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