Gain Front Row Access to the Generac Power Stage at Summerfest, While Supporting the Red Cross of Wisconsin

The American Red Cross is giving you the opportunity to buy front row access passes for each of the 9 headliner acts at the Generac Power Stage during Summerfest.  All money raised will go towards funding an American Red Cross Blood Services vehicle, a specially outfitted vehicle designed to transport staff, volunteers and equipment to and from blood drives, bring collected blood to processing centers and deliver blood to hospital patients in need.

The Power Up with a Purpose access passes are $100 each, per night, per person. Tickets are on sale now.

  • Ticket sales for the June 22nd – June 24th performances will close on Thursday, June 15th at 11:59 p.m. CT
  • Ticket sales for the June 29th – July 1st performances will close on Thursday, June 22nd at 11:59 p.m. CT
  • Ticket sales for the July 6th – July 8th performances will close on Thursday, June 2nd at 11:59 p.m. CT

Headliners at the Generac Power Stage with Miller High Life during Summerfest’s 55th anniversary include Rosa Linn, Bleachers, Destroy Lonely, NLE Chopa, Lord Huron, Yung Gravy, WALK THE MOON, and more. For more information, visit For the full Summerfest lineup and more information visit

Exceptional Local Volunteer Receives National Award for Service

The American Red Cross of Wisconsin is pleased to celebrate the national recognition of one of our local volunteers. Sara Horein was awarded the 2023 Presidential Award for Excellence during celebrations held at Red Cross national headquarters in Washington D.C. on April 26 and 27.

Sara has served the Red Cross for 11 years as a volunteer in several different roles in the Wisconsin region and at the national level.  She began her service as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member in Madison, quickly moving into a DAT Team Lead role providing team leadership and supervision while responding to local emergencies such as home fires and flooding that displaced people in the community. A recent first-time blood donor, Sara has deployed to provide relief after Hurricane Isaac in 2012 and she has traveled the world on behalf of the Measles and Rubella Initiative. As Sara learned more about the vital philanthropic role the Tiffany Circle plays in Red Cross service delivery, she became an integral member of the circle.

The Presidential Award for Excellence is presented to an individual or group of Red Cross employees or volunteers who demonstrate exceptional performance or service in support of the Red Cross multi-faceted mission. Nominee’s actions must go beyond meeting organizational goals and expectations and be exemplary of the highest level of commitment toward the successful delivery of the Red Cross mission.

Red Cross volunteers play a vital role within our organization. Without their dedication, our mission would not be possible.  We are forever grateful for the immeasurable time, talent and treasure that Sara Horein lends as a volunteer.  On behalf of everyone at the Red Cross, congratulations and thank you Sara!

Heroes announced for Southwest Heroes Golf Event June 12, event sure to inspire

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

The American Red Cross of Southwest Wisconsin will honor individuals and groups who have shown courage, dedication, and unselfish character by their acts of heroism in our community at the Southwest  Heroes Golf Event Monday, June 12, 2023, at the Legend at Bergamont, 699 Bergamont Blvd., in Oregon. This fun-filled day will consist of 18 holes of golf, along with a silent and online auction. New this year, the event will also include a post-golf heroes’ reception. All proceeds from the event will benefit the mission of the Red Cross of Southwest Wisconsin.

Every day at the Red Cross, we see firsthand the remarkable deeds of everyday heroes. Their stories inspire and remind us to never doubt the impact an individual can make in the lives of others.

Heroes are nominated by the public and are chosen by an awards selection committee comprised of local community leaders. Honorees are selected based on the degree to which their actions uphold the values of the Red Cross humanitarian mission and leave a lasting and positive impact on the community. The 2023 Southwest WI Hero honorees are:

Volunteer of the Year HeroPastor Dennis Virta, Sauk County

Pastor Virta, a Red Cross Blood Program Leader, opened his church to Sauk Prairie community blood drives that were canceled during COVID. His efforts helped to ensure that blood collections in his community never stopped during COVID, and he continues to make the church available to host community blood drives

Community HeroMo Cheeks, Dane County

What started as a pandemic pastime grew into “Bread & Justice”. Mo starting baking sourdough bread and donating the proceeds to a social justice organization each month. Now two years into his endeavor, Mo has baked and distributed more than 1,500 loaves of bread for over 300 customers helping several organizations.

From the Heart Biomedical HeroUrban League of Greater Madison, Dane County

Madison Sickle Cell Committee: Bobby Moore, Chair, Dr. Corinda Rainey–Moore, Carola Peterson–Gaines and Brian Callahan

This group of fantastic individuals helped increase awareness for blood donations from donors who are African American or Black in the Madison area by sharing the importance of having a diverse blood supply. These four guild members have worked tirelessly and have been integral to creating new partnerships within the community and driving participation for Sickle Cell blood drives in Madison.

Military Hero B.J. Ganem, Dane County

B.J. Ganem, a Wisconsin veteran, returned from Iraq with a traumatic experience that changed his world forever. Thanks to the help of Dozer, a bulldog, who gave him hope in his darkest hour, he was also inspired to help others. In 2017, Ganem, became CEO and founder of Sierra Delta, an organization that pairs veterans with service dogs and he is now working to give the gift of hope to others.

National Guardian Life is the presenting sponsor of the Southwest Heroes Golf Event. Additional event sponsors include Findorff, Hooper, OptumServe, U.S. Cellular and the American Red Cross of Southwest Wisconsin Board of Directors.

Schedule of Events for the Day:

8:45 – 9:45 a.m. – Registration
9:45 – 10 a.m. – Welcome Remarks
10 a.m. – Shotgun Start
Box Lunches and Game Packages are included
3 p.m. – Post Play Reception

We invite you to participate and help us to make this year’s Southwest Heroes Golf Event our most successful event yet. For more information, visit: or email Kyle Kriegl, Executive Director for the Southwest Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross at

Wisconsin’s Sound the Alarm. Save a Life., home fire campaign installs 1,066 smoke alarms, making 366 homes safer and providing services for 821 people across the state

By Laura McGuire and Jennifer Warren, American Red Cross

Doug Milks with the Madison Fire Department unpacking a smoke alarm

The American Red Cross Sound the Alarm. Save a Life., home fire safety campaign returned to cities throughout Wisconsin including Madison and Milwaukee.

Home fires claim seven lives every day but having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half.

That is why the Red Cross rallied volunteers to install free smoke alarms nationwide, as part of our Sound the Alarm events.

Between April and May of 2023, we visited homes in at-risk communities to educate families about home fire safety, created escape plans, and installed free smoke alarms. These actions helped to make homes safer.

Doug Milks with the Madison Fire Department testing the smoke alarm

Here in Wisconsin during the 2023 Sound the Alarm event we:

  • Installed 1,066 smoke alarms for a cumulative total of more than 31,172 installations since the program began.
  • Made 366 household safer, with a cumulative total of over 13,620 households served since the initiative was started.
  • Served 821 people, with a cumulative total of more than 34,071 people served since program inception.

Sound the Alarm Madison

As the sun rose over Lake Monona on Saturday, April 15, 2023, 67 volunteers including members from the Madison Fire Department showed up in the lobby of M3 Insurance, the central gathering point for the Sound the Alarm Madison event.

Volunteers being trained on smoke alarm installations

When volunteers arrived, they received t-shirts, food and free training that included how to install smoke alarms, how to coordinate home escape plans and communicate safety tips with homeowners. Teams of three volunteers were grouped together, trained, given their appointment lists, maps and supplies before heading out to the community.

Jan Kramer and Sharon Raimondo reviewing home fire safety tips

Once on site you were able to see volunteers welcomed by homeowners carry ladders, drills, equipment, and boxes of smoke alarms. Homeowners welcomed these volunteers into their homes knowing that when the volunteers left, their homes would be safer.

Sharon Raimondo was one of over two hundred appointments scheduled for the day. Raimondo stated that she had smoke alarms installed about ten years ago and knew it was time to have them replaced. Three volunteers visited her home to replace the expired smoke alarms and reviewed a home escape plan and offered Red Cross preparedness tips. “This is an amazing program,” said Raimondo.

Bill and Sharon Raimondo

Raimondo, a mother of a disabled son, reminded us that a mother’s love never ends. After her home safety visit, the team visited her son’s condominium to make sure his home was as safe as hers. “It’s such a simple act of kindness,” says Raimondo. “We are so appreciative of the Red Cross providing this wonderful service. It’s incredible!”

Madison’s event made 169 homes safer by installing 538 smoke alarms helping 314 people.

This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from our local partners in Madison: M3 Insurance, Hooper and Wisconsin Public Service Foundation. Special thanks to the Madison Fire Department and International Association of Fire Fighters Local 311.

Here’s a brief video of the day’s event: (Video credits Bob Minsberg)

Sound the Alarm – Milwaukee

Meier Family and Red Cross installation team

Together with the Milwaukee Fire Department, Red Cross volunteers installed 301 free smoke alarms in local homes, on Saturday, May 6th as part of the nineth annual Sound the Alarm event in Milwaukee. In addition to installing traditional smoke alarms, the Red Cross also provides free bed shaker alarms for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The bed shaker alarm is placed under a pillow, or a mattress and it produces a vibration along with a strobe light that awakens the sleeping individual. More importantly, the bed shaker is also activated when an accompanying traditional smoke alarm sounds.

The Meier family of Wauwatosa received a bed shaker alarm for their eight-year-old daughter Hadley’s bedroom. Hadley was born deaf and has cochlear implants to help her hear, her mother Ali learned about the bed shaker alarms and the Sound the Alarm program via social media.

Bed Shaker Alarm

“We are so thankful for this amazing service that the Red Cross provides,” Ali said. “Hadley is a sleepyhead so we are glad we can also use the bed shaker as an alarm, which will make it much easier for Hadley to get up and off to school.”

The Milwaukee Sound the Alarm event drew 126 volunteers that helped make 121 homes safer.

The Sound the Alarm event in Milwaukee is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from our local partners including Delta Dental, Forest County Potawatomi Foundation, United Way of Milwaukee and Waukesha County, We Energies Foundation and the Milwaukee Fire Department.

Volunteers make our mission possible

Thank you to all our volunteers who helped during the Sound the Alarm event we couldn’t have done it without you!

Tom Bray and David Bishop have been volunteering for the Red Cross of Southeast Wisconsin for over a year as part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT). When driving to the office the day before the Sound the Alarm event in Milwaukee, they received a call that a family needed assistance. The volunteer duo arrived on scene and visited with the family outside their burning home providing comfort, care and aligning them with Red Cross services. They shared that the family escaped the fire when they heard their smoke alarm go off.

Red Cross Volunteer, Tom Bray
Red Cross Volunteer, David Bishop

“Being a frontline responder for DAT and having witnessed firsthand the loss of material possessions and even the loss of life, I feel strongly that if a person has a working smoke alarm, they are more likely to escape the situation and survive,” said Bray.

Bray and Bishop both pivoted and responded to a family in need before resuming their day to help charge drills and get equipment prepped for the Sound the Alarm event in Milwaukee.

“During events like this one, besides installing free smoke detectors, we teach every home how to do a two-minute drill. In the event of a fire does your family have a plan? Do you have two ways to exit out of each room? Do you have a meeting place,” said Bishop as he was visiting with others before heading out to the Milwaukee community.

To ensure your family is prepared in case of a fire, test your smoke alarms monthly and practice your two-minute home fire escape plan. Visit for additional safety tips.

To learn how you can join the Red Cross Sound the Alarm event as a volunteer or to make a financial donation to prepare, respond and help families recover from home fires, visit:

Red Cross recognizes three lifeguards from Michigan Technological University with national Lifesaving Awards

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

On June 26, 2022, Leah Komarzec from Painesdale, Skyler Spitzley, from Ovid and Brett Ceane from Houghton, called on their American Red Cross training in Lifeguarding, First Aid, CPR and AED to save the life of an individual experiencing a cardiac complication at the Michigan Technological University Student Development Complex Pool.

Leah Komarzec, Brett Ceane and Skyler Spitzley

The victim survived thanks to the quick actions of the team and said, “I know I owe God, the Lifeguards, and Red Cross for my being alive today. Bless you, lifesavers.”

According to an account of the incident, Komarzec was the active lifeguard on duty. She was notified of a patron with chest pains and began to escort the patron towards an exit point in the pool and activated the facility’s Emergency Action Plan. The victim began to lose consciousness. Spitzley and Ceane were other lifeguards on duty. Spitzley radioed public safety to alert them of the situation before entering the water, Ceane arrived with a backboard and together they retrieved the victim from the pool. After calling 911, Komarzec gathered the AED while Spitzley and Ceane administered CPR on the victim. A public safety officer arrived on the scene. Together, the public safety officer and Komarzec operated the AED and delivered a shock to the victim. Michigan Technological University’s campus Emergency Management Services arrived on the scene and took over care of the victim.

For this heroic and lifesaving action, Komarzec, Spitzley, and Ceane will receive the Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders in a ceremony at Michigan Technological University Student Development Complex Pool on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at 3:30 p.m. EST.

The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is a national recognition and is the highest award given by the Red Cross to individuals or group of individuals who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. This action exemplifies the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress.

“We’re extremely proud to present a Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders to these individuals” said Kathryn Havlorsen, executive director of the Red Cross Northcentral Region of Wisconsin. “Leah, Skyler and Brett you exemplify the mission of the American Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. We commend you and your willingness to help another in distress and respond to the emergency. You truly are lifesavers.” 

Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere; they can be minor or life-changing and everything in between. You only need to look into the eyes of someone who has been saved to know the appreciation they have when others jump in with immediate actions – these immediate actions can double the chances of a person’s survival.

“I don’t have the words to describe how proud I am of them,” said Annie Bengry, Aquatics Manager, at Michigan Technological University. “Their ability to identify and respond to an unfolding emergency was impeccable. They worked together as a team with speed and confidence. They each played such a vital role in the emergency response that day and because of that, they saved the patron’s life. I am excited that they are being recognized for their amazing acts. These acts would not be possible without the training and resources provided by the American Red Cross.”

Bengry will also be recognized by the Red Cross and will be awarded an instructor lapel pin and certificate for her lifesaving efforts.

Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency and save a life. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at

“We are proud to honor these individuals for their courageous actions,” Halvorsen said. “We hope that their story will inspire others to learn these lifesaving skills. We need more heroes in the community who are trained and ready to jump into action.”

If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit American Red Cross Lifesaving Awards to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.

More than 4.6M people turn to us, the trusted training provider for First Aid, CPR, BLS and more, every year to gain lifesaving skills. Trust us to deliver unmatched lifesaving training that will provide you the confidence and skills to act when moments matter. Learn more about Red Cross Training and Certification here:

You’re invited: fundraising gala celebrates southeastern Wisconsin heroes, supports Red Cross mission

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

The 2023 Brave Hearts fundraising gala is approaching soon and will be a night guaranteed to inspire all! There is no better way to celebrate as a community than by honoring this year’s heroes from southeast Wisconsin and supporting the humanitarian mission of the American Red Cross.

The fun-filled night at Kohl’s Innovation Center will begin at 5 p.m., Thursday, May 11 and features Honorary Chairs Peggy Williams-Smith, Visit Milwaukee CEO and Mark Kass, Editor, Milwaukee Business Journal. This year’s event will include inspiring hero stories, alluring auction items and many opportunities to join the Red Cross mission. Auction items will be available online for bidding.

Tickets are now on sale and will be available through the start of the event.

Chosen across a handful of categories, honorees at this year’s Brave Hearts represent the best in spirit, service and action in our communities. The 2023 heroes are:

  • Hero of the Year, Det. Andrew Wilkiewicz, Milwaukee County
  • Adult Good Samaritan Hero, Nancy Piscina, Milwaukee County
  • Community Safety, Security & Resiliency Hero, Gualien Smith, Milwaukee County
  • Emergency Response Hero, Rebekah McAleese, Milwaukee County
  • From the Heart Hero, Charlotte Yourell and Family, Waukesha County
  • Military Hero, Chris Kolenda, Milwaukee County
  • Youth Good Samaritan Hero, Essence Collier, Racine County

Brave Hearts is made possible by incredible, generous support from organizations in southeast Wisconsin. Lead supporters this year include William Murgas, Northwestern Mutual, Kohl’s, Molson Coors, Brewers Community Foundation, Halo, Johnson Controls and Snap-on. All proceeds benefit the programs and people helped by the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross.

For info on ticketing & the event, email Lisa Weisman

Donate blood at the Green Bay Packers Give Back Community Blood Drive May 8 during Trauma Awareness Month

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Join the American Red Cross for the Green Bay Packers Give Back Community Blood Drive Monday, May 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Lambeau Field in the Johnsonville Tailgate Village, located in the east parking lot outside the American Family Insurance Gate.

Free parking will be available in lot 4 off Lombardi Avenue. Appointments are strongly encouraged. Walk-ins will be taken as space allows.

All presenting donors can enter into a raffle for a chance to win great prizes from the Packers and receive a free giveaway item, while supplies last. In celebration of Mother’s Day, all donors who present to give will also receive a single flower from Flowerama, while supplies last.

May is Trauma Awareness month and the Red Cross encourages eligible donors to give blood to help ensure a sufficient supply of blood is available for patient emergencies. Each year traumas account for 41 million emergency department visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions across the nation, according to the National Trauma Institute. A person involved in a car accident may need as many as 100 units of blood. Your donation can help save lives.

“Many people don’t understand the importance of having blood on the shelves, especially when the unexpected happens,” said Mark Thomas, CEO and Regional Executive for the Red Cross of Wisconsin. “You never know when you or a loved one will be the one in need. I encourage anyone who is able to donate to take an hour out of their day and give back.”

Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at or use the Blood Donor App.

Red Cross Clubs recognized for sharing the spirit of service during National Volunteer Month

By Katie Baneck, American Red Cross

This April we recognize all those who give their time and energy during National Volunteer Month. Each year, we shine a light on people that inspire us to serve, recognize their work, and thank volunteers who lend their time, talent and voice to make a difference in their communities. Doing good comes in many forms and we recognize and celebrate them all.

During National Volunteer Month, we appreciate and say thank you to all the Wisconsin Red Cross Clubs. They are truly helping the American Red Cross provide lifesaving blood and fulfilling its mission.

Left Alexa Schurtz, right Neely Swanson

Red Cross Clubs are a terrific way for youth and young adults, ages 13-24, to get involved with every facet of the Red Cross Mission. Across Wisconsin, there are 18 active Red Cross clubs, including 6 college clubs and 12 at the high school level. These clubs encompass more than 480 dedicated Red Cross volunteers ages 13-24. For the 2022-2023 school year alone, these clubs have amassed more than 2,200 volunteer hours, raised more than $2,800 and collected nearly 2,000 units of blood.

Around 8 years ago, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus started a Red Cross Club. “My favorite part about being in the Red Cross Club is feeling that I am making a difference within the community,” shares Club President Neely Swanson. “I am positive the club was started out of student passion for volunteer work.”

Left Olivia Ratchman, right Neely Swanson

Neely’s Red Cross Club at UW-Eau Claire was chosen as Wisconsin Region Club of the Year, with Neely being named College Club President of the Year. Neely sought to join a club during her first year of college and knew she wanted to join one she could really dedicate herself to, aspiring to assume a leadership role at some point. Neely says she was drawn to the Red Cross Club on campus because of the volunteer opportunities and the impact they had on the community. When asked for any words of encouragement to students considering joining their own Red Cross Club, Neely shared that “for students, being involved in an organization like this is a great way to meet new people and develop connections that could be beneficial later in life.”

High school students Nitya Patil and Mihika Shivakumar are co-presidents of the Red Cross Club at Vel Phillips Memorial High School in Madison. The students at Vel Phillips were the first high school club to reach their volunteer hours goal this year. Nitya founded the club in 2021 because she wanted to bring the Red Cross mission to Vel Phillips Memorial and expand volunteering opportunities for students. Nitya says that her favorite part about being involved in the club is “watching our school community come together to make a difference by volunteering.”

2023 Neenah High School Red Cross Club

The Neenah High School Red Cross Club is in its second year of action. They’re on track to log 100 volunteer hours by the end of the school year. The Club is led by Advisor Emily Bennett and President Leah Forget. This year completed a Map-a-Thon using MapSwipe, hosted a fundraiser in conjunction with the high school basketball season, and welcomed a guest speaker from our Disaster Cycle Services department.

Getting involved in your school’s Red Cross Club is as easy as reaching out and showing up. If you want to start your own Red Cross Club, the Red Cross offers free resources here. We hope that you feel inspired to go out and join or start a Red Cross Club.

During this National Volunteer Week, we salute our Red Cross volunteers, celebrate their accomplishments and recognize each and every one of them for their lifesaving work. Without these volunteer heroes the Red Cross could not achieve our mission of helping people in need.

More than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce is volunteers. Last year, more than 300,000 individuals volunteered their time to support the mission of the Red Cross.

Our volunteers are the sincere heart and soul of the Red Cross. With endless compassion and dedication, Red Cross volunteers give of themselves whenever and wherever they are needed. You, too, can help.

Please consider becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit to learn more, or make an appointment to give blood by visiting

Thankful to be alive and for the services of the Red Cross 

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross 

Oscar Balderas and Kisiah Johnson are two long-time residents of the Monona Hills Apartments, and both woke to the sounds of smoke alarms and commotion at 3:42 a.m. on a Saturday morning, March 18 2023, in their respective apartments.

Monona Hills Apartments, photo by Laura McGuire

Johnson called the fire department to confirm that the smoke alarms were indeed a fire warning and not a false alarm. Grabbing her coat, purse, and keys, she went out of her apartment. While walking down the smoke-filled halls, she saw other residents in a dazed state still waking up. She escorted one lady out of the building in a nightgown and another lady who is visually impaired down the stairs to find safety outside as firefighters and police were knocking on doors asking all to exit the building.

The day before the fire, Balderas moved from one apartment to another apartment within the building never expecting the worst to happen. When hearing the alarms, Balderas retrieved his coat before heading out the door and helping others out of the building. “I help. That’s me,” Balderas said. “If I can help you, I’ll help you, but I mean the people that live there are like my family. We’ve known each other for you know, a long time and we just have to help each other. It doesn’t matter what race you are; you have to become one people and I just helped them as much as I could.”

Kisiah Johnson and Oscar Balderas, photo by Laura McGuire

All apartments in the 70-unit apartment building have been evacuated.

The temperature was a blustery 9 degrees Fahrenheit with 15 mph winds making conditions frigid. “It was really, really cold,” said Johnson. The Red Cross was there handing out socks and blankets to help comfort the residents exposed to the cold temperatures.

St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, across the parking lot from the apartment building, opened its doors for those displaced, serving as a reunification center for residents which turned into a Red Cross shelter.

Newton being comforted by his owner, photo by Laura McGuire

Balderas and Johnson have no family in the area, so for them they were glad to see the Red Cross in action providing comfort and care in their time of need. Both had been through fires before. Johnson surviving a fire in her youth in Chicago. “Things can be replaced,” explained Johnson. “I am just thankful to be alive. I am so thankful for the Red Cross services that they were “Johnny-on-the-spot” so soon after and for all the first responders who helped.” 

Both Balderas and Johnson were distraught, and their adrenaline was running high, but it was clear their attitudes of positivity will carry them through their recovery. They were glad to receive a hot meal, hot coffee, a Red Cross personal hygiene kit providing essentials, and hugs and comfort from Red Cross staff and volunteers.

Johnson was also proud to say, she gave blood to the Red Cross as recently as a couple of days before the fire. While seeing the Red Cross hold a blood drive at her work, she was happy to learn that she was eligible to donate, and she rolled up her sleeve and gave a pint of blood.

When the dust settles for Johnson she hopes to become a Red Cross volunteer and help others.

If anyone is impacted by this fire and needs help please call the Red Cross at 1-800-236-8680.

The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers to provide hope to those in need. Please see our website for more information on how you too and become a Red Cross volunteer:

Red Cross disaster action team volunteer, photo by Laura McGuire

Sounding the Alarm for Home Fire Safety 

By Tom Ruse, American Red Cross 

Home fires claim an average of seven lives every day! As the American Red Cross of Wisconsin gears up for the annual Home Fire Campaign to encourage home fire readiness, we are sharing practical experiences from residents who’ve “been there”. 

Evelyn Rodgers from Milwaukee explains how she, and her mother and daughter have learned from experiencing fire in their home in Milwaukee.

“It was an electrical fire, which means it was in the walls,” said Evelyn Rodgers. “You could smell it. I had no power to the upstairs part of my house. When I went upstairs to the bathroom, I felt the heat. I looked towards the shower and saw smoke. I yelled down to my mom and daughter to put their shoes and coat on as I dialed 911,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers continues to say, “(The Red Cross was) very helpful. I spoke to a mental health/spiritual advisor, my daughter talked to a counselor, and my mom was able to get her medication replaced. They constantly checked on me to see where I was on my house journey and how I was doing overall.” 

Better days ahead! Evelyn and her mother and daughter (Left-right Pat, E’Monni , Evelyn )

Having lived through this, Rodgers explains how they now prepare for the future.

“Any time my daughter hears a smoke detector she thinks it is a fire. She constantly touches the walls to make sure they are not hot. She does not like crawl spaces. She is 5 so I know it was scary for her. We check the smoke detector regularly. My daughter even makes sure we check them every night. We also have an escape plan and a spot to meet up if the situation ever occurs again. I also had my in-laws come check the wiring to see if it was up to code.”  

Shanetta Hudson, from Milwaukee, experienced a fire in her apartment building when a neighbor fell asleep while cooking. While she and her son were alerted in time and got out safely, they lost everything they owned. 

“The fire department came, kicked the door in, told us to leave. It was terrifying! Hudson explained, “We lost everything. But the Red Cross was very helpful in a major way. I appreciate everything they did and so quickly. They help me get moved to a new location very quickly. And they provided us with air mattresses so we wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor when we first moved in. I actually had them before we moved in. They gave us vouchers to use at Salvation Army for clothes and supplies and such. If it were not for the Red Cross, I’d still be in a shelter.” 

“We did have working smoke alarms and will continue to make sure we do,” said Hudson.

Home fires claim seven lives every day but having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half. 

The American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign helps save lives by installing free smoke alarms in homes that do not have them, and by educating people about home fire safety. 

To schedule a FREE smoke alarm installation visit: or call 1-888-376-4056.  

We are also rallying volunteers to install free smoke alarms, as part of our nationwide Sound the Alarm events. See the following volunteering opportunities in the area:

Saturday, April 15, 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 

M3 Insurance 
828 John Nolen Drive 
Madison, WI 53713 

To volunteer CLICK HERE 

Saturday, May 6, 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. 

Milwaukee Safety Academy 
6680 N. Teutonia Ave, 
Milwaukee, WI 53209 

To volunteer: CLICK HERE 

Learn more about the Home Fire Campaign and how you can prevent and prepare for home fires visit: