – they’re amazing problem solvers.”

How have you seen technology change at the Red Cross?

“I’ve really seen a big shift in how we are using technology across the organization. If you just look at where we are right now, we are in a situation where we have chatbots and voice skills, which are used to interact with our employees and our donors. We have machine learning models, which are used for supply chain optimization in the backend. We are using advanced technology for a lot of our systems. We have tools, like RC View, which is used for situational awareness and decision-making for disasters. I would say that we have come to a point where some of the things we are working on are truly innovative and the first in those spaces globally.”

What is the biggest challenge the Red Cross is facing?

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we are facing. Because of climate change, we have an increasing amount of disasters which we of course need to respond to. There are a whole lot of cascading effects of climate change occurring and in my opinion, that is probably one of the biggest challenges, which we need to figure out. We are looking at how can we use technology to help with capacity building to be able to respond to those disasters at the same level of efficiency.”

How is technology helping us respond to disasters?

 “We’ve been very focused on how to use technology for responding to disasters and there’s a whole slew of tools which are used. There are automation and data visualization tools. RC View has a huge visualization capability, which truly helps with figuring out what’s happening on the ground. What kind of impact, what kind of resources are we providing? It helps a lot with situational awareness and with quick decision making.”

What do you see for Red Cross in the future?

“I see a great future. We’ve been evolving so quickly and now I would say we are becoming a very tech savvy organization, which is really using technology to change the mission. It’s not about the technology, it’s not about the shiny object, it’s about the mission. And it’s about how do you use technology to make the mission more effective and make it quicker, faster and get more help in the hands of people who need it.”

Watch our full conversation about innovation at the Red Cross on our LinkedIn page.

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Southern California Volunteers Deliver Help and Hope After Large Apartment Fire

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 08:01
Originally published on the American Red Cross Southern California Region page

When a large apartment complex fire displaced 160 people from their homes, volunteers with the American Red Cross Southern California Region jumped into action to provide over 600 overnight hotel stays and more than 1,700 meals and snacks for those displaced, in addition to health services, emotional support, recovery services and more.

The Upland Fire response was supported by dozens of volunteers, each providing compassionate care to those displaced from their homes. Here are just a few of their stories:

The Chavez Family

The Chavez family was cooking dinner while in their cozy apartment one late afternoon.  Anthony Chavez started to smell smoke, like burning rubber. He thought that the food or something in the kitchen was burning or catching on fire, but everything in the kitchen looked fine. Then, Anthony opened the front door and looked outside. To his shock, he saw a raging inferno headed his way. He saw large amounts of smoke and fire that were billowing out from the roof of his apartment building as winds helped the fire spread through a common attic space on the second floor of the building, joining all the apartments together.

Anthony gathered his family and evacuated his second-floor apartment, knocking on his neighbors’ doors as he passed them on their way to safety. Anthony’s family found a safe location across the street by a neighboring elementary school as they watched their home of 14 years —and everything in it— burn. While at the school, Anthony learned that the Red Cross had set up a Temporary Evacuation Point (TEP) at the school. Anthony located the TEP, where Red Cross volunteers were able to register his family for assistance. While the Red Cross arranged for a hotel room for the family, they were provided with a safe environment, snacks, and refreshments.

The Red Cross Lodging Team found Anthony and his family a room at the local DoubleTree Hotel. Feeding Teams also provided the Chavez family, and many others, with three meals, refreshments, snacks and more every day during their recovery period.

Joel Fritz, Red Cross Volunteer

Joel Fritz has been a Red Cross Volunteer for about a year. Already, Joel is a well-seasoned Feeding and Temporary Evacuation Point (TEP) worker, who has experienced several local deployments. Joel lives in the City of Ontario, which places him in the center of most Red Cross disaster responses in San Bernardino County. Joel has a flexible schedule that allows him to respond to most Red Cross emergency responses.

While at the Ontario DoubleTree Hotel, Joel was observed serving several clients that were displaced. His compassion and professionalism showed as he cared for each of the clients. Joel also took on the responsibility of training a new volunteer, among his other duties.

Karen Barrett, Red Cross Volunteer

Karen Barrett has been with the American Red Cross for over three years. She has a role as a Fiscal Lead and recently took on the position of  Document Lead Reviewer. In her regular volunteer roles in the Red Cross, Karen reviews and audits the finances that are issued to clients by the Disaster Action Team (DAT) members and Case Workers. To accomplish her tasks, Karen leads a group of five volunteers. In her spare time, Karen has also volunteered at the Sound the Alarm events, installing fire alarms in homes.

Karen’s day job is with Monster Energy as an accountant, but has been in the banking industry for over 25 years and has achieved her master’s degree in accounting.

During the Red Cross response to the Upland apartment complex fire, Karen responded to an emergency call for feeding volunteers. Most of the clients were sheltered by the Red Cross in local hotels. Three meals, snacks and more were provided each day to all the clients. These meals had to be delivered and distributed to the various hotels in the city.

Working full time, Karen’s employer allowed her to take time off for this emergency response. Using her vacation time, Karen didn’t hesitate to give her best to the Red Cross and helping clients in their time of need.

Although Karen has been with the Red Cross for over three years, this was her first disaster deployment in the field. Learning very quickly, Karen was assigned to call all the residents staying at her designated hotel, then help with food distribution. Karen also helped record who had gotten their meals, and who needed specially-prepared dietary meals.

Leticia (Lety) Escobar, Red Cross Volunteer

Leticia (Lety) Escobar has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for three years. Lety holds several volunteer positions, including Community Partnership Team Member, Disaster Services Technology Team Member, Radio Communications, Latino Engagement Team Member, Mass Care, and Sheltering Service Associate. After the apartment complex fire in Upland, Lety was working at the Ontario La Quinta Hotel, where she helped deliver meals to people who had been displaced from their homes and were being assisted by the Red Cross.

In her spare time, Lety is a Bible student at the Rock Bible College, where she plans to earn her bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies. Being very enthusiastic about her roles with the Red Cross, Lety is trying to involve more faith-based non-profit organizations to partner with the Red Cross in future endeavors. Lety also wants to see more communication with Spanish-speaking communities, making them aware of who the Red Cross is and how the Red Cross is here to help.

Marcus Perez, Red Cross Volunteer

Marcus Perez is retired and has been an active Red Cross volunteer for over a year. As a volunteer, Marcus supports Red Cross Blood Services and has also been an active Feeding Team Member, helping provide meals at several Red Cross disaster responses. During the Red Cross response to the Upland apartment complex fire, Marcus picked up food at various restaurants and kept track of special dietary meals to ensure Red Cross clients received what they requested. Once the food was delivered to the hotels, Marcus would call each of the clients to alert them that their meals had arrived. Marcus also coordinated with other Red Cross volunteers to make sure that all clients were provided meals in a timely manner. Thanks to Marcus and fellow Red Cross volunteers, those displaced from their homes had three warm meals a day, snacks and more.

The Mosteller Family

Little Mosteller and her six-year-old daughter Bella were among the many people forced from their home by the Upland apartment complex fire. Living on the first floor, the flames never touched the Mosteller’s apartment, however, their unit sustained major water and smoke damage and was declared uninhabitable.

When they were alerted to the fire, the Mostellers quickly evacuated to the elementary school located across the street from the apartments, leaving their pet turtles behind. Little, her three children, and her 76-year-old mother watched as the fire burned above their home of ten years.

The elementary school principal noticed Little and her family standing in front of the school and told her about the Red Cross Temporary Evacuation Point (TEP) located in the school. Little was able to register her family at the TEP, and the Red Cross arranged for Little and her family to receive a hotel room at the local DoubleTree Hotel.

Red Cross volunteers delivered meals, offered health services, recovery support and more for the Little family, as well as other displaced families, as they began their road to recovery after the devastating apartment fire. At one point, the fire department allowed Little to return to her apartment to retrieve medications and necessities. Happily, the family was reunited with their pet turtles, which were unharmed during the incident!

To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer

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Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Meet Melody Chan

Fri, 05/28/2021 - 12:07

Our Red Cross volunteers come together during times of crisis and suffering to provide aid when it is needed most. They come from different backgrounds with traditions and cultures that are native to their heritage and upbringing. This month, we recognize and honor the work of our Asian American and Pacific Islander volunteers for all they do for our lifesaving mission.

Meet Melody Chan, a Red Cross youth volunteer from the Southern California Region. We sat down with her to ask more about her heritage and what inspires her to give back.

What does your culture mean to you?

As an Asian American, my cultural identity is a foundation for who I am. It has allowed me to connect with my heritage and community that is much bigger than me. I am incredibly proud to know that the knowledge of my culture has widened my perspective and influenced the perspectives of those around me.

What family traditions did you have growing up?

Typically, on holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving, my family would cook a huge Chinese dinner to celebrate. It’s always amazing to see the blend of cultures. My family would gather in the kitchen and living room while my dad would make homemade dumplings. Afterward, we would sit down to eat and there was always a bright and loud conversation. When I was old enough, my parents started teaching me traditional family recipes. It’s always amazing to see the blend of cultures.

Why are your family traditions so important to you?

They allow me to connect with my culture uniquely and have given me some of the best memories. I have been able to create such strong bonds with my family through traditions and I feel how much sacrifice and love are behind them. I feel so special to know that I was learning about such a symbolic part of my family and the generations that came before me. I am proud to know that I hold these traditions and will one day be able to pass them to future generations.

What are the three most important things that people should know about your culture?

• Family is always important and treasured.

• Sharing food is a symbol of unspoken love.

• Always care for the people around you.

When and how did you get involved with the Red Cross?

I first got involved in the Red Cross the summer before my junior year of high school through the annual Leadership Development Camp. After being exposed to such a strong and warm community, I was motivated to join the Orange County Red Cross Youth Leadership team.

What is your ‘Why’ for giving back and volunteering?

The inspiration I feel when I am helping others is my “why.” It is such a special experience to connect with my community and show my appreciation for its people. I am incredibly grateful for opportunities to spread positivity and improve the lives of others.

What is your most memorable moment at the Red Cross?

During quarantine, I hosted a virtual Diversity and Inclusion event. I witnessed people opening up about the challenges and experiences that have shaped them. It was inspiring to see so many people come together virtually to make that happen during such a difficult time.

Any words of wisdom or advice you would like to pass on to others?

Always live with a grateful heart and focus on the positive details because it will lead you to learn from lessons and grow with every experience. Always look for opportunities to care for the people around you because you will find purpose in spreading goodness.

Become a Volunteer

Learn how you can become a volunteer like Melody at redcross.org/VolunteerToday.

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How to Stop Severe Bleeding

Thu, 05/20/2021 - 05:50

Every year on Stop the Bleed Day, we take the time to educate communities about life-threatening bleeding and how they can help others in need before medical help arrives. There are many misconceptions about severe bleeding but we are here to dispel the misinformation and provide the facts so that you feel empowered to provide immediate help when it’s needed.

Do you have to be a healthcare professional to help someone who is experiencing life-threatening bleeding?

NOPE! Actually, just about anyone can help save a life. You do not have to be a medical professional to help someone with a traumatic injury. However, taking a Red Cross first aid course can help train people of all ages and experiences on how to recognize and treat life-threatening bleeding. This training can be lifesaving during the first few minutes after a severe injury occurs.

It takes a while for bleeding to become life-threatening.

Negative. Death from blood loss can occur in under five minutes. The amount of blood loss deemed to be life-threatening is equal to half a can of soda in an adult.  Bleeding in children and infants can be proportionately less and still life-threatening. If blood is flowing continuously, squirting or pooling, take action immediately and follow these steps:

  1. Call 911.
  2. Ask someone to find a bleeding control kit, which should contain items such as gloves, gauze and a tourniquet.
  3. Apply tourniquet and wait for medical professionals to arrive.
Can you use homemade items to make an effective tourniquet?

Not really. If the life-threatening bleeding is on the arms or legs, the most effective way to stop it is with a tourniquet. If you don’t have a tourniquet, or if the bleeding is from the head or torso, apply direct pressure with your hands or knee. When responding to a life-threatening emergency, you should always first assess the scene, apply personal protective equipment such as gloves if available and then proceed to provide aid.

Based on available research, improvised tourniquets made from household objects usually don’t work. It is recommended that manufactured tourniquets are used over homemade options.

Did you know? Tourniquets have saved more than 1,000 U.S. military lives, with a 67 percent decrease in battlefield deaths due to their use.

Want to learn more?

The Red Cross currently offers a 30-minute online course, First Aid for Severe Bleeding, as well as a variety of First Aid, CPR and AED training courses. Learn more about our courses and how you can get trained at redcross.org/TakeAClass.

In August, we will launch First Aid for Severe Trauma (FAST). The FAST course and digital materials will be available at no charge for high school students under the age of 19, thanks to a grant from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

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Collaborating to Bring Water Safety Skills & Lifeguard Opportunities to the Bahamas

Fri, 05/14/2021 - 10:25

May 15 is International Water Safety Day (#IWSD), a great time to shine a light on an exciting collaboration between the American Red Cross and Bahamas Red Cross to bring lifeguard training services to the Bahamas. In areas like the Bahamas, surrounded by beautiful Caribbean waters, knowing what to do in and around the water is crucial. That’s why the American Red Cross worked with the Bahamas Red Cross to provide a new Lifeguard Training Program to the Bahamas where local people have the opportunity to get lifeguard certified. This new opportunity will offer residents a chance to become lifeguards, learn new skills, offer an avenue for future employment, and be ready to respond to water-related emergencies.

About a dozen local people of varying degrees of experience were the first students to take on the challenge of becoming certified lifeguards and trainers. For some, growing up in the Bahamas means growing up near the water but for many of these students, this was their first encounter with formal water safety training.

Each course is a week-long intense training that takes students from the classroom to the pool and to the beach to master critical skills such as CPR, water rescues, First Aid and AED administration and more.

These trainings provide those who are certified, new employment opportunities along the beach and at various pool locations throughout the Bahamas and beyond.

“They have the skill and now can not only save lives which is very, very important but they can earn a living for themselves too,” said Bahamas Red Cross President Terez Curry.

Jonathan Nies, an American Red Cross Lifeguarding Instructor Trainer from our training provider Counsilman-Hunsaker, trains the initial cadre of Lifeguarding Instructors. Photo by: Holly Baker

The new program is part of a larger goal to expand the Bahamas Red Cross’ resources to the Bahamian people and improve their lives and communities following the double disaster of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That was the first and real initial push that we had as an organization to provide lifesaving relief and response aid,” said American Red Cross Bahamas Field Representative Amy Bruins. “We’re now looking at longer term partnerships with Bahamas Red Cross and to do things that are more recovery oriented and are getting people back to where they were before Dorian. And now we’re looking at how to bolster the entire system.”

Learn More

By promoting water safety locally and around the world, the Red Cross is inspiring young swimmers to learn the necessary skills to help save a life. To learn more about our Red Cross work in the Bahamas, visit www.redcross.org/dorian.

For additional resources on water safety for you and your loved ones, visit www.redcross.org/watersafety.

Note: All class participants are required to test negative for COVID-19.

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Home Fire Safety for the Entire Family with Pedro’s Fire Challenge on Amazon Alexa

Wed, 05/05/2021 - 06:26
Damon activates Pedro’s Fire Challenge on an Amazon Alexa.

Pedro the penguin loves to learn how to be prepared and take action during emergencies. He visits friends in different locations and learns how to help stay safe from hazards like home fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and many others!

Traditionally taught in classrooms and presented through a storybook, the Prepare with Pedro program is geared towards students in grades kindergarten to second grade, or ages 4-8 years old. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Red Cross has been offering this program to students virtually across the country and on military bases abroad. 

Fun for the Entire Family 

Now, families can learn how to help stay safe during a home fire through Pedro’s Fire Challenge by the American Red Cross on Amazon Alexa! Pedro’s Fire Challenge is an interactive game designed to help educate children about home fire safety and coping skills.  

In this game, Pedro guides children through a set of 5 randomized activities, making for a unique experience each time and never-ending fun!  

Activities include practicing home fire safety skills, such as crawling underneath smoke in a fire and identifying the location of smoke alarms in the home, in addition to interactive activities and good old-fashioned penguin fun to keep children active and engaged. Each experience also ends with age-appropriate coping skills to teach children how to handle emergencies and other stressful situations.  

At the end of each challenge, children earn a virtual fire safety badge in the Alexa app. With 20 badges to collect, they will want to keep playing to earn them all!  

To get started, simply say, “Alexa, enable Pedro’s Fire Challenge!” or follow this link.  

For additional Prepare with Pedro resources such as digital storybooks and activity books, coloring sheets and more, visit redcross.org/pedro. To view our animated preparedness videos for kids, check out our Red Cross Kids Videos in English and Spanish

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Red Cross Women Paving the Way Throughout History

Fri, 04/30/2021 - 07:39

Voluntary service is the heart of the Red Cross, and many volunteers began their service during armed conflict. As we celebrate National Volunteer Month, we pay tribute to the Red Cross women in our history, who made significant contributions to our lifesaving mission.

1904. Library of Congress Collection. Portrait by J. E. Purdy of Clara Barton.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, gained first-hand experience with the Red Cross movement as a volunteer during the Franco-Prussian war. Clara helped the women of Strasbourg, France, recover economically from the Franco-Prussian War by employing them to restore donated clothing. Those pioneering efforts with the Red Cross and her success in mobilizing volunteers to respond to disasters in the U.S., led to disaster relief becoming a primary mission for the Red Cross worldwide.

“Mabel T. Boardman, who succeeded Clara Barton in 1904,

Mabel Boardman was a driven volunteer for more than 45 years, determined to redefine the organization. She became the driving force behind the newly reincorporated Red Cross, which offered various services through a network of nationally chartered chapters that were provided by volunteers and supported by staff. Nursing, first aid and water safety were among the few services Mabel initiated throughout her time.

Portrait of Jane Delano. First Lady of Red Cross Nursing.

In 1912, Jane Delano resigned from the Army Nurse Corps to become the volunteer chair of the Red Cross Nursing Service. Until her death in 1919, Miss Delano worked tirelessly creating a nationwide system of qualified nurses for the Red Cross; arranging for public health education provided by Red Cross nurses in-home health care, hygiene and first aid; and collaborating with the Army and Navy medical departments to train nurses and other medical personnel for wartime service.

Gwen Jackson portrait 1988. National Chairman of Volunteers.

The first African American to be appointed National Chairman of Volunteers in 1988, Gwen T. Jackson began her Red Cross service in the Service to Military Families Department of the Greater Milwaukee chapter. Gwen served as Chairman of the Board and on the Executive Committee of that chapter before being elected to two terms on the National Board of Governors.

After Clubmobile Service in England, France and Germany, Mary Louise (Weller) Chapman continued her 75-year-career leading youth services and volunteer leadership development at a Red Cross chapter in San Francisco, CA. An award called the Mary Lou Chapman Innovation Award for the Service to the Armed Forces and International Services was created in her honor.

Barbara Pathe during WWII in Europe.

Barbara Pathe, another Clubmobile veteran, was responsible for creating an access database of membership records for the American Red Cross Overseas Association (ARCOA). Barbara worked on the project for 40 years, eventually transcribing information for thousands of Red Cross staff into a membership roster. The database now serves as a vital resource for researchers. In addition, she helped developed an archival collection for the Red Cross to preserve its history, a pivotal component to the organization today.

Lois Laster, one of the few African American women to serve during World War II, she directed recreation clubs for African American service members in England and Austria and, later, the first integrated club in Korea. In addition to volunteering weekly with the Service to Armed Forces Department at National Headquarters, Lois was President of the American Red Cross Overseas Association for three years and an active member of the League of Women Voters.

A U.S. Army nurse serving with the 57th Field Hospital in the Central European Campaign, Dorothy Steinbis Davis received the Edith Cavell Nurses Medal from the Belgian Red Cross for her care of the wounded from the Battle of the Bulge, and in 1994, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor. After World War II, Dorothy continued on as a volunteer Red Cross nurse for the next 60years and represented the Red Cross on the 50th Anniversary of World War II Commemoration Committee.

Margaret (Maggie) Gooch Duffy served in the South Pacific with the Red Cross during and after World War II. In 1991, the Emperor presented her with the “Order of the Precious Crown Butterfly” in recognition of her work for promoting volunteerism through the rebuilding of the Japanese Red Cross Society. Following her retirement, Maggie continued as a volunteer in Nashville, Tennessee.

These nine women and many others paved the way to bring the Red Cross mission to life. We thank them and the tens of thousands of volunteers, who give their time, talent and compassion to serve others.

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Decades of Blood Donation Shows the Impact an Act of Kindness Can Have

Fri, 04/16/2021 - 10:09
Originally published on the American Red Cross Cascades Region blog.  Dennis Thompson and daughter Holly Sackett. Photo by Derek Reed/American Red Cross.

By lying on his back, savoring some quiet moments for two hours every other week, California resident Dennis Thompson has helped as many as 1,200 people in dire need.

His daughter, Holly Sackett, has followed his lead, helping as many as 24 people, while taking peaceful “mommy breaks.”

There’s no secret to how they do this.

They donate blood. Lots of it.

With excitement and cheerfulness in the air, it was in Forest Grove, Oregon, Holly’s hometown, on April 7, 2021, that 67-year-old Dennis reached a milestone that’s taken decades to accomplish – donating his 50th gallon of blood.

Holly shared in the celebration by reaching her one gallon mark.

To put these staggering statistics into perspective, each blood donation is about a pint. With eight pints to a gallon, that’s 400 donations for Thompson and eight for Sacket during their lifetimes.

What does that look like? Think of a grocery bag holding two gallons of milk. These donations would fill more than 25 grocery bags!

Thompson knew he wanted to make this donation special, driving 700 miles to share this moment with his daughter, so the two would earn their gallon donations “milestones” together.

“I thought about surprising her, but then decided it might not be the right kind of surprise,” said Thompson, while hugging his daughter. They smiled as Jennifer Reid, Red Cross team supervisor, awarded them with pins commemorating their cumulative donations.

Thompson recalled the reason he began donating twenty years ago.

“There was a blood drive at our church for someone who needed blood.” He clarified, “At that time, you could give and give credit to the person who needed a transfusion.”

Painting a picture of that day, he said, “We got to sit and watch TV! That was cool! So, I could go give blood, and get 2.5 hours of peace and quiet!”

With decades of experience and to make sure his gift of life is as good as possible, Thompson doses himself daily with a glass of “Green Sludge,” a concoction of kombucha, kale, berries, and flaxseed.

“No one else will touch it!” said Sackett with a laugh.

But, his dietary regime has paid off. Plasma clarity is an indicator of diet. Fatty foods can lead to a cloudy color, while low-fat, plant-based foods create clearer plasma. “I want it to be as good as possible,” said Thompson.

Then he burst into a laugh, and exclaimed, “The most important thing is, this is the gift of life!”

He emphasized the importance of this gift with a riddle, “Google can’t sell it, and Intel can’t manufacture it – the only source is from you.”

That is exactly what Thompson intends to continue to do. “My goal is 100 gallons!”

Like her father, Sackett has her own motivation for donating blood.

“A friend was in the hospital and got seven transfusions. She wouldn’t be here, if she hadn’t had blood,” she said. “It means more knowing my friend’s life was saved! It has a face to it!”

Similarly, she is also goal-driven. “It’s on my list of 40 things to do by the time I turn 40 – give a gallon of blood.” To make this happen, she explained, “every chance I get I make an appointment to give whole blood.”

The duo hug, cementing this memory that will last a lifetime, and Sacket added, “We’re in this together! We give blood! It’s an easy way to help somebody.”

To make an appointment to donate blood or to learn more, go to www.redcrossblood.org.

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