Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Real People, Real Stories: The Snyder Family

All through the month of March, we are bringing you stories from people helped in some way by the Red Cross. Today, we hear from the Snyder Family:

In February 2012, at her granddaughter's sixth birthday, Judy began choking on some food. Luckily, her daughter-in-law Amber was Red Cross trained and able to save her life. Olivia, Judy's granddaughter, tells us about the day her mom saved Grandma.

Behind the Scenes, Administrative Volunteers Keep the Red Cross Humming

Although the public face of the Red Cross volunteer may be a Disaster Relief team member or a CPR Instructor, countless people give their time to less publicized work, behind the scenes of the organization. One of these volunteers, Robbe Sokolove, is a retired librarian who has devoted her time to the Red Cross for data entry, research and other administrative tasks. Her work at the Red Cross may not be as visible as that of some volunteers, but the Red Cross couldn’t effectively provide its services without the valued time and skills of volunteers like Robbe.

Robbe began volunteering over a year ago for the Red Cross after her career as a librarian. She came to the organization, as she says, because she wanted to develop new skills and “the Red Cross just appealed to some of my fundamental values in life.”

Her skill set matched up perfectly with a need for volunteers with a background in research for the fund development department. During disasters, the bulk of her work for fund development was entering donation information into a database. The work was repetitive, but she says she enjoyed seeing how each donation told a story of a community’s compassion. During the 2012 wildfires, checks arrived from children’s lemonade stands and bake sales. A pair of $100 checks came from a married couple, donating the money they would have spent on each other’s Christmas gifts. A group of inmates sent in $5 donations from CaƱon City. “Everything they did really made a difference. It really was a community effort,” she said. “That’s what brought it home for me. The little things people do add up into big things.”

Robbe encourages anyone with a background in data entry or administrative work to volunteer for the Red Cross. “We need it, so badly,” she said. “When a disaster comes up, it’s critical to have people who are trained, and can pick up the concept and go for it. We really do need that kind of help.” As the organization continues to improve data management and databases, more volunteers will be needed to enter and process hard copy data for helpful new tools. It may be a different kind of volunteer work than what people usually associate with the Red Cross, but as Robbe said, “Somebody has to do it.”

Volunteers like Robbe help the American Red Cross keep its administrative costs down, part of the reason why on average the American Red Cross is able to dedicate 91 cents of every dollar it spends nationwide on humanitarian services.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Real People, Real Stories: Susan Lang

All through the month of March, we are bringing you stories from people helped in some way by the Red Cross. Today, we hear from Susan Lang:

In May 2006, Susan's son, Tony, was stationed in Iraq when his grandmother died suddenly. The Red Cross worked to bring Tony home for the funeral and had him there within 24 hours. Susan tells us what it meant to the whole family to have him home for the funeral and to say goodbye.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Real People, Real Stories: The Mitchell Family

All month long, as a part of Red Cross Month, we're taking a closer look at stories from people helped in some way by the Red Cross. Today, we tell the Mitchell Family's story...

In 1997, while living in Minnesota, Randi lost a lot of blood while giving birth. Blood donations saved her life. Randi remembers that moment and what it means to her and her family to have been able to spend the last 15 years with her wonderful sons.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What a Coincidence: Red Cross Month is also Women's History Month

Since Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881, women’s history and Red Cross history have been closely intertwined. While the organization has historically benefitted from women’s contributions of both time and resources, the Red Cross is now redoubling its efforts to draw female volunteers who are now empowered in more ways than ever to further the organization’s mission. Lori Geres, Regional Director of Volunteer Services for the Mile High Chapter, shared with me some of the important ways women have been a part of the Red Cross throughout the past two centuries, and how a new task force is working to engage with women today, with an eye to the future.

Clara Barton, nurse and Founder of the American Red Cross

When the American Red Cross was established, Clara Barton’s background as an army nurse set the stage for the organization’s close ties to both the nursing and military communities in the U.S. Red Cross nurses played important roles during the Spanish American War and have been a presence in American military engagements since the organization’s inception. Red Cross nurses also provided services during the 1918 influenza epidemic. According to Geres, one of the most significant figures in the long history of Red Cross nursing was Jane Delano, who recruited over 20,000 nurses during World War I. For her efforts in the war, Delano was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. The Red Cross now gives the Jane Delano scholarship to student nurses in her memory.

Women without nursing training have also been a dedicated volunteer force in Red Cross history, rolling bandages during World War I and forming the “Gray Ladies” hospital volunteer group during World War II. The Gray Ladies offered non-medical services to civilian patients and disaster victims for more than six decades. Later, women volunteered as “Donut Dollies” and served in country in Korea and Vietnam. These volunteers organized activities, spent time among service members and as Geres said, served as “a friendly face to talk to” for soldiers deployed overseas.

Today, women in the American Red Cross volunteer their time and efforts in a variety of capacities: including transportation services to the elderly, training future babysitters, and offering professional help as licensed social workers. But as Geres said, “Women have always been a part of the Red Cross,” she said, “Now, more than ever, more avenues are open to them.” Geres sits on a task force called “Engaging Women with the Red Cross,” which is specifically aimed at getting more women engaged with the organization’s goals of preparedness. “We’re focused on what women can do to prepare their families, their communities and their country for any emergency,” she said. With initiatives like this, women will continue to make history with the Red Cross in the years to come.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Real People, Real Stories: Audrey & Billy Wilkins

In honor of Red Cross Month, we are taking a look at stories from people helped by the Red Cross, told by those who needed us. Here is our next story:

Audrey's husband was deployed in Afghanistan when she was due to give birth to their second child. The Red Cross helped contact the Army to bring him home so he could be there for this special event.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Heroes: 2013 Breakfast of Champions

The heroes highlighted at the 2013 Red Cross Breakfast of Champions share a common trait: quick thinking and selflessness in emergency situations.    As videos of each award winner’s story filled the Hyatt Regency ballroom last Friday with examples of courage and hope, many attendees reached for tissues.

I had the opportunity to speak with the men, women and youth that were recognized at this inspiring event.  From all walks of life, these doctors, security guards, fashion consultants, military personnel, sons, daughters, and married couples all expressed humility and thankfulness for having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of family or strangers.

Omar Salgado, recognized as this year’s “Adult Lifesaver” said that his reward is “just knowing the person is still alive.”  Other people were looking at the car that had plunged into Cherry Creek but Omar made the quick decision to climb down the embankment, jump into the icy river and pull the driver out to safety.  “I’m blessed and thankful to the Red Cross,” said a shy and soft-spoken Salgado. 
Omar Salgado: Adult Lifesaver
Katie Connally, along with brother Matthew, received the “Youth Lifesaver” award for performing CPR on their father.   “I almost started crying,” Katie said after receiving the award, though it was all about the “the other heroes” as she was deeply impressed by “how much people do” to help out others in emergency situations.

Matthew and Katie Connally: Youth Lifesaver
“The Spirit of the Red Cross” was awarded to Jerry and Patti Ellmann, an amazing couple who spent countless hours volunteering at the Red Cross for survivors of the High Park Fire, even after having their own home destroyed in the disaster.  “We were just helping people,” Jerry said as Patti added that she was “overwhelmed by the stories,” told throughout the ceremony as she didn’t think they “did anything special.”  Jerry thanked the Red Cross for “being there for us,” noting that it was “like therapy for us to be part of the outpouring of community” in times of personal disaster.

Jerry and Patti Ellmann: Spirit of the Red Cross
Senior Airman Keith Anderson could not attend the ceremony to personally receive his “Military Lifesaver” award as he was recently deployed to Afghanistan.  But his commanding officer wanted the audience to know that Keith’s incredible story of providing lifesaving triage to rollover victims also involved Anderson’s wife, Amber, a nurse whose medical assistance was invaluable to their combined efforts that saved many lives.

David Haigh accepting on behalf of Senior Airman Keith Anderson: Military Lifesaver
Governor Hickenlooper provided thoughtful comments to close out the event.  “One thing we have as Westerners,” the governor told the audience is “that we don’t give up.  We have a level of resiliency and commitment to help others.  And we do that together: strangers helping strangers.”

As March is Red Cross Month throughout the country, let’s embody the selflessness demonstrated by the men and women featured at this year’s Breakfast of Champions!  Donate some of your time, talent and treasure to an organization that makes a difference

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Five Reasons to Be Happy About “Springing Ahead” This Weekend

We’ve all noticed the daylight creeping ever-so-slowly further and further into the evenings. Now we get a big spring-forward today with Daylight Savings Time! While yes, this does mean losing a precious hour of sleep Saturday night into Sunday morning, I still love and look forward to extended daytime hours and am okay with losing that hour. 

Here are my top five reasons:
1) My commute home is now 100% in the daylight – yay!
2) My husband and I will start using our patio and grill for dinners again.
3) March ski days in the mountains are longer and lighter compared with the cold, dark December ski days.
4) Evening workouts can be moved outdoors instead of being stuck inside the gym.
5) Daylight Savings Time serves as a perfect reminder to do your twice-yearly smoke alarm check.

Practicing Home Fire Safety is simple, yet highly effective. Sixty-five percent of reported home fire deaths in 2004 occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms; however, having working sprinklers and smoke alarms together cut your risk of dying in a home fire 82% in relation to having neither. 

If you didn't already change your batteries over the weekend, use Daylight Savings Time as a reminder to check your Home Fire Safety by going through these Red Cross Preparedness Tips. See the full list plus additional fact sheets at
  • Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries replaced yearly, or as soon as you hear a low-battery warning which usually sounds like a “chirping” noise.
  • Keep smoke alarms clean by vacuuming over and around it regularly. Dust and debris can interfere with its operation.
  • Never remove the battery from or disable a smoke alarm. If your smoke alarm is sounding “nuisance alarms”, try locating it further from kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Plan regular fire drills to practice your escape plan ensuring everyone in your home knows exactly what to do when the smoke alarm sounds.
  •  Smoke alarms wear out. Replace your alarms every 10 years. If you can’t remember when you last replaced them, buy new alarms that are interconnected if possible. Install them using manufacturer’s instructions and hire an electrician for installing alarms that are hard-wired into your home’s electrical system. 

Sources: American Red Cross,* U.S. Fire Administration,*** and the National Fire Protection Association.**

Real People, Real Stories: Manyang Reath

Manyang was a "Lost Boy" of the Sudan, who was separated from his parents at three years old. He never saw his family again. After 15 years in refugee camps around Africa, Manyang was brought to the USA in 2005, but he never stopped searching for his family. As a last effort, Manyang wrote a three-sentence letter to the Red Cross to ask them to help. This is his story...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Real People, Real Stories: Kathy Robello

Next in our Red Cross Stories series:
Kathy's home was destroyed in the Andover tornado of 1991. This is the story of how the Red Cross helped them through it, and what that experience meant to her.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Go Bags – Cross Generational Disaster Preparedness

The Boy Scouts of America’s motto is “Be Prepared.” In order to take this statement one step further, they’ve partnered with FEMA, the American Red Cross, and the State of Colorado's Office of Preparedness to launch a new pilot program. This pilot program brings the skills of the Boy Scouts together with an audience who may need their services.

Denver Area Boy Scouts have worked with Red Cross personnel on disaster preparedness, focused specifically on seniors and people with disabilities.  FEMA donated 440 Go Bags specifically designed for seniors and the disabled. Inside each Go Bag is an educational brochure, “Disaster Preparedness: For Seniors, By Seniors” (you can view the brochure as a .pdf here) specific to disaster preparedness for this audience, developed by the Red Cross and a committee of senior citizens. The goal of the program is for the Boy Scouts to take their new knowledge and training to go out in their communities, delivering these bags and using the brochure to discuss disaster preparedness with seniors. The Boy Scouts will not just deliver the bags, but they’re also passing along all the preparedness information they’ve learned and connecting with the more vulnerable members of their communities. The pilot program serves dual purposes: not only is it about disaster preparedness, but it also is focused on cross-generational interaction and education. 

We’ll report back on the status of the pilot and share more stories as the program grows. In the meantime, do you have a Go Bag of your own? If not, the Red Cross website has some great tips and packing lists for what should go in yours. Check it out here!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Real People. Real Stories.

If you’ve ever cried at a commercial before, you might want to get your tissues ready.

All this month, we’re making an effort to tell as many people as possible why the American Red Cross matters. And what better way to do that than videos of real people sharing their stories?

For a sneak peak, head to We’ll be sharing many of these throughout the month on Facebook, Twitter, and right here on our blog. All of them are great, but some of them are real tearjerkers.

Here’s a local story to get us started:
Bre’s life was saved by her best friend, Julie, when she was injured in a hiking accident after falling on a rock and tumbling 70 feet in the snow. Julie’s first-aid training and quick thinking helped them both get to safety. Here the two friends share what they went through.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Governor Declares March “Red Cross Month” in Colorado

Red Cross Month events will honor heroes, teach lifesaving skills

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has proclaimed March “Red Cross Month” in Colorado, in keeping with a national tradition. During Red Cross Month, the American Red Cross recognizes the many everyday heroes who give of themselves and in some way help their community.

“The Red Cross in Colorado has continued strong for nearly 100 years because the Red Cross is made up of everyday people coming together to make a difference – it’s neighbor helping neighbor,” said Gino Greco, CEO of the Red Cross Mile High Region. “We want to thank our heroes during Red Cross Month – the volunteers, class takers and financial supporters who help us assist those in need.”

Local chapters in Colorado have a number of activities planned for Red Cross Month, including:

WHAT: An award ceremony honoring local heroes and celebrating “Colorado Overcomes: Together We
Triumph Over Tragedy”
WHEN: 7:30-9 a.m., Friday, March 8
WHERE: Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center, 650 15th Street, Denver

WHAT: Red Cross instructors will teach legislators and their staff how to save a life using hands-only
WHEN: 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday, March 19 – CPR Sessions occur at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
WHERE: Colorado State Capitol building, Old Supreme Court Chambers, room 220

WHAT: A dinner and award ceremony recognizing local individuals who have made a difference through their individual acts of courage
WHEN: 6-8 p.m, Thursday, March 21
WHERE: Antler’s Hilton, 4 South Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs

WHAT: DCP Midstream will match all donations to the American Red Cross during the month of March, up to $20,000
WHEN: All donations during the month of March are eligible
WHERE: Donations can be made online at; during the day of the event at the Breakfast of Champions; by calling 1-800-REDCROSS; or by mailing a check to the Red Cross Mile High Region, 444 Sherman St., Denver, CO 80203

In Colorado, local Red Cross chapters responded to more than 400 local emergencies, assisted more than 3,000 military families and trained more than 70,000 people in lifesaving skills last year.

“Red Cross Month is a great time for people to become part of the Red Cross and there are many different ways to do it,” Greco said. “They can develop a preparedness plan for their household, become a Red Cross volunteer, or take a Red Cross class, just to name a few.”

The Red Cross is not a government agency and relies on donations of time, money and blood to do its work. An average of 91 cents of every dollar given to the Red Cross is invested in helping people in need.