On June 26, 2017, American Red Cross Minnesota Region board members sponsored a blood drive celebrating a century of service in Minnesota. The drive honored men and women in uniform who serve our communities. It came at a critical time: during the summer months when blood donations decline. 87 pints of blood were collected at this drive, helping the Red Cross continue supplying hospitals with blood so patients can receive treatment they need. Below, we share stories about some who helped make this lifesaving blood drive a success.
Laura Antelman is an assistant at a rehab facility. She’s pictured here with Coco, who’s being trained as a service dog at PawPADs (Pawsitive Perspectives Assistance Dogs). While service dogs aren’t therapy dogs, they have the same gentle demeanor and help calm people who are afraid of giving blood. Coco did a wonderful job helping people relax, and she got along very well with Laura.
Gene Olesen (pictured left) has donated more than 20 gallons of blood over the past 50 years. He’s been married to Nancy (also pictured), of 48 years. Nancy came with Gene to the drive to donate and to have a lunch date! Less than 7% of the world’s population has Type A negative blood, and Gene is one of them. He says his main reason for donating is to help cancer patients. And despite moving across the country he has continued to donate – from St. Paul to California, and from California to Wisconsin.
Sophia Sexton (far left in photo with friends) is the daughter of Red Cross board member Amy Rolando. It was Sophia’s first blood donation, and she brought 16 of her friends with her. Thank you to Sophia for all the lives she helped save.
Lisa Bardon, the regional accounts manager for the North Central Blood Services Region, shares a caring moment with her husband, Al Wivell (pictured left with Lisa). They both donated blood.
Several donors came in uniform to roll up a sleeve, including Officer Mike Harcey from the St. Louis Park Police Department (pictured left), a first-time donor. He said, “I’ve always wanted to give blood and never made the time. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do it.”
A special thanks goes out to all board members who helped recruit blood donors or helped with the centennial drive. These board members truly demonstrated the Red Cross mission with their hard work. Pictured below, left to right: Amy Rolando, Phil Hansen, Minde Frederick, Jan Hallstrom, Lani Jordan, Joan Purrington, incoming board member Ole Hovde, and Dave Adriansen.
You can help, too The Red Cross is facing a critical blood shortage this summer and has issued an emergency call for eligible blood and platelet donors of all blood types to roll up a sleeve now to help save lives. Blood donations are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, and more donations are needed now to replenish the supply.
This year the Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross honors seven people whose humanity, generosity, and courage show us the best of what we believe a hero to be. Chosen for acts of bravery, kindness, and service ranging from supporting military veterans to donating gallons of blood, these people inspire us to be the best humanity can be every day and during times of crisis. Click on the links below to see their video stories. Or, click here for the video play list.
Community Hero Mohamed Ahmed, Burnsville
Sponsored by Anime Twin Cities
The road from a refugee camp in Kenya to community hero in Minnesota is a long one. But Mohamed (Mo) Ahmed has traveled that road, bringing with him the spirit and action of helping others. Today, as a youth soccer team coach for more than 10 years, Mohamed continues to give time, money, and guidance to disadvantaged and diverse youth, including Somali, Oromo, Hmong, and Latino players. His time devotion alone adds up to more than 300 hours of volunteer service every year.
“Mohamed has set-up a wonderful mentoring network with himself and former coaches, contributing physically, financially, and emotionally to the youth on these teams,” says Michelle Swanson, who nominated Mohamed for the Community Hero Award. “It’s hard to explain everything that this network does,” says Swanson.
The teams play in multiple tournaments in the United States and Canada. One team has won several regional and national tournaments under Mohamed’s leadership. But for Mohamed, coaching is about more than building winning teams. For him, coaching provides an opportunity to give struggling youth, especially those new to this country, guidance that he needed as a new boy in America. Kids who might otherwise be unable to afford club soccer can participate at minimal cost, giving them soccer and life skills helpful for doing well in this country.
Five years in a refugee camp was a long time, and a long-time ago, for Mohamed, whose transition and triumph makes him most deserving of being our 2017 Community Hero.
First Responder Hero Julia Weegman, Stillwater Sponsored by Abbott
Very early on the morning of June 15, 2016, Julia Weegman was that person for Chris Jesmer when he called 9-1-1 for emergency assistance after finding his wife, Jeanine, unresponsive. “As a panicked husband who knew his wife was dying before his eyes, and as someone who had no experience with CPR, I felt totally helpless,” says Chris.
Julia immediately provided Chris and his daughter with instruction for helping Jeanine. Julia guided them through moving Jeanine to the floor, clearing her throat, and beginning chest compressions until professional assistance arrived.
Today, Jeanine has fully recovered from her cardiac emergency. Many people, including EMTs, emergency room doctors, intensive care nurses, and others, are responsible for saving Jeanine’s life, says Chris, but “I firmly believe that all of these professionals would not have been able to assist Jeanine were it not for Julia first guiding me through the lifesaving CPR.”
Julia is a true first responder hero, whose compassion and training saved the life of a wife and mother when help was most needed.
Give Life Hero Gordy Kircher, St. Paul
Sponsored by Smiths Medical
Among those helping to save lives every day is Gordy Kircher. A Red Cross volunteer with more than 200 hours of service for last year alone, Gordy gives selflessly to help those who need lifesaving blood and platelets.
Gordy has for decades donated blood and platelets. While being treated for cancer and unable to donate, Gordy became a Donor Ambassador assisting other donors with reception and hospitality at the St. Paul donor center.
“Gordy is a strong volunteer who is always willing to do what he can to help,” says Allison Belting, who nominated Gordy for the Give Life Hero Award. “Whether he’s working at a blood drive, training new volunteers, or assisting with recruitment efforts in his community, Gordy is an exceptional volunteer.”
Gordy’s efforts support the American Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region, which last year collected more than 248,000 blood units for hospitals and patients. Heroes like Gordy are critical to this lifesaving work.
Good Samaritan Hero Mikael Tekeste, St. Paul
Sponsored by CenterPoint Energy
Human suffering comes in many forms, including the kind that drives someone to attempt suicide. On August 9, 2016, Mikael (Mike) Tekeste was walking across the Wabasha Bridge in St. Paul on his way to work when he came across a woman in that place of deepest despair.
Without regard for his personal safety, Mikael grabbed the woman by her arms and pleaded with her not to jump from the bridge. She pleaded with him in reverse, asking him to let her die. He did not, and he stayed with her until first responders arrived. With assistance from several Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputies, Mikael pulled the woman over the railing to safety.
“We feel that a true testament of a person’s character is how they respond when they see another person in need,” says Brenna Atz with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. “Mr. Tekeste demonstrated his true character on this day.”
Mike’s action was a courageous and selfless demonstration of the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.
David Winkler, Newport
Sponsored by UnitedHealth Group
On behalf of veterans, Dave attends rallies, speaks at high schools, serves as a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, and volunteers for the annual Patriot Ride benefit. As an active motorcyclist, Dave joined the Minnesota Patriot Guard Riders in 2006. Since then, he has been on numerous missions, honoring fallen heroes at memorial services.
Dave’s volunteer service ranges from boots-on-ground work, such as shuttling people to and from parking lots, to leadership support as a charity board member.
For Dave, his work is simply “the right thing to do.” This includes helping a fellow Vietnam veteran who’s unable to walk more than a few feet. Dave takes “Doc” to VA visits, patriot missions and funerals. “Most importantly, Dave makes regular visits to a friend preparing to die,” says Ray Guest, who nominated Dave for the Military Hero Award.
In addition to honoring American military veterans, Dave has donated blood since 1970.
Because of Dave’s work, many military veterans and their families feel less alone in the world, making Dave a true representation of honorable service helping others in need.
Youth Good Samaritan Heroes John Marcella and Beau Foix, Virginia Sponsored by Medica Foundation
While preparing gear in their boat, John heard a splash, looked around in darkness, and saw nothing. John thought the splash was odd. He could have ignored it, but thankfully he did not. Grabbing his headlamp, he looked more along the shore and on the dock, and noticed Cody was nowhere. Peering into the water, he spotted Cody face down and not moving.
John yelled to Beau. They put a rope into Cody’s hand, but he did not respond. Cody, they later learned, had suffered a seizure.
In the darkness, Cody jumped in the water while still wearing his waders. He plunged to the bottom and pushed from the ground, gaining momentum to get Cody’s face out of the water and his body closer to shore where John helped pull their friend from the lake. John’s phone, which earlier had no signal, finally had one strong enough for him to call 9-1-1- for emergency assistance while Beau started CPR on Cody.
“That morning, two ordinary people did something extraordinary,” says Lisa Perkovich, Virginia High School principal and award nominator. “John and Beau did more than save a friend that day. They saved a son. They saved a nephew. They saved a grandson. They saved a teammate. They saved a school and most of all they saved a community from irreversible devastation.”
The Red Cross joins the Virginia community in celebrating and recognizing two remarkable youth who were courageous and selfless in their humanitarian actions.
The 2017 Heroes were recognized on May 19 during the Heroes Awards and Centennial Celebration, which was held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Thanks to an outstanding effort on the part of dedicated Red Cross supporters, including 921 guests and 65 volunteers, the Heroes Awards and Centennial Celebration raised more than $479,000 for American Red Cross programs and services. Many thanks to our guests and volunteers, sponsors and partners, centennial co-chairs, special guests and speakers, gala co-chairs, entertainment, and staff, who helped make the night a great night! Click here to learn more about our history, centennial year activities, and to share your story.
Post by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross Minnesota Region Heroes videos and photos by Patterson Companies
You’ve probably seen one rolling down the road or through your town on its way to a blood drive — an American Red Cross bloodmobile. They allow blood drive organizers to host drives anywhere, making it more convenient for donors to give near home, work or school.
Throughout the years, Red Cross bloodmobiles have changed, but their mission has stayed the same—to help fulfill the need for blood donations.
As far back as WWII and the Korean War, requests for blood for the armed forces reached St. Paul and donated blood was included in air shipments overseas. The successful efforts of collection centers throughout the war spurred calls from the nation’s hospitals and other medical facilities for an ongoing civilian blood program.
In January 1949, the first mobile operation from the St. Paul Blood Center was deployed to North Branch, Minnesota. This was one of the first self-contained, traveling blood donation centers and transformed blood collection. Another bloodmobile was put into operation in the St. Paul region in 1950 to help serve 32 additional counties. Since then, self-contained bloodmobiles have been adopted across the nation and world.
Today’s bloodmobiles are fully equipped for blood collection and short-term blood storage, featuring open floor plans, climate control, advanced technology and spacious interiors. They are designed to be more comfortable and enhance the donor experience. The newest bloodmobiles include special features for donors, such as iPads on each donor bed with all of the Red Cross apps and an LCD billboard on the exterior that tells passersby which blood types are currently most needed.
Bloodmobiles travel all over the state every day to fulfill the constant need for blood. From planes, trains and bloodmobiles, the mission of the Red Cross is to ensure patients get the blood products they need wherever they need them, whenever they need them. Some things never change!
Help us celebrate 100 years of Red Cross service in Minnesota. Click here to find a blood drive near you. Click here to share your Red Cross story.
During National Volunteer Week (this year, April 23-29) we like to do an extra shout out of appreciation for our volunteers who help fulfill the American Red Cross mission to reduce human suffering in the face of emergencies. The generous donation of time, expertise, and compassion make our hearts swoon with gratitude. Below, check out several spotlights featuring volunteers from selected areas around our Minnesota Region. Thanks!
Two northern Minnesota volunteers, Tim Rose and John Keith, have gone above and beyond our expectations with their diligent work in making appointments and installing smoke detectors in people’s homes. Within the last few months they have installed 419 alarms in 130 homes in our 17 county northern Minnesota chapter jurisdiction. We find this mission extremely important as our chapter alone has had 8 people perish due to a home fire this past winter season. We could hot ask for more dedicated and caring volunteers, like Tim and John, to help carry out this important initiative of the American Red Cross!
We are assured when they go to someone’s home that they provide them with the preparedness information needed for making a plan to evacuate in case of an emergency. From hearing their stories on their return from a smoke alarm installation, we also know they make a personal connection with the homeowner. They went to one home to install free smoke alarms where a World War II veteran mentioned the story of the Red Cross charging for donuts and coffee to active service members when in Europe. The veteran told John he had to walk 10 miles to get coffee and a donut and paid a nickel for it. After John told him that the Red Cross started charging only because the U.S. Secretary of War asked it to do so because free Red Cross donuts caused tension with British soldiers who had to pay for theirs. The Red Cross complied, after protesting to no avail. The veteran said with a big smile “looks like I got my nickel back.”
Don and Betty Gedrose from Southwest Minnesota have been hard at work supporting the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Together, they have installed over 130 smoke alarms in the Brown County area since mid-December. They’re also taking a huge role in helping to plan a Brown County Home Fire Campaign on April 22. “We encourage people to take advantage of this free initiative, to check their smoke alarms regularly, and to regularly conduct two-minute fire drills at home,” says Betty Gedrose.
Since joining the Biomedical Team as a Transportation Specialist in December 2016, Mark Steffer has far exceeded the commitments placed before him. Not only has he managed to accrue twice as many work hours required, he has become an integral member of our volunteer driving force. His dedication to the driving program, and to the Red Cross in general, has enabled us to deliver life-saving blood products to area hospitals during critical need asks—and has helped save and improve countless lives. Mark has continuously gone above and beyond as a Red Cross volunteer, holding an impressive 30+ positions within the organization as both Biomedical Services and Humanitarian Services volunteer. In the last year alone, Mark has donated over 700 hours of his time to helping our organization provide support to those in need. Throughout it all, Mark has exhibited a passion for the humanities—both through his volunteer work, and in the arts. He, like all of our volunteers, remind us every day of how lucky we are to be able to give back to the communities we serve. Thank you, Mark!
To learn about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, click here.
On March 8, MHC Software in Burnsville, Minn., hosted the #JoasStrong blood drive, collecting 41 pints of blood in honor of employee Bryan Joas. While riding a bicycle home from work on March 8, 2016, Bryan was hit by a car that fled the scene of the accident. The accident left him with life-threatening injuries that required 12 surgeries during his 88-day hospital stay. During this time, he received at least 35 units of blood and 11 units of platelets to help save his life. Now, Bryan and his wife Shauna are dedicated to raising awareness about the need for blood donation. You never know when you or someone you love will need blood, says Bryan. “Without lifesaving blood, my condition might be very different. I’m living proof that blood helps save lives.”
Bryan and wife Shauna were blood donors before the accident. And once they even went on a blood donation date! Although Bryan has some ongoing medical issues, he’s working full-time and looking forward to riding his bicycle again this spring and summer. Although unable to donate blood right now, hopes that he will be able to in the future. “I’m just a cheerleader right now, but I hope to be able to donate in the future,” he says. Bryan’s story is a testimony that blood on the shelves help save lives. Thanks to all people working to ensure that the Red Cross is able to support a stable blood supply for hospitals and patients we serve.
To help ensure a sufficient supply for patients, make an appointment to give now at rcblood.org/2nqkmU8. Click here to learn about hosting an American Red Cross blood drive; or contact Mary Pucel, Donor Recruitment Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-291-3366.
Spring can be a time for devastating weather. It’s the peak time of year for tornadoes, flooding, thunderstorms and other severe weather.
The American Red Cross wants you to know what steps you can take to stay safe if dangerous weather is predicted for your community.
Download the free Red Cross Emergency App. Available in English and Spanish, the app features expert advice on how to prepare and respond to tornadoes, floods and other disasters. It also features real-time local alerts for severe weather and hazards and a map with local Red Cross shelters open when a major disaster happens. You can text GETEMERGENCY to 90999 or search “Red Cross Emergency” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be informed. Use Be Red Cross Ready tips in English or Spanish. If you or a member of your household is an individual with access or functional needs, including a disability, consider developing a comprehensive evacuation plan in advance with family, care providers and care attendants, as appropriate. Complete a personal assessment of functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation, and create a personal support network to assist. A great resource is FEMA’s online landing page for people with disabilities.
Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!
Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately underground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).
During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
Do not take a bath or shower or use plumbing.
If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
Click here for more severe thunderstorm safety steps.
Listen to area radio and television stations and a NOAA Weather Radio for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Stay away from floodwaters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and less than 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
This 1944 Myron Hall photo shows St. Cloud Area Red Cross officials planning for their next project. Anne Kyle is sitting at her desk, John Henry standing on the right and Mrs. J. L. Rivard is off to the left.
Story by Steve Penick, Head Archivist at the Stearns History Museum
Volunteers make a difference in any community. These generous individuals help the homeless, teach kids to read, and provide assistance during a natural disaster. This dedication helps not only those in need but inspires others to contribute what they can to make the world a better place.
Anna or Anne Sullivan Kyle (1891-1963) was one such person. She moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota from Minneapolis in 1926 and began volunteering for the American Red Cross. Anne reflected on what volunteering meant to her. She stated in a 1957 St. Cloud Times article, “It’s self-satisfying. And you get pleasure out of knowing that you have really helped others.” Even though the Red Cross was her primary concern, she did not limit herself to just one organization.
In this world, people should be kept busy on something worthwhile, either church work or some charitable work. It does everyone some good.
Kyle also volunteered for the Auxiliary at the Wallace S. Chute Post in 1927 and rapidly worked her way toward president of the Sixth District several years later. Soon Anne reached the state level as a member of the Rehabilitation Committee, one in which she chaired. In her spare time, Anne became president of the Women’s Guild and the St. Cloud Area Council of the Parent and Teachers Association.
Anne’s work with the Red Cross would in time transition into a staff position. Despite the death of her husband Edwin in 1938, she continued her efforts to help the St. Cloud community. In 1942, Anne was appointed Executive Secretary, encouraging others to volunteer and help in the war effort. Her humble philosophy, though, continued to be a model for others. “In this world, people should be kept busy on something worthwhile, either church work or some charitable work. It does everyone some good.” Almost sixty years later, Kyle’s words ring true about her commitment in making a better community.
Originally published on the Stearns History Museum Facebook page, this story appears here with permission. Thank you!