Friday, December 22, 2017

Making Holidays Brighter for Military Children

Story and Photos By Christina Mascarenas/American Red Cross
Video by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross

The children of military families serve too. They endure the hardship and loneliness that comes with frequent moves and deployments. When one of the parents deploys, especially to a combat zone, the stress is hard to cope with. Because the holidays are particularly difficult for the family American
Amber (L) and Zivah get ready to uwrap
at Desert Sage Elem. School.
Girl donated hundreds of American Girl dolls to the American Red Cross with the goal of making the holidays brighter for children in military families. Two daughters of combat veterans were presented with American Girl dolls at Desert Sage Elementary school in Pueblo West, CO.  

Second graders, Amanda John, 8 and Zivah Thomas, 8 were each presented with an American Girl doll in support of them as a military child and to make their Christmas brighter.  The American Girl dolls are a small token to show appreciation for their sacrifice the children make for our nation when their parent is deployed.

According their website,, “American Girl is supporting the Red Cross and their Service to the Armed Forces mission, which helps members of the military, veterans, and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service.” 

The Red Cross contacted Julie Kuhlman, the Dean of Students at Desert Sage Elementary School in Pueblo West, CO., who chose Amanda and Zivah to receive the dolls. She reached out to the John and Thomas families to ask if they would be interested participating in the donation. “I know these girls and their families and wanted them to have a brighter holiday,” Kuhlman said. “What a wonderful moment to share.”

Stephanie Thomas, Zivah’s mother said, “The Dean of students called us and at first I thought Zivah was in trouble, then I realized something special was going on.  I kept it a surprise for a while because I had to let it sink in first for me that she had been picked for something special like this.”  

Amanda (L) and Zivah are all smiles as they open the gifts
at Desert Sage Elem. School
On Wednesday in the elementary school’s library, with a holiday theme backdrop including a Christmas tree, handmaid fireplace and library books, Amanda and Zivah tore the wrapping paper of their gifts.  “The doll is really, really, really great,” Amanda said, while Zivah said “I think it’s awesome because I have never gotten one.”  The girls smiled and hugged their dolls and posed for pictures under the Christmas tree.
Amanda’s father, Sargent Daniel John, an Engineer in the United State Army and is stationed at Ft. Carson said, “I thought it was awesome” when he received the call from Kuhlman asking if his family wanted to participate in the American Girl doll presentation.  John has been deployed to Afghanistan twice and Iraq three times and fully expects to leave again when his unit deploys this spring. “This is amazing for our daughter and our family, she always wanted an American [Girl] doll, we’ve just never been able to get her an actual American [Girl] Doll.  Thank you so much for everything you guys [Red Cross] do,” John said. 
Zivah said her “daddy is on the other side of the world in [South] Korea.”  She and her mother have been able to Skype with him through his deployments. Sargent First Class, Christopher Thomas is from Canon City.   This is his third deployment but the first deployment that Zivah remembers.  She is counting the days until her father comes home.  Zivah said when her daddy comes home from Korea she is “going to charge at him and give him a big huge hug.”

American Girls for American Girls

Thomas said of her daughter, “Someone like Zivah is very strong for being without her dad and it isn’t easy.  We, as adults often forget that and for her to receive something in recognition for that it’s very special and we thank the Red Cross for thinking of military families for thinking of us, we thank you so much.”

“This is pretty wonderful.” Thomas said, “Zivah’s never had an American Girl doll before so it’s really amazing that we now have this special story to tell of how she got it and why she got it. This is a memory, we will never forget.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

American Red Cross Active Shooter Training; A Story of Healing

As part of the work of Save a Life Denver, the American Red Cross is growing a team of instructors to work with businesses and organizations and to prepare community members. On December 16, 2017 a Red Cross training was held to identify these special trainers. Dana Goldsmith, American Red Cross Disability Integration Specialist, along with 20 other volunteers, attended the training and afterward she shared with us the reason she feels so strongly about this opportunity. 

This is her story. 

New Life Church, Colorado Springs; December 9, 2007I was 22 years old. My two sons were 18 months old, and 7 weeks old. My husband was deployed. As was normal for a Sunday, we had attended services that morning and I was meandering in the lobby and talking to friends as we prepared to leave. 

My mother and I had planned to grab lunch and she had gone ahead with the infant as I headed for the door with my toddler and sister close by. As my son exited the building, jumping in puddles of slush from a recent snow, I heard a loud bang. I assumed a car had gone over a grate in the parking lot and kept walking. Likewise, my toddler continued exploring the snow, slush, and every little detail of the sidewalk. I had walked about five feet ahead of him and turned to encourage him, once again, to please hurry. As I did, two more BANGS interrupted my words. I looked past my son to see a man run out of the building, holding his two young kids; they were much too big to be carried. He shouted in our direction as he ran, “There’s a shooter!” I was clearly confused and I responded, “Really?” The man looked at me, wide eyed in disbelief of my reaction, "YES," he responded as he kept running. 

The Goldsmith Family 
Everything became a blur at that moment. I dashed for my car as my sister called out to me that she had my son. She held him to her chest, shielding his head. As we bolted towards the car, I briefly paused, realizing my car was parked with no cars near it for several spaces. I briefly contemplated ducking behind a nearby vehicle because running in the open just didn’t make sense, but neither did hiding. I felt like a sitting duck. So, we ran.

Once I was in the car, my sister hurriedly lifted my son inside, jumped in, and we sped off. As we fled the area a couple was casually walking to their own vehicle. I rolled down my window and screamed, “THERE’S A SHOOTER INSIDE!!! RUN!!!,” but they just looked at me as if I were crazy and kept casually walking. I peeled out of the parking lot, dialing 911. The line was busy. As we headed toward the interstate, about a dozen police cars came roaring up the street. All I could think about was not knowing where my mom was with the baby and how badly I wished my husband was there. He would know what to do. I had no idea. Why would I have ever needed to know how to respond to an act of terror in the safest place I knew; my church.

That day, control over my life was taken from me. I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or who to call. I didn’t know what was right or wrong and I had never felt so consumed by panic and terror. Everything I knew to be true, to be safe, to be familiar…my "normal," it was all gone. In its place, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness grew. In the hours that followed the event, I realized that I didn’t know how to help. I was consumed with thoughts about what I should have or could have done. These feeling would linger for a very long time.

As time passed, I purposefully steered clear of any type of active shooter or 'run-hide-fight' training. I wasn’t sure how I would mentally or physically respond to re-experiencing the events of that day and avoided any and all known triggers of my fear. Recently, I made the decision to face those fear and when I entered the American Red Cross classroom on December 16, 2017, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In anticipation of the training, I had watched some videos on YouTube of “what to do”, but they were triggering. They instilled overwhelming terror, and a sense that I really didn’t know what to do, even now. What would I do if I had to hide? Or fight? All I knew to do was run but if I didn't have that option…then what?

The Red Cross Active Shooter/Stop the Bleed training changed me. The Red Cross approach to training was not to scare the class into action. It wasn’t a graphic reenactment of an experience like the one I never wanted to walk through again. The trainers were sensitive to the subject matter and understood the topic was both important, and delicate. In leaving the training, 10 years after my own active shooter incident, I felt for the first time like I had control over my life again. I now know that I have options; I have choices and tools, and I know what to do and how to do it. It isn’t just the knowledge, but the ability to take back my life from the fear placed there by that unknown individual all those years ago. I no longer wonder what I would do if it happened again. Now, I know.

There is power in having control over your life, or your circumstances. The feeling that you are out of control is one that will throw you into a pit you may not even know you are in. It was freeing, to take that control back. Even after just 1 hour of Active Shooter training, I felt that power return to my hands. Now, I have three options: I can run. I can hide. I can fight. I can…I CAN. And not only that, I will. And because of my Red Cross training, I will survive, thrive, and help others do the same. With the “stop the bleed” training, I now have the tools to help save others' lives, not just survive. Thank you, Red Cross, for taking the time to not only teach me, but to also help me heal.

Guest Post: Dana Goldsmith  

We are thankful to Dana, and others, who took the time to start the process of becoming Active Threat trainers this weekend. If you would like to get involved as a trainer for the Save A Life Denver program, please send an email to Julianna Lochte, the Red Cross Save a Life Denver program 

About Save A Life Denver: 
Save A Life Denver is a unique coalition of organizations dedicated to preparing metro Denver to better identify, respond to and recover from active threats. As a community, we can do more to prepare for, respond to and recover from active threats. Even though this is a difficult and uncomfortable subject to talk about, thinking about and planning for your response to an active threat can save lives. As a community, we will be more prepared and resilient if we are all empowered to save lives. Safe A Life Denver is a joint effort by community partners to provide resources and training to empower individuals to take appropriate action in the moment, and to talk with others about preparing for active threats. Follow us on Twitter at @SaveALifeDenver to learn more. 

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross and in Colorado and Wyoming at @COWYRedCross

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Disaster Workers Deploying to Support California Fires

Denver, Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - UDATE - Fueled by strong winds and dry conditions, devastating wildfires are threatening communities in Southern California, and the American Red Cross is making sure those affected have a safe place to stay, food to eat and a shoulder to lean on.
The Ventura Fairgrounds shelter. Photo Dermot Tatlow/
 American Red Cross. 

About 620 Red Cross disaster workers are supporting relief efforts now. This includes a total of 6 Red Cross volunteers from the Colorado and Wyoming Region. 

Susan Owen, a volunteer from the Mile High Chapter was deployed on December 9 to support the Client Casework effort in southern California.

Friends find each other at the Ventura County
Fairgrounds Shelter. Photo by Dermot Tatlow/
American Red Cross
Red Cross volunteers are working to ensure that everyone – including those with access, mobility or other functional needs – get the best possible help during this challenging time. The Red Cross is working with partners to provide care for evacuated pets. We encourage anyone who needs a safe place to stay to come to an evacuation shelter, and suitable accommodations will be found for household pets. Service animals and therapy pets are welcome at Red Cross shelters.

The Red Cross is working alongside numerous partners to provide comfort and support to Californians during this challenging time as out-of-control wildfires threaten neighborhoods. Sunday night, more than 300 people took refuge from the fires in five Red Cross and community shelters. Those who come to Red Cross shelters can expect hot meals, comfort and the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and get information.

With the help of partners, the Red Cross has already served more than 20,400 meals and snacks. Red Cross disaster workers are also providing health services such as replacing lost medications and eyeglasses, emotional support and spiritual care to people whose lives have been turned upside down by these wildfires. Nearly 2,200 contacts have already been made. As evacuation orders have been lifted in some areas, the Red Cross is distributing relief items including sifters, masks, trash bags and work gloves. Some 2,200 relief items have already been given out.

You can help people affected by disasters big and small, like the wildfires and countless other crises, by making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from disasters big and small.

Call, click, or text to give: visit, call 1-800 RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Denver, Thursday, December 7, 2017 - The American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming is sending disaster workers to help with the wildfires currently in California.

Suzanne Isenhower, deploying to support logistics. Isenhower is currently a volunteer with the Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado and lives in Buena Vista, CO. This will be her fourth deployment to a large-scale disaster.

Christine Sturgeon, a volunteer from Poncha Springs, CO with the Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado, is deployed as a Red Cross Nurse. Sturgeon deployed to support Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma earlier this year.

Cynthia Fox is deploying to California as a Red Cross nurse. Fox is a volunteer with the Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado who lives in Colorado Springs. She deployed to Hurricane Harvey earlier this year.

Sylvia Raumaker from Jackson, WY is deploying as a shelter supervisor. Raumaker is a volunteer with the Red Cross of Wyoming and she has deployed over 17 times to disasters across the country.

Diana Dalager is a volunteer with the Red Cross of the Mile High Area and resides in Littleton, CO. She is deploying to California as a shelter supervisor. Dalager deployed to support Hurricane Harvey response earlier this year.

Typical deployment for Red Cross disaster response is 14 to 21 days.

In addition to those listed above the Colorado & Wyoming region has four volunteers still deployed to support hurricane relief in Texas and the US Virgin Islands

To see the latest news about how you can help the Red Cross help the hundreds of people that have lost everything due to the wildfires in California visit

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Red Cross responds to help 181 people in November; a 4-week period ending December 3, 2017

American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming, December 5, 2017 -  Disaster knows no holiday. In fact, we find around the holidays to be one of the more common times for disaster to strike. In the month of November our volunteers responded to multiple calls for assistance from disasters such as floods, fires and collapsed buildings across the two-state region. Most of these disasters are home fires, which happen an average of two to three times each day.

Our response to provide help and hope only happens through the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. Today, December 5, 2017 is Colorado Gives Day and you can help make someone’s recovery from disaster possible when you "give something that means something" on this special day. “We are there for your neighbor because of gifts of time and money from Red Cross volunteers and donors, like you,” said Gino Greco, American Red Cross Regional CEO. “We truly can’t do this work without you.”  

Breakdown of the CO & WY 87 county service area:
Mile High Chapter (MHC): 51 individuals received aid; 6 were age 65 and older and 14 were under 18 years old. The MHC response area includes 10 counties in the Denver Metro area.

Southeastern Colorado Chapter (SeCO): 24 individuals received aid; 2 were age 65 or older while 6 were under 18 years old. The SeCO response area includes 16 counties.

Northern Colorado Chapter (NoCO):  46 individuals received aid; 20 were under 18 years old. The NoCO response area includes 11 counties.

Western Colorado Chapter (WeCO): 5 individuals received aid. The WeCo response area covers 27 counties, serving all western Colorado and the San Luis Valley.

Wyoming Chapter: 55 individuals received aid; 14 were under age 18 and 12 over the age of 65. The Wyoming Chapter response area covers all 23 counties that make up the state of Wyoming.

The families and individuals were provided a place to stay, money for clothes, food and medicine. Along with providing casework for the residents in a quick and efficient time frame, Red Cross volunteers will continue to provide support to these families going forward, by doing follow up work to ensure all needs are met and the individuals have a clear path to recovery from this personal disaster.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.