Receiving blood is receiving life – local mom receives precious gift over the holidays

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

The American Red Cross’ 2021 holiday message – “Give With Meaning” – resonates with the sentiments that Tracy Rose from Madison celebrates each day.

Four years ago during the holidays, Rose experienced pregnancy complications with her second child. She was diagnosed with placenta previa which threatened both her and her baby’s life. In order for both of them to survive she required a blood transfusion.  

Ten hours and two pints of blood later, Rose and her baby’s condition significantly improved. Several weeks later, Rose went on to deliver a healthy baby girl, that they named Maya.

Tracy Rose, right, poses for a family photo with, from left, her husband Chris Teetaert, Maya, Oliver and their dog Rayden. Rose is grateful for blood donations that helped her family through a pregnancy complications.

“I was very hesitant at first (to receive blood) as I have always been a person to donate blood, not get blood,” said Rose. “Without this blood transfusion, I would have perished, and my baby’s life would have been compromised, too. When the final drops were in, I remember taking a deep sigh of relief. I cannot thank donors across the world more for this gift of life.”

Currently, Rose is not eligible to donate blood. However, she encourages others to “Give With Meaning” by coordinating Red Cross blood drives twice a year at Millapore Sigma, where she is employed.

“I am so glad the Red Cross is here for people in times of need,” said Rose. “Thank you for saving my life, my baby’s life, and my family’s life.”

The Red Cross of Wisconsin region provides numerous opportunities for eligible blood donors to give blood this holiday season. That includes four signature drives, each with holiday flair and giveaways:

  • The 36th annual Madison Holiday Blood Drive, Dec. 23 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Exhibition Hall in the Alliant Energy Center, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison.
  • The Green Bay Holiday Blood Drive, Dec. 23, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. John the Baptist School, 2561 Glendale Ave., Green Bay and Dec. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ashwaubenon Community Center, 900 Anderson Drive, Ashwaubenon.
  • The Chippewa Valley Holiday Blood Drive, Dec. 22 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Red Cross Northwest Chapter, 3728 Spooner Ave., Altoona.
  • Milwaukee Day of Donations Blood Drive, Dec. 29 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Tripoli Shrine Center, 3000 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee.
  • The La Crosse Holiday Drive will be held over two days, on Dec. 8, from noon to 6 p.m. at Pearl Street Brewery, 1401 St. Andrew St., and Dec. 9, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel, 200 Second St.

Appointments are strongly encouraged. Walk-ins will be taken as space allows.

You can “Give With Meaning” this holiday season. Schedule an appointment to donate blood at an upcoming blood drive by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also find ways to make a financial donation or join us as a volunteer at RedCross.org.

Service to veterans comes full circle with father’s Honor Flight

By Michelle Matuszak, American Red Cross

Ron Matuszak, left, and his daughter Michelle Matuszak, at the airport in Appleton ahead of his first-ever veterans Honor Flight in September.

Since June 2018, I have spent countless mornings brewing coffee and gathering supplies for troop sendoff ceremonies and welcome home celebrations. As the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Regional Manager at the American Red Cross, it is my honor and privilege to serve veterans, military and their families at these powerful and important events.

However, on a recent, mid-September morning, it was my turn to send off someone dear to me – my father, Ronald Matuszak. A Vietnam War Veteran, he was bound for Washington, D.C. with the Old Glory Honor Flight out of Appleton.

I was excited for him on this special day, especially knowing that I’d see him again in just a few hours. It was an amazing opportunity for him and his fellow veterans to share memories and reflect on their time in the service among the awe-inspiring monuments. And it brought home once again that unique position I am so proud to hold, as someone who serves veterans every day – including my own dad.

From 1967-70, my father served in the United States Army as part of the 551st Light Maintenance Company under the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment stationed in Xuân Lộc, Vietnam. His main role was vehicle mechanic but he also drove in convoys. Upon his return home to the Green Bay area to work and raise our family, my father rarely talked about his military service. I’ve come to learn this is common, especially for those who served in Vietnam. Most of the pictures or anecdotes I’d hear came up actually from my maternal grandmother, who was active as a Gold Star Mother in military memorial services in our community.

But when the opportunity for this honor flight came up, my dad became very eager to join. In one way, this flight opened him up to talking more about his service. He was excited for this present-day link to his service. He also teased me that I had “connections” and should be able to get him on a flight ASAP. After COVID put a pause on flights, we were able to reserve his seat for the flight a few weeks ago.

On the flight itself, he was able to bond with other veterans, from Vietnam and other wars and branches. In the nation’s Capitol, my father was able to spend important time reflecting and sharing stories at sites such as the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and Arlington Cemetery. The Old Glory Honor Flight team provided him with such good care and memorabilia, like a framed headshot and picture of their group from that day. (He hung it up at his house – and promised me he didn’t have to remove or cover up any of our other family pictures to find space!)

Ron Matuszak at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. during the Old Glory Honor Flight. Ron was one of dozens of Wisconsin veterans who went on the one-day trip.

The part of the trip he can’t stop talking about came near the end, on the return flight after what was no doubt a long and emotional day. The Honor Flight team announced “mail call,” and shared with each veteran on board a packet of letters. For my dad, that included 15 or so letters and drawings from our family. He didn’t see that coming and it added a nice personal touch as myself and my family gave him the welcome home that he didn’t get coming back from Vietnam in 1970. (And this welcome home included a big hug from me.) 

Family relations aside, the sacrifice and service of our nation’s veterans is always present to me from my role at the Red Cross. Whether it is helping secure emergency lodging for a veteran and their family or donating much needed items to our four VA Medical Centers and three State Veterans Homes, the Red Cross is committed to working alongside the armed forces.

When the SAF team provides Get to Know Us Before You Need Us briefings at premobilization events, it’s rewarding to be able to truly share with members of the military, veterans, and their families that the Red Cross is behind them every step of the way. From Emergency Communications to Reconnection Workshops, we provide quality services to all who serve and served. I know our loyal SAF volunteers and staff are eager for a full return to these programs and all of these veteran and military sendoffs as we hopefully turn the corner on the pandemic.  

As my dad returned from his round-trip, one-day immersive reflection on his military service, I have also come full circle with my father and my profession. Like I wrote my father in his “mail call” letter, I’m grateful he was able to take this flight and I am so proud of him for his service to our country.

You can find programs and resources for veterans, service members and military families. You can also join our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) volunteers. Click here to get involved in Red Cross support of veterans, service members and military families.

Toddler’s family inspired to give back: “Donating blood truly saves lives”

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Violet Prust is a happy and energetic four-year-old.

In April 2020, she was diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia. Throughout her treatments she has received many blood transfusions.

“The most recent blood transfusion was one of the scariest,” said Korbyn Prust, Violet’s mother. “We would have definitely lost her had it not been for blood donors. Donating blood truly saves lives.”

Violet is doing well and is in the maintenance phase of her treatment. However, in the near future, there is a possibility she will require more transfusions.

After seeing Violet’s need for blood products, the family wants to give back and ensure other families have blood available to them when it’s needed.

The Prust family will host a Red Cross blood drive in honor of Violet on Wednesday, Nov. 17 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Watertown Senior Citizens Center, 514 S. First St. in Watertown. The public is invited to make an appointment for this blood drive in honor of Violet to keep the blood inventory stable for all those who rely on blood transfusions.

Donating blood with the Red Cross is a simple act of kindness you can do in about an hour and can help patients like Violet.

Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Wisconsin Region spotlight: Q&A with Jenny Legaspi

Every few months, we’re highlighting the incredible work toward the mission of the American Red Cross by one of our colleagues in the Wisconsin Region. Hopefully these short profiles provide a little light of positivity and inspiration across all lines of service in our humanitarian mission.

This latest profile is on Jenny Legaspi, a Disaster Program Manager based in Altoona with a drive that has brought her to humanitarian missions across the U.S. during the past 15 years. Questions were asked by members of the Region communications team, and edited for style and space.

American Red Cross: Tell us a little about your professional background and your role at the Red Cross, including some roles you’ve held during disasters.

Jenny Legaspi: I was introduced to the American Red Cross when a local disaster volunteer came and spoke to my class when I was a student at UW-Oshkosh. I decided to apply for an internship with the Red Cross and was fortunate to get connected to the Red Cross Outagamie Chapter in Appleton. I learned so much about the Red Cross and became very interested in pursuing a career in Disaster Services. After completing my 250-hour internship, my next Red Cross journey was an AmeriCorps member with the Red Cross West Bend Chapter in West Bend for one-and-a-half years. I supported the disaster preparedness program and became a DAT (Disaster Action Team) and national disaster responder. 

Jenny Legaspi dons a throwback Red Cross nursing outfit during a staff event.

My first opportunity to serve in a national Disaster Relief Operations (DRO) came in September 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. I spent three weeks in Lafayette, La. helping in a shelter that housed over 10,000 evacuees doing sheltering, feeding and casework. But just a couple of days before my deployment, I was interviewed for the Disaster Services Director position in the Red Cross Marathon County Chapter in Wausau. Sometime around the second week of my deployment, the Executive Director from Marathon County Chapter called and offered me the position! I still joke that I accepted the job because I was so tired and did realize what I was committing to. I also thought to myself that there had to be a reason that the call came through my cell phone when we were having so many difficulties with cell service in the area. So, in October 2005 after I came back from my deployment, I relocated to Wausau and spent three years with the Marathon County Chapter. In September 2008, I was offered a Disaster Services Director position at the Northwest Wisconsin Chapter office in Altoona. Since then, Eau Claire has been my home.

Since joining the Red Cross, I have been involved in several disaster relief operations (DRO) in Wisconsin, including some of the most devastating floods that affect the state in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Barron and Rusk Counties … were hit by a tornado May 2017 that is recorded to be the longest tornado that stayed on the ground in the state.

Some of the Relief Operations I’ve supported outside of Wisconsin include 2014 spring flooding in Illinois, California 2017 wildfires, Iowa tornadoes in 2018, Hurricane Lane & wildfires in Hawaii in 2018, Hurricane Florence in 2018 & Hurricane Dorian 2029 in North Carolina, and, last year, the major dam break in Michigan and wildfires in Oregon.

Positions I get assigned to during DROs are DRO Director, District Director, Government or Community Partner Liaison, or a Staff Advocate. I’ve also worked as a shelter worker, caseworker and disaster assessment team member during past operations. 

Each disaster response and deployment are unique. You learn and grow from each experience and from the people we work with. 

The mission of the Red Cross connects us to so many people. Can you share an anecdote about someone whose life was affected by your role or work at the Red Cross?

When I was in Lafayette during Hurricane Katrina working as a Red Cross caseworker, I assisted a mother with her Red Cross case. She told me that her and her son were separated when they had to evacuate their home in New Orleans. Her son left to help his girlfriend’s mom who was home-bound. She did not expect that their home was going to be impacted and that he was not going be able to return home. She had not been able to reach her son since the day she left home. Unfortunately, her cell phone along with all her belongs she had with her got wet when she had to evacuate so her phone was no longer working.

The day I was leaving, she came and looked for me to tell me she just picked-up her Red Cross client assistance card … and was on her way to get that new cell phone. We helped her during that time of need, but I never got the chance to find out what happened next. I left shortly after we spoke since those of us who are able to go back home were told we had to fly home since Hurricane Rita is making landfall. To this day, I still get a little emotional when I tell their story. I think about her and her son and wonder what happened next. 

Legaspi, middle, brainstorms service needs with colleagues during the recent Red Cross humanitarian response to thousands of evacuees with Afghanistan temporarily housed at Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin.

How do you explain what you do to people outside the Red Cross?

The Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services is like a giant puzzle. It has many pieces, but we need each one complete the picture. We have disaster workforce who provide essential services to disaster victims (food, safe place to stay, comfort, care, recovery support), Red Cross liaisons who work with community partners during planning, response, and recovery, we train and prepare disaster volunteers to be ready to mobilize, we provide information to the public of Red Cross response and donation needs, and we also work internally with other team members within Red Cross. Each piece is different but they all fit together. When the puzzle if complete, you see the full picture of Red Cross Disaster Relief Operations.

What is your hidden talent? Or a hobby you have that people may not know about?

I enjoy cooking. I learned my Filipino cooking skills from my grandma and aunts. I picked-up American cooking skills from when I worked at a senior living apartment kitchen as a waitstaff and cook for six years. When we moved to the US in 1992, I did not know how to cook American food. Even when we made spaghetti, it was Filipino style. [Laughs]

Has anyone in your immediately circle (family or friends) been helped by the Red Cross? If so, how?

Before I started with the Red Cross, my aunt and uncle had a house fire and I remember seeing Red Cross volunteers arriving at their house to offer assistance. The fire department had called them to offer assistance. Luckily, the fire was contained in the laundry room and was put out very quickly. My aunt and uncle had lots of family in the area who were able to assist them, so they decided to decline Red Cross assistance. But it was very nice to see that if they did need help, Red Cross was there.

What does the Red Cross mean to you?  

Working in Disaster Cycle Services is unpredictable at times and could be stressful. But when a disaster client thanks you or give you a hug for helping them … a volunteer tells you they appreciate being part of our team and thanks you for calling them to help … and when you hear a partner praise the Red Cross … you get that combination of happy/satisfying/excited/fulfilling feeling that picks you up and motivates you to keep going and keep trying to do your best because you are making a difference. 

What would you say to inspire someone to join the Red Cross as a blood donor, volunteer or supporter?

My Red Cross journey started with one person, the disaster volunteer who came and spoke to my class. What she talked about sparked enough interested in me to check on the Red Cross. I started as an intern, became a disaster volunteer and now I’m a 15-year employee. 

I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to talk to someone from the Red Cross when they have the opportunity and get a glimpse of what it means to be a volunteer, blood donor or a financial donor – and the hundreds of thousands of lives touched by the Red Cross each day. The reports, statistics, posts, articles about the Red Cross work will bring it to a personal level when you hear from someone who has received assistance from Red Cross and from those who made it happen. You will realize that if you want to help, you can do that in many ways in the Red Cross.

Lifesaving skills at Columbus school contribute to extraordinary outcome, national recognition

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Karin Westlake, Janet Pacala and Kelly Towne helped save a life by using their American Red Cross training in First Aid, CPR and AED. For their heroic and lifesaving actions, on Sept. 16 they received the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action.  

Kyle Kriegl, Executive Director, Southwest Wisconsin Chapter of the Red Cross, presented the certificates during a recent virtual board meeting.

“The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is given to individuals, like Karin, Janet and Kelly who step up in an emergency situation and help save or sustain a life,” said Kriegl. “These individuals exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies and are to be commended for their willingness to help another in distress.”

Kelly Towne, Janet Pacala and Karin Westlake pose with their national life-saving recognitions from the American Red Cross.

On March 1, 2020, Westlake, and Pacala, members of the Building Emergency Response Team at Columbus Elementary School, heard a colleague call for help. When they arrived on site, they found the victim unconscious and unresponsive. That’s when their training and instincts set in.

You can be trained in CPR, First Aid, lifeguarding and other life-saving skills. Sign up here for virtual and in-person lessons from the American Red Cross.

Pacala called 911 and requested the school’s automated external defibrillator (AED). Westlake began cardiopulmonary compressions and they both continued to perform compressions and rescue breaths on their colleague until Towne, a Columbus Police Officer, arrived on the scene. Towne immediately accessed the situation and performed cardiopulmonary compressions. EMT’s arrived shortly thereafter and took the lead on care. 

Thanks to the efforts and skills of three courageous women, the survivor has recovered and is doing well. This was the first save for all three women.

Columbus School District Superintendent, Annette Deuman, nominated the women for the award. She is proud of their efforts and encourages all staff to have lifesaving skills. “I couldn’t be prouder of these ladies,” said Deuman. “They did everything beautifully and performed their lifesaving skills correctly and accurately leading to a fantastic outcome.” Deuman, too, has a connection with the Red Cross as a frequent blood donor and has nominated others in her career for Red Cross Lifesaving Awards. 

Westlake resides in Columbus and works in the Columbus school district, where she holds the position of Dean of Students/Assistant Principal at Columbus Elementary School. Her position requires her to be First Aid, CPR and AED certified and she encourages everyone to get certified. “You never know when you’ll need to use these skills,” said Westlake. “I never thought I’d have to use the skills I learned, but I am so proud that I had them, and I was able to help save a life.”

Pacala resides in Beaver Dam and for the last 16 years has worked at Columbus Elementary School as an Educational Support Professional. Even though her position does not require her to be First Aid, CPR and AED certified, she holds the credentials. “You never know when a friend, family member or stranger will be in an emergency situation,” said Pacala. “If you see someone in need, you need to be prepared to jump in and help.” Janet has seen the mission of the Red Cross in action throughout her life – as a blood recipient she is grateful for blood donors and when flooding hit the Columbus community years back, her parents were aided in evacuation efforts by the Red Cross. 

Towne resides in Columbus and for the last 17 years, has worked at the Columbus Police Department as an officer. Her position required her to be First Aid, CPR and AED certified. She believes that Westlake and Pacala’s immediate actions with starting CPR compressions contributed to a successful outcome. “As a police officer, I am trained and know it’s always good to have a plan and be prepared,” said Towne. “I wish more people would be CPR certified and not be scared to use the skills.”

The survivor, who asked to remain anonymous, is coincidentally First Aid, CPR and AED certified. “I would have never thought I would have been the one receiving CPR, I think it is so important for everyone to know CPR skills as you never know when you will need to help another person. I am so grateful for Karin, Janet and Kelly for knowing what to do and for saving my life. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”

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 redcross.org/takeaclass.

Janesville native makes ‘time to give back’ for those suffering amid wildfires

By Kay Elmsley Weeden, American Red Cross

Jamie Stahl has seen his share of disasters, but he was still ready to deploy this July the moment the call came as part of the American Red Cross response to the western wildfires. When a second call came in August, he was ready to help people then, too.  

As an American Red Cross disaster cycle services volunteer for four years, Stahl is familiar with the need to quickly travel to places where a natural disaster strikes and help to address the immediate and long-term needs of the affected families. In July, he was one of many volunteers sent to the western United States to assist families who had lost so much to the fires. He was deployed to Lakeview, Ore., originally for two weeks, to set up shelters for families displaced by the recent summer wildfires.  

Jamie Stahl, of Janesville, stands in front of a disaster relief trailer parked outside a shelter set up during wildfires in Oregon in July 2021. Submitted photo

“Our goal is to be there for people during a really hard time. We try to make sure they have what they need and we are there to listen and help address their concerns,” said Stahl.  

For a collection of individuals, the new shelter is now their temporary place of respite, supported by red-vested Red Cross responders. Each person is welcomed into their short-term home with a safe place to sleep, food, drinking water most of all, compassion. Here is a place where volunteers strive to reduce the stress and fear for families who may not have had much notice to leave their homes and who may have lost everything. Medical professionals are also available to address any health concerns, including replacing medication left from a hasty exit. The Red Cross collaborates with local agencies to provide assistance for pets to ensure a safe place for them as well.

As a Red Cross shelter supervisor, Jamie’s job duties include establishing the shelter is set up properly with sleeping areas with cots, certify that it is ADA accessible, make certain toilets and showers are functioning as needed, ensure there are feeding and snack areas, and help create separate areas for people to just hang out and decompress. Beyond that, his main task is to engage with everybody staying there – every day. 

Working shifts are typically 12 hours daily, although that can vary depending on factors such as shelter population and the ability for people to safely return home. On this initial deployment, Stahl and some other Red Crossers were able to return ahead of their two-week commitment. But just a few weeks later, wildfires kicked up again, and this time Stahl was deployed to northern California to help during a time when nearly two-dozen shelters or evacuation points were opened for hundreds of people in crisis.

Stahl started as a blood donor ambassador for drives in Janesville four years ago. While he still serves in that role monthly, he has filled much-needed roles as a sheltering supervisor, shelter associate, logistics warehousing. He is also qualified in delivering meals and driving Red Cross emergency response vehicle (ERV). Reflecting on the humanitarian work in high-pressure environments, Stahl he feels grateful for the chance to offer his time and compassion.  

“Life has been good to me and it’s time for me to give back,” he said. “I have the luxury of locking my apartment door and taking off to help where I am needed most.”

With a rise in disasters across the country and in our own backyard, the Red Cross is looking for more humanitarians to join our disaster action teams. Sign up and find details at redcross.org/DAT.

Spiderman, Giannis and you: join the heroes in a 17-year-old Milwaukee boy’s life

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Spiderman is 17-year-old Demarus Torrence’s favorite superhero. Like so many Milwaukee sports fans, he’s also crazy about Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

His mother, Passion Terrell’s, favorite larger-than-life hero? Anyone who donates blood.

Demarus Torrence poses with a Star Wars storm trooper, part of a dream-come-true trip to ComiCon a few years ago with the Make A Wish Foundation. Demarus has sickle cell disease and his family is encouraging people to donate blood to help him and others battling the painful illness.

That’s because Demarus suffers from the pains and plight of sickle cell disease. The ravages of the disease cause “pain crises” that at times require monthly blood transfusions and regular hospital stays. The fan of comics and sci-fi flicks showed his own bravery in merely battling through this affliction.

“Just imagine someone hitting your back with a hammer, constantly, and it just won’t stop. [Demarus] describes it and you can picture it, but you really can’t,” his mother said.

About 100,000 people in the U.S., most of whom are of African or Latino descent, are living with sickle cell disease. Regular blood transfusions are often a critical treatment for sickle cell patients. In fact, a single sickle cell patient can require multiple blood transfusions per year throughout their lifetime to treat complications from sickle cell disease. 

Demarus is the only person in his immediate family with the disease, though later testing revealed other family members who carry the sickle cell trait that can cause the disease. As a mother, Terrell has made it her mission to care for her beloved son and to inspire others to give blood – especially African Americans and people who have never donated. A sickle cell patient in need is more likely to find a compatible blood match from a donor of the same race or a similar ethnicity.

“I think I’ve gotten better over the years. I was a nervous wreck when he was smaller; I was probably overprotective,” she said, later adding, “You kind of feel hopeless.”

On Sept. 3, from noon until 5 p.m., the American Red Cross is teaming up with Passion and Demarus for a blood drive at his high school, MacDowell Montessori School, 6415 W. Mt. Vernon Ave., Milwaukee, 53213. All blood donors are welcome. To make an appointment at this drive, use the ZIP code 53213 in the search at RedCrossBlood.org or enter the promo code SCstrong.

Passion Terrell smiles with her son, Demarus. She said she’s felt “hopeless” at times watching her son in pain from sickle cell disease, which is why she’s teaming up with the American Red Cross to inspire blood donors at an upcoming drive.

The Red Cross and Passion’s new sickle cell awareness organization, The Strongest Warriors: Sickle Cell Strong, are encouraging African American blood donors to participate in this life-saving collection. About 30 donors are anticipated for this drive though numerous other drives are happening across Wisconsin during September, which is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month.

Terrell knows firsthand the “superpower” that blood donors share when making donations that help people like Demarus.

“It’s amazing, once he gets that blood in him, it’s like a different person. His breathing improves, his blood levels improve … it’s like his body wakes up,” Terrell said.

At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross in April added sickle cell trait screening for self-identified African American blood donors. Tens of thousands of donors have taken advantage of this new feature over the past four months. This information is shared with donors as part of the update process in the weeks after having donated blood.

To make an appointment at a drive during Sickle Cell Awareness Month, visit RedCrossBlood.org, download the free Red Cross Blood Donor app from your app store or call (800) RED CROSS (733-2767).

Heroes, golf and goodies, all for a good cause at Northeast Wisconsin Heroes Classic

By American Red Cross staff

The American Red Cross will once again shine a light on heroes in northeast Wisconsin this September at an event that mixes inspiring stories, cool auction items, one-of-a-kind golf and support in the community.

The 2021 Northeast Wisconsin Heroes Classic will be held Sept. 1-19, through a mix of in-person golf and online engagement that benefits the mission of the American Red Cross in Wisconsin. The highlight of the event is the introduction of local heroes, from a variety of backgrounds and good deeds.

“These heroes give such a positive reminder of the good in our communities and it’s our privilege to honor each and every person,” said Steve Hansen, Executive Director, Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross. “It’s just that much better to recognize these local heroes in a way that includes the fun of golf and a silent auction, and spirit of generosity that backs the mission of the Red Cross where we live and work.”

The 2021 Heroes are:

Adult Hero – Sgt. Andrew Miles (Outagamie County)

Animal Hero – Geller with handler Jeff Jorgenson (Winnebago County)

Emergency Responders – Sgt. Christopher Tappen & Deputy Cooper Walker (Brown County)

From the Heart – Percy VanLanen-Knaub, granddaughter Tara Bailey is accepting the award posthumously (Oconto County)

Youth – Parker Wilson (Outagamie County)

Military – Jason Ortscheid, Sam Skiff, Karsen Sherrick & Chris Rosene (Brown County)

Hero of the Year – Carson Molle (Outagamie County)

Golfing for the event can tee off anytime from Sept. 1-19, with in-person golf foursomes at North Shore Golf Club in Menasha. For golf sign-ups/details, contact Steve Hansen at steve.hansen@redcross.org.

The silent auction kicks off at 8 a.m., Sept. 7 and closes at 6 p.m., Sept. 17. To join the silent auction that supports the Red Cross mission as well as see the inspiring hero videos, click here. (Golf is not required for involvement and support; a separate registration for the auction and more are available here: https://e.givesmart.com/events/m1a/)

The Mission Moment sponsor is Northeast Chapter board member Sarah Ann Dressel, with a $15,000 match to double the generosity of event donors. Additional sponsors include: Presenting Sponsor – Schneider; Award Sponsors – Menasha Corporation, Jon & Wendy Suprise, Miller Electric, Paper Transport; Golf Cart Sponsor – Festival Foods; Lunch Sponsor – The Village Companies; and Golf Reception Sponsor – Green Bay Packers Give Back.

Mary Jane Thomsen brings excitement, ownership to new Red Cross leadership role in NW Wisconsin

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Last week, Mary Jane “MJ” Thomsen began her new role as Executive Director for the Northwest Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross. But Thomsen is no stranger to the Red Cross, nor the Midwest.

Thomsen has been Executive Director for the Red Cross’ Greater St. Louis Chapter since April 2018, and she spent the prior nine years leading blood collection efforts for the Red Cross in Missouri and Illinois. Success in those roles meant collaboration with Air Force bases and NHL teams, as well as United Ways and Red Cross Community Volunteer Leaders. Her career began after a triple-major B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota – Duluth, and immersed herself in professional and community affiliations such as Rotary Clubs in St. Louis and Duluth, Association of Donor Recruitment Professionals, and English Springer Rescue America.

As Thomsen settles into this new role, she shared a few key thoughts on her background and the people she “can’t wait to get to know” in her new environs. 

What are you looking forward to most at the start of your time as a leader with the Red Cross in northwest Wisconsin?

Thomsen: “I am very excited to meet the volunteers in the Northwest Wisconsin Chapter. From board members and community volunteer leaders, to all those who work to respond to disaster, support our military members and veterans and coordinate blood drives, I can’t wait to get to know them and the community we serve.”

“Coming out of COVID – and into a new community – I am really looking forward to meeting local Red Crossers in person and spending time learning more about what makes our Chapter unique in the Wisconsin Region.”

What are one or two things you’ve been most proud of with your work so far at the Red Cross?

Thomsen: “In St. Louis, as District Manager of donor recruitment, we were responsible for collecting over 70,000 units of blood annually in our Chapter. Being able to get to know our sponsors and their organizations was a pleasure, and the working relationships and friendships our team created helped us to develop blood programs which were considered signature partnerships for Red Cross.”

“Also in St. Louis, as Executive Director, I was a part of one of the first three regions in the country to begin the One Red Cross Community Engagement Initiative (Beta) models. In this initiative, Humanitarian and Biomedical Services worked closely together to ensure partner relationships were aligned to optimize blood collections and development opportunities.”

Why do you feel the mission of the American Red Cross continues to resonate so strongly in our communities?

“The Red Cross mission is to alleviate human suffering by mobilizing the generosity of volunteers, and our entire workforce is 90% volunteer led. Because we are made up of individuals who are committed to ensuring that our mission and service delivery occur down the street and across the country, each community has a very real ownership of supporting those in the most critical need – when that support is needed most.”

For more on the Northwest Chapter, including Board Directors, click here.

Arrowhead Union H.S. student wins Red Cross scholarship   

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Jesus “Junny” Hernandez of Delafield helped save lives by hosting an American Red Cross blood drive at his church and earned a $1,000 scholarship as a result of his lifesaving efforts. 

As part of the Red Cross Leaders Save Lives program, the student at Arrowhead Union High School hosted a blood drive at First Congregational Church in Hartland on May 28, which collected 44 blood donations. As a result, Hernandez was eligible to be entered into a drawing for a scholarship and was chosen as a winner. He was also awarded a gift card.  

Hernandez intends to study medicine after graduating high school in 2023. He said organizing this blood drive gave him the chance to “feel empowered” in his community and with his passion for healthcare.

“Please host a blood drive. It is a great way to interact with your community and school while still helping people in need,” he said.

Blood donors from high school and college blood drives account for about 20% of donations given through the Red Cross during the school year. The Leaders Save Lives program encourages community-minded high school and college students to host blood drives to help maintain the blood supply for patients in need of lifesaving transfusions.  

Students can sign up to host Leaders Save Lives blood drives during several seasonal timeframes throughout the year. For more information, visit RedCrossBlood.org/LeadersSaveLives

To make an appointment for a blood donation, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call (800) RED CROSS (733-2767) or download the free American Red Cross Blood Donor app from your app store.