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Easing the Hearts and Minds of Military Children

A version of this post, by Bill Fortune, originally appeared on the Colorado Red Cross’ blog.

The excitement was everywhere. The conversations were lively. The laughter was contagious. The noise level elevated. Kids being kids and doing what kids do best – enjoying the moment and the outdoors, renewing friendships and creating new ones. Five days of non-stop fun and excitement seemingly without a care in the world.

red cross camp corral military children
Camp Corral, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation, is a free summer camp for the children of wounded, disabled or fallen military members. It offers a chance for kids to share amazing adventures in the great outdoors through archery, boating, swimming, hiking and just enjoying the fresh air and nature. Camp-goers also have opportunities to make new friends, learn new skills and take risks in a safe environment. Founded in 2011, Camp Corral has served over 6,500 children at 23 camps in 19 states.

camp corral red cross SAF military children
This year, the American Red Cross in partnership with Camp Corral, rolled out a new Reconnection Workshop designed especially for military kids. Camp Shady Brook, a YMCA camp near Deckers, Colorado, was the first of four camps to host the workshop, Operation 10-4: Confident Coping, that teaches children essential life skills to help them better manage stressful social situations and unique challenges that they face as military children. Certified Red Cross Behavioral Specialists presented the workshops during “cabin time” at the end of the first two days of camp.

camp corral military children red cross saf
Oftentimes families don’t know where the military service member is going or how long they will be gone. Absences like that can be stressful for the family, especially the children. The Red Cross workshop focuses on bolstering strengths that may already exist within the child. During the lesson, children learn personal strengths for dealing with stress and how to reach out and ask for help when needed. The Red Cross will present the same workshop at three other camps this year, hoping to expand to more camps in 2017.

camp corral kids military children workshop red cross
Find more information about Red Cross support for military families on redcross.org, and visit Camp Corral’s website to learn more about the camp.

From the Archives – Renowned Artist Captures Red Cross Work in World War I

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A unique record of Red Cross involvement in World War I is captured in the paintings of Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), the foremost African-American artist of his generation.

Tanner, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 21, 1859, was the eldest of nine children. He spent most of his childhood in Philadelphia where he attended the Robert Vaux School, one of a few African-American schools offering a liberal arts curriculum.

In 1880, Tanner enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts studying under Thomas Eakins, a famous teacher who had a profound impact on Tanner’s life and work.

His artistic achievements eventually brought him to Europe. While living in France during World War I, Tanner began painting for the Red Cross. At the request of the American Red Cross Bureau of Photography, he received permission from the Army’s Photographic Censorship Office to “make sketches of A.R.C. work in the region of Neufchâteau” with the requirement that they be “exclusively of Red Cross activities and subjects.”

Many of Tanner’s images from the front lines featured African-American troops during the war. The three works shown below are part of the Red Cross collection.

Canteen at the Front. (Shows an interior of the Red Cross Canteen.) Oil on canvas 1918

Canteen at the Front. (Shows an interior of the Red Cross Canteen.) Oil on canvas 1918.


Intersection of Roads at Neufchateau (Shows WWI soldiers walking around in the evening in front of the Red Cross Canteen building.) Oil on canvas 1918

Intersection of Roads at Neufchateau (Shows WWI soldiers walking around in the evening in front of the Red Cross Canteen building.) Oil on canvas 1918.


ARC Canteen, Tour, France (Shows the exterior of the Red Cross rest home for enlisted men.) Oil on canvas 1918

ARC Canteen, Tour, France (Shows the exterior of the Red Cross rest home for enlisted men.) Oil on canvas 1918.

For the rest of his life, Tanner received praise and honors for his work.

Left, Tanner in uniform as a Lieutenant on the French Front from 1914 to 1918. Right, Knight of Legion of Honor medal.

Left, Tanner in uniform as a lieutenant on the French Front from 1914 to 1918. Right, Knight of Legion of Honor medal.

A solo exhibition of Tanner’s work at the Smithsonian in the late 1960s and a 1991 Philadelphia Museum of Art touring retrospective began a new wave of interest in his life and work. In 1996 the White House acquired Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, making Tanner the first African-American artist to be included in its permanent collection.

From 1914 to 1918, Europe endured the horrors of The Great War, now known as World War I. In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the conflict, From the Archives will feature a series of articles on Red Cross involvement in the war.

Learn more about Red Cross history on redcross.orgFollow Nicholas Lemesh on Twitter, @NickLemesh.

Before You (Pokemon) Go: 5 Pieces of Advice From an Avid User

Stopping on the sidewalk to look at the Pokemon Go app.

By now, almost everyone has heard about the new Pokemon Go app. Using a mapping system, the app creates an augmented reality where you can collect Pokemon (little creatures) wherever you go. It also challenges players to travel to different locations to collect Pokemon. While this is very innovative and entertaining, it has raised a variety of safety risks. Below are some things to be aware of to stay safe and have fun while playing the game.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings

It’s easy to become much less aware of what’s going on around you while using the app. Trying the game out myself for the first time, I almost ran into a street lamp and other people on the sidewalk because I was staring down at my phone. Remember to pay attention to your surroundings at all times.

walking car streetTo avoid an accident, watch where you walk and stay away from hazardous areas (such as ledges or construction zones). In most cases, it is best to stop walking and move to the side when you are looking at your phone screen. Also, remember to always put down your phone while crossing the street to reduce the chance of being hit by a car. Pokemon can wait!

Download our First Aid App or join a First Aid class to be prepared in case an accident happens.

  1. Stay in Safe Places

emergency appTo collect Pokemon, the player must move around their location. While this is a great way to discover new attractions nearby, it may also cause individuals to be outside at night or in unfamiliar areas. As tempting as it may be to catch a rare Pokemon in a dark alley, there may be real life dangers lurking inside. Be sure to stick to well-lit and populated areas.

If you go outside at night, remember to always have a buddy and a flashlight with you. You can download our Emergency App to access a flashlight, strobe light or an alarm in case an emergency occurs.

  1. Use Safety Features

Something that I didn’t know existed when I started playing the game was the ability to change the camera settings. By removing the camera capabilities of the app, you can stabilize the Pokemon once you click on them, so you don’t have to spin around to catch them (risking your own stability).

I’ve also learned that catching a Pokemon only requires clicking the circle it’s in. This means that you don’t have to venture closer to it if the environment doesn’t seem safe.

  1. Never Use Your Phone While Driving

Remember that it is never safe to use your phone while driving (even to catch Pokemon)! Bring a passenger along instead who can do the catching for you, or take public transportation. Follow our Highway Safety Guide for more safe driving tips.

  1. Be Careful Outside in the Heat

sun heat cityNow that it’s summer, keep track of the amount of time you’re spending in the sun playing the game. With temperatures soaring, be sure to drink lots of water, use sunscreen and maybe bring a hat and some food along if you don’t know how long you’ll be outside. Our Heat Safety Checklist can help prepare you for dealing with high temperatures.

Now have fun and good luck catching Pokemon!



Retired Firefighter Saved by Red Cross-Installed Smoke Alarm

A version of this post originally appeared on the American Red Cross Northwest Region blog. By Gabriel Martinez, AmeriCorps member.

Dred cross home fire campaign smoke alarm life savedavid Adams, a retired volunteer firefighter of 33 years, found himself the victim of a home fire this spring.

“I was heating up some food on the stove and I walked out, which is a cardinal sin,” said David. He had begun doing other things in his house when the smoke alarm sounded.

“I heard the smoke alarm go off and by the time I got to the kitchen, the fire had flared up on me.”

Despite his firefighting experience, David sustained a burn when he tried to put out the fire.

“I tried getting it out myself but I couldn’t do it,” he said. David lives with his wife and grandson, one of 14 grandchildren, but they were gone at the time of the fire.

“I got the animals out of the house and called 911. The firefighters were there within minutes.”

Smoke Alarms Save

David attributes being alerted to the fire to a recent visit from the Red Cross.

“It wasn’t even two months before the fire that they put that smoke alarm up for me,” said David. “The other ones weren’t working, which I didn’t know at the time.”

Red Crossers were in David’s home installing an alarm as a part of the Home Fire Campaign. The campaign, which started in 2014, aims to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over five years.

David joins a special group of people as a documented life saved from the campaign, a group which has grown to over 90 people so far from across the country.

Home Fire Recovery: The Red Cross is There

The Red Cross was there to help prepare David before the fire and help his family recover. Following the fire, the Red Cross ensured he and his family had a safe place to stay and their immediate emergency needs were met.

red cross home fire campaign smoke alarm life saved

“I just want to thank the Red Cross again. They just helped us out with everything you could think of.”

Thankfully, David’s home had a functioning smoke alarm that alerted him to the fire, though not all do. You can help reduce the risk of home fire by testing smoke alarms monthly and practicing evacuating your home in under two minutes.

Are You Ready for Your Summer Camping Adventure?

tent, summer, safety, campingIt’s that time of year again – camping season! Can you picture it? Pitching the tent, jumping in the lake, and most importantly, setting up the bonfire for nighttime s’mores and storytelling.

First Thing’s First – First Aid Tips

When packing for a camping trip, first aid items may not always come to mind. While we hope you won’t need them, it’s always a good idea to be prepared – especially when you’re away from home. Here are some items that you should consider bringing along on your outdoor adventure:

  1. Disposable gloves: Wear non-latex, preferably nitrile gloves when providing care.
  2. Bandages, gauze pads and tape: Assorted sizes of self adhesive bandages, sterile gauze and adhesive tape may come in handy after mishaps around the campsite or while hiking.
  3. Antibiotic ointment: This is important to have nearby to reduce the chance of an infection.
  4. Aspirin: This can reduce pain, inflammation and a fever.
  5. First Aid App: Get instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies.

Check out more items and how to make your own first aid travel kit on redcross.org. Online or in-class First Aid/CPR/AED courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.

Your Guide to Fun in the Water

water, kayak, safety, lake

As a child, I remember a strict rule to have an adult with us when going near the water – whether it was a river, lake, pool or ocean. I am a living testament to the importance of this safety precaution, as my uncle saved my life when I fell in the water at age two.

Wherever you find yourself on your outdoor adventure, here is some guidance for a stress-free time in the water:

  1. Swim in designated areas where a lifeguard is on duty.
  2. Always use the buddy system when swimming.
  3. With young children or inexperienced swimmers, use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  4. Always watch a young child or inexperienced swimmer in the water and remain within arm’s reach.
  5. Pay attention to flags or warning signs by the water indicating dangerous marine life, currents or cold temperatures.

See more swim safety tips and download our Swim App to help keep your family safe.

The Campfire Checklist
fire, water, safety, camp

Relaxing by the fire and roasting marshmallows is a classic – and delicious – camping tradition. While some like their marshmallows perfectly brown all the way around, I like mine burnt to a crisp. I just have to remember to carefully remove it from the fire! Enjoy your s’mores (brown or burnt) worry-free with these camping tips:

  1. Create a fire escape plan in case the fire spreads outside the fire pit and keep a bucket of water close at all times.
  2. Remember to keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from the fire pit at all times.
  3. If a marshmallow catches on fire, do not wave it around to try to put it out (this can cause an injury or another fire outside the fire pit).
  4. Keep matches and lighters up and away from a child’s reach, and watch children by the fire at all times.
  5. Before going camping, check the active wildfire map to stay out of dangerous areas. Don’t set a fire if you’re in an active area!

Find more fire safety tips like these to stay safe camping this summer and download the Emergency App for weather alerts and warnings.

Have a wonderful, safe and healthy camping trip, from all of us at the Red Cross!

This Volunteer Left a Promising Career to Help Save Lives

A version of this post originally appeared on the Western New York chapter‘s blog. By Grace Carnall, Communications Intern

You’ve heard money doesn’t equal happiness. But have you taken the risk to test this theory? Daniel Lopez did. Daniel left Puerto Rico to seek out new beginnings with only seven dollars in his pocket, headed to Buffalo, New York.

Not long before leaving Puerto Rico, Daniel had the opportunity to accept a managerial position at his father’s accounting firm and earn a higher salary. Instead, he decided that, at age 50, it was time to make a change and leave for the United States.

Once in Buffalo, Daniel was directed to a rescue mission that provided him with meals. To show his gratitude, he volunteered to serve breakfast every morning. He also volunteered to help teach young children English at the library. As he served the community, Daniel had a revelation – he had a passion for helping people. Fortunately, this led to Daniel’s introduction to the American Red Cross.

red cross volunteer home fire campaign

Free Smoke Alarms and Free Advice: The Home Fire Campaign

With the help of volunteers like Daniel, the Red Cross is reducing the number of injuries and death from home fires.

In Buffalo, several companies and organizations partner together every week for an outreach program that targets an at-risk neighborhood. A Red Cross volunteer advises residents on reducing the risk of a home fire. The effort includes free smoke alarms that are installed personally by a Red Cross volunteer.

Daniel explained, “Maybe they don’t need smoke alarms, but we are telling the community that the American Red Cross is there for them.”

Red Cross Volunteer: “Working for a Difference”

In the short months that Daniel has been an AmeriCorps volunteer working with the Red Cross, his zest for teaching and ability to speak fluently in Spanish and English have impacted hundreds of people.

“We are not working for a profit,” Daniel stated. “We are working for a difference.” With a sincere disposition, Daniel admitted that this is the happiest he has ever been.

It is never too early or too late to start a new journey in your life. Find opportunities to volunteer with the Red Cross on redcross.org to see what difference you can make.

An Accident Turned This Blood Donor into a Humble Recipient

Kelly Griswold is a 22-year-old college student who hopes to graduate from the University of Missouri, pass her certified public accountant exam and become an accountant in the next year. These plans were nearly derailed two years ago.

While vacationing in the Lake of the Ozarks, Kelly was involved in a life-threatening accident as a passenger on a jet ski. She was airlifted to a hospital and underwent three surgeries over the course of two days. Kelly walked away from her recovery with one resounding realization: the blood donors helped save her life.

Your Blood Donation Matters

blood donor donation red crossKelly was a blood donor prior to her accident, but didn’t think much about patients on the receiving end of her donations.

“You always hear the facts that giving blood helps save lives, but you don’t really think about who the blood is going to,” said Kelly. “I used to think, ‘Oh, maybe someone will get my blood.’ As someone who has been on the other side and received blood, you understand that giving blood is not just about getting out of class. It goes way beyond that and can help millions of people.”

Her accident gave her perspective on blood donations, grounding the generous act of rolling up a sleeve in reality.

“The accident kind of humbled me. It put me in a position where I personally knew how it felt to receive blood and have someone save your life just by donating their time and their blood to help other people.”

Kelly takes a lot of pride in donating blood and now understands the importance of every donation.

“I know there are always going to be disasters, accidents and people that are going to need blood. Without the support of people that can give blood, the ones who have needed it would not be here today – myself included.”

Emergency Need for Blood and Platelets

Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, and patients across the country need your help! Please give blood or platelets now to help address a significant blood shortage and ensure patients receive the transfusions they need.

During the summer, many regular donors postpone giving blood due to vacation plans, further depleting an already low blood supply.

Your donation could help someone like Kelly. Make an appointment to donate blood or platelets now by visiting redcrossblood.org, downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

They Thought They Were Just Handing out Lunch

By Elizabeth Morse,  Northern Nevada Chapter

Red Cross volunteers know they’ll help people when they work on disasters. Few expect to actually save lives. But that’s exactly what happened to Liz Hungerford, a Red Cross volunteer from Illinois.

Hungerford traveled to southeast Texas after devastating floods began in late May. She was doing mobile feeding from a Red Cross mobile response vehicle in New Caney, Texas. One particular day, she and her partner were driving along a road adjacent to a creek.

“The area was heavily wooded,” Liz remembers. “There had been floods here before, but we could see isolated mobile homes through the trees. We were driving slowly down the road, searching for people. The loud speaker was on and we were blaring out ‘Is anyone there? This is the Red Cross. We have free lunches!’”

“We rounded a curve,” Liz continues. “In my peripheral vision, I saw a face in the trees. Then I saw a hand stick out.  It was a man. He was hard to see because he blended in. I yelled out ‘stop! stop!’”

The mobile feeding team was ahead of schedule, so they were able to spend time chatting with the man. He told them about his family, about the damage to his home, and about the things he was trying to do to get things together. Due to past flooding, his home had been raised up on cinder blocks, which would have been enough to keep it from past flood, but this flood was unprecedented.

The Red Cross team gave him food and bug spray. Hungerford hugged him several times. As the team prepared to leave, Hungerford felt she needed to ask, “Are you struggling here?”

“I was going to shoot myself.”

Hungerford, thinking about the meeting, says, “We came along at just the right time. The man said he came to the woods because he thought that ending his life would be best for his wife and daughter. He needed to share his story. Sometimes people hit a low and they need other people to help them move on. He gave me his contact information. I was able to connect him with Red Cross mental health workers.”

At the end of the meeting, the man told Hungerford, “I really needed this.”  Then he hugged Hungerford, hard.

What’s the Story Behind This Iconic Photo?

Many have come across this photo before, as it has more than once made the rounds on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels. But the historic image deserves more than just a passing glance, as it speaks volumes about the the changing roles and importance of  women and the American Red Cross during World War II.

world war ii WWII red cross women beach dday d-day
Taken on January 15, 1945, seven months after the D-Day Invasion at Normandy, the photo captures a United States Coast Guard-manned barge unloading its passengers onto a beach in the Riviera Region of Southern France. These passengers – Red Cross staff – arrived ready to “carry out their duties and keep high the spirits of Yank fighting men.”

These vast and varied duties grew out of the 1905 congressional charter requiring the Red Cross to “furnish volunteer aid to the sick and wounded armies in time of war” and “act…as a medium of communication between the people of the United States and their Army and Navy.” During World War II, some Red Crossers overseas provided aid to and operated clubs for members of the armed forces, while others served in field and evacuation hospitals and on hospital trains, ships and planes.

On the home front, volunteers provided support to veterans and their families, covered hospital staff shortages, manufactured emergency supplies, collected scrap, cultivated victory gardens, and coordinated nutrition, first aid and water safety training programs.

World War II led to a vast increase in opportunities, many of them with the Red Cross, for women to make a difference. And make a difference they did.

Find additional information about American Red Cross activities during WWII  and learn about the American Red Cross partnership with U.S. military members.

Red Cross: Caring for Each Other After the Orlando Shooting

Embracing Orlando

American Red Cross worker Steve Palm was at the public memorial for the Orlando shooting victims distributing water, tissues and sunscreen, when he noticed a gentleman holding a flag.

orlando shooting red cross hug flag“This is a beautiful rainbow flag. May we take a photo with you?” Palm inquired. He also shared how the Red Cross is an impartial and neutral organization, making no discrimination nationality, race, religious beliefs, etc. “We’re here to support humanity.”

The flag owner responded that he’d love to take a photo together. “I just found out something horrible,” he added.

As cameras clicked away, Palm gave the flag bearer a supportive embrace. “He really needed to be hugged. It seemed like the most natural thing I could do,” said Palm.

As he stepped away, Palm noticed several people around them had tears in their eyes and immediately came up and started hugging the man with the flag.

He was no longer grieving alone.

A Network of Critical Assistance

After the Orlando shooting, the Red Cross convened and collaborated with 37 agencies to create a Family Assistance Center (FAC), in conjunction with the City of Orlando and the FBI Office of Victims Assistance. This serves as an inclusive, confidential and safe environment for people affected by the shooting.

Amy Decker, a licensed mental health professional and Red Cross worker, traveled from Jacksonville to support the community. “What’s happening is with the love and support of the country and world,” Decker shared. “We dig a little deeper into each situation. It’s as if we peeled back the layers of complexity.”

Orlando shooting family assistance center red crossServices in the FAC include air travel, child and family services, consulates, counseling, spiritual care, funeral services, crime victim services, health care, ground transportation, identification documents, translations, legal aid, lodging, medical examiner and senior services.

One family of four brothers visited a partner agency in the FAC with a goal to return their slain brother’s body to Mexico.

After four hours and help from 27 agencies, the family found closure. All four brothers will be able to accompany their brother’s remains back to Mexico so their parents can plan a proper burial.

This outcome is possible through airline partnerships for pro-bono flights, immigration officials for reentrance back into the country and legal aid. The family is empowered with knowledge and provided with hotel rooms, food assistance, a shoulder to lean on and so much more.

“The brothers left in peace,” Decker shared.

Content compiled and edited from material written by Barbara Behling, Roberto Baltodano and Donna Morrissey