Monday, August 31, 2009

AmeriCorps VISTA for American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

This is my first blog entry and I thought I would take the time to introduce myself and explain my role at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. My name is Victoria Budynsky and this is my third week here. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA. AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). In short, it is a domestic Peace Corps. VISTA, which stands for Volunteers In Service To America, is one of the three AmeriCorps programs.

VISTAs are requested by nonprofit organizations that have missions that help to eliminate or alleviate poverty in the United States. The CNCS gives each VISTA a living stipend and other benefits so that he or she can work for free for the nonprofit organization for a year. VISTAs are brought in to help the organization build capacity, meaning that the VISTA does work that will benefit the organization long after he or she has left.

I am a People Resources VISTA here. I will have a variety of projects this year but I will mainly be focusing on training volunteers. I will be certified as an instructor in CPR/ First Aid, Community Disaster Education and Disaster Relief. The next step for me right now is to get trained in all of those areas and then gain some experience in responding to disasters myself.

I have learned so much about the American Red Cross and my year of service has only just begun. Last week I went out on three disaster response calls and also answered phone calls for the national American Red Cross help hotline. This year I will share some of my experiences and things I learn working for such a great organization!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keep Your Head In The Game (Or Take It Way Out!)

Editor's note: Amy Guth is training for the Chicago Marathon with the Run Red Team this fall. She's also giving tips for her fellow runners' training. Learn more about Run Red here.

It’s true that a good portion of any race is mental. On race day, we've already trained our bodies to go the distance, and all that remains is getting our brains to will us to the finish line. And, it’s true that our minds are capable of very weird things in a race, as well as very awesome things. Here are a few tips to keep your monkeys in check when and if the mind starts to fall in a hole during the race:

1. Fake it. Pretend you’re in the Olympics, or some other huge event, and you are so about to win and the whole world is screaming– in the stadium, at the television sets, all over the place– for you to win. And you can, as long as you hold off the guy/gal inches behind you. Push that edge then hold it until you feel yourself getting into a better place.

2. Pick them off. Pick an object like a tree or a stop sign, or a loudly-colored shirt of a fellow runner (if you absolutely must be stone cold like that), and pick ‘em off. Just focus on running to the target, or focus on passing your target person. Then pick another target and so on. Just don't over-pace and run out of steam too early. That's a common mistake, but a big mistake to make.

3. Go someplace else. Go ahead and trip out a little bit. Your body will likely keep doing what it’s doing, so mull over an issue, plan a dinner party, imagine cooking a huge meal upon which you’ll feast at the finish line, whatever. Just don’t zone out so much that you forget where you are, slow down and run off the road or crash-land into anyone. I once let my mind drift and suddenly, it was four hilly miles later. Not bad.

4. Have an emergency playlist in the reserves. I have a few songs on this short list. Songs that I’ve run with before that I equate with really outstanding running successes. Just the song is mental cue enough to make me feel better. I do this one a lot. It’s my lucky charm for sure. But, do check that your race allows on-course music; many have banned iPods and other personal players for safety reasons.

5. Make a mantra. I hear these all the time towards the end of a race. Some make sense, some absolutely do not. A friend of mine always chants “you’re going home, let’s go home, you're going home, let's go home....” to herself towards the end of a race, which is cool, and I’ve heard everything from “do it for Billy” to “tater tots” being mumbled over and over in the final miles. Hey, whatever works. I'm not here to judge! I once ran past a Jamba Juice during a marathon and got “jumba jumba jumba juice” stuck in my head. Ahem. Like I said, whatever works. Truly.

Monday, August 24, 2009

ARCGC AquaERV Takes Third!

This past Saturday provided perfect conditions for racing cardboard boats! Thanks to the Aurora Fire Department, the AquaERV safely made it to Mastadon Lake for the Fox Valley United Way "What Floats Your Cardboard Boat" Race. Longfellow the Whale made the trip to Aurora to support the work of the ARCGC and to promote the importance of water safety for all the race participants. Life jackets on, everyone! The three operators of the AquaERV, Steven Strang, Emily Cull and Katie Darin had impressive paddling skills and secured a third place finish. Once everyone was safely on shore, Longfellow took a much deserved rest. Visit the blog tomorrow afternoon for a video of the AquaERV's voyage!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The S.S. Clara Barton sets sail!

The S. S. Clara Barton will make her maiden voyage tomorrow as part of the Fox Valley United Way’s “What Floats Your Boat” race. We encourage you to come out and join us for what promises to be quite a spectacle. The boat launch is at Lake Mastadon in Aurora (10:30 a.m. on Saturday 9/22/09). Below: Team members prepare the Aqua-ERV for a 40-mile journey to the race site.

This week, what used to be a pile of cardboard started to resemble a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). In compliance with strict racing standards, the boat is constructed entirely of cardboard and is held together by glue and tape.
Two brave individuals will get inside and paddle the boat across a lake and back. Of course, life jackets are required - safety first!
A huge thanks to our generous sponsors and everyone who pitched in to help! Wish us luck and check back next week for results...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What we're reading: 50 years ago today in music

From The Muse in Music comes news that on August 18, 1959 Dave Brubeck and his Quartet recorded Take Five,

"an eternally cool sonic tonic for an endless summer night. Desmond left his royalties from the song, the first million-selling jazz single in Billboard’s Hot 100 history, to the American Red Cross."

--Originally posted by Wendy Harman on the American Red Cross blog, located at

GoodShop for the Greater Chicago Red Cross

I decided to become an intern at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago because I am passionate about making a difference and helping my community. I knew that by serving the Red Cross, I’d be helping people in need. I often find myself wanting to give to others, but not having enough time or money to do so.

In these tough economic times, people are finding it more difficult to donate their money and time to organizations like the Red Cross and are looking for cost-saving measures to ease the burden on their families. I am excited to share that I have found an easy way for individuals to help raise money for the Red Cross AND save money along the way! I know, it sounds too good to be true! Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to GoodShop! GoodShop is an online shopping mall consisting of more than a thousand world-class merchants dedicated to helping fund-worthy causes across the country, and the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago has decided to partner with them!

Each purchase made through the GoodShop mall Web site results in a donation to your organization of choice. All you have to do is go to and type in American Red Cross of Greater Chicago in the "Who do you Support?" box, click on the logo of the store you would like to shop in and start shopping! You will automatically be directed to the online store that you chose and a percentage of your purchase is donated back to support our lifesaving work!

Along with a percentage of your purchase going to the Greater Chicago Red Cross, GoodShop offers deals and coupons to many of their stores that can be used with your online purchase. By using GoodShop, you are not only saving money, but you are making a difference in the lives of local citizens and helping people prepare for and prevent disasters.

Some of my favorite stores that are part of GoodShop are:

  • Target
  • 7 For All Mankind
  • Nordstrom
  • DSW Shoes
  • Free People
  • Best Buy
  • Nike

This is one of the many ways your everyday activities can support the Red Cross! Additional partners include; AT&T,, Berry Chill, Fifth Third Bank and mark. Learn how to make your dollar go farther and support the Red Cross by visiting

Happy Shopping!

- Mari Bryerman is a Community Fundraising intern at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Monday, August 17, 2009

The story of an idea

This year marks a series of significant milestones for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. Perhaps the most significant of all is the 150 years anniversary of the Battle of Solferino.

Henry Dunant, a businessman from Switzerland; witness the aftermath of this great battle, it was this scene that inspired him to write his book, “A Memory of Solferino.” This book then prompted the creation of what is now known as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.

Henry Dunant is still inspiring many to continue his work and one of the many creations that came out of his inspiration is the 2009 worldwide social campaigned known as “Your World. Your Move.”

The purpose of this campaign is to support and inspire the backbone of this organization, the volunteers. See, without the unyielding dedication of these great volunteers, this great organization couldn’t touch as many lives as they do now.

So in order to mobilize the population, increase the body of volunteers and encourage young and old to join in; the International Federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) jointly sent out a call to action with this campaign.

The hope is that this united effort can inspired all of us to use the power of all people who believe in humanity so we can all address the humanitarian challenges facing us today.

I can personally say that this campaign has touched my life. I have met incredible people from all over the world through this social media campaign. They read my stories and I read theirs. Everyday I learn more about the things that people like you and me are doing all over the world to help others in need.

It is amazing getting up in the morning and learning about how my fellow volunteers in China and Taiwan are assisting the people affected by the Typhoon Morakot or how the youth is been mobilized in Mongolia to help those affected by the worst flooding they had seen in 43 years.

It is inspirational and unifying the feeling that you get when you realize that we are all connected somehow. It is undeniable that together with the power of all people, we can make A BIG DIFFERENCE in this world.

Today I will share with you a little clip that explains how this worldwide humanitarian movement was born. But if you want to get involved in this worldwide social campaign you can do so by visiting,

Have you made move yet?

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago DOES have a boat!

Well... the Greater Chicago Red Cross Chapter almost has a boat. We definitely collected a lot of cardboard last week, and the dock space of the Chapter was approved as our official building and storage facility. Why would we need a boat? To show our support during the Fox Valley United Way "What Floats Your Cardboard Boat" Race of course! The United Way is a HUGE supporter of the Red Cross, so yesterday, the team came together to work on creating an actual boat out of our cardboard collection. Our boat will (hopefully) look like an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), which in reality serves food to those affected by disasters. It's the Aqua-ERV!
As you can see, we utilized the "log roll" and "foot stomp" styles to glue pieces together, which will be used as the base of the boat. After a lot of box cutting and duct tape, we succesfully created wheels for the ERV. We'll continue work this week and will keep you updated with our progress. If you would like your name to appear on the Aqua-ERV, consider sponsorship opportunities. Also, if you would like to assist in delivering the boat to the racing site or know someone who has this ability, contact Carrie Wall at

Friday, August 14, 2009


The topic of our blog today will be tonight’s big gala event – the MISSION: RED Experience Auction.

The journey started one year ago in the Chicago Red Cross offices with a handful of visionaries and a very ambitious dream: to create the marquee event of the Red Cross social season during, what would become, one of the biggest recessions in recent history. Looking back, it truly was a “mission” from the very beginning. But our core group did not waver. We met for weeks until we created our marketing idea - event vision, mission, goals and objectives.

Then came the auction items, with a team dedicated to securing unique experiences to auction off, matching the themes of the Red Cross’s own mission. Logistics worked alongside marketing and auction to secure the right location with the perfect setting. Sponsorship came into play after the event had more structure and was able to meet our goal for corporate sponsorship, giving us the ability to deploy the event that we dreamed out in the beginning.

As time passed, we gathered new team members and new experience auction items, sponsors and marketing momentum. As the economy toughened, so did our team. We met the challenges of the tightened finances of potential auction item partners and sponsors by getting creative and tapping our vast networks of contacts.

After months of meetings, hundreds of emails and thousands of hours of planning, we’re finally here. This is a HAPPY FRIDAY for the Chicago Red Cross, and especially for those of us who have dedicated the last year of our lives to this amazing event.

To all of you who will join us tonight, we look forward to a magical night and appreciate your support. And to all of my colleagues on the MISSION:RED committee, I say Thank You and Congratulations on a job well done!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How trying to save a life may have saved my own

Headlines have warned us on the shortages in the economy, but few have talked about the increasing shortages of blood in our blood banks. Yes, that is right, we are short on blood this summer, right here at home. Every three seconds, someone is in need of blood. In contrast, only 2 percent of the eligible U.S. population participates in blood donations.

See the blood banks depend on us to restock their supplies of blood, typically three-days worth of blood is considered satisfactory. But in 2009, like in many other areas of our lives, blood donations are coming up short. This is pretty alarming considering that around 38,000 units of donated blood are needed every day in the U.S. and nearly 5 million Americans would die each year without lifesaving blood transfusions!

Wow, those are big numbers! But you still might wonder- who is in need of this blood? The answer is many, many, many people. I did a little research and these are some of the most common recipient of our healing liquid. Non-trauma medical cases such as patients suffering from anemia, bone marrow transplant patients and surgical cases depend on the generosity of the blood donor. Other people that might be in need of a blood are premature infants, car accident victims, burn victims, or those diagnosed with cancer.

Knowing this, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago has gone to great lengths to attract new donors this summer, including this past Thursday, when a blood drive offered donors a chance to win tickets for a White Sox baseball game! There were many people there, people that wanted to make a difference and save a life, among them, moi! But my heroic spirit was shutdown when I was told I couldn’t donate my blood because of my low iron levels.

I was shocked! I have donated blood for many, many years, and my blood has always been good enough. Now it was not performing up to the task! I was very disappointed and after returning home and doing some research I was even a little worried. As you know, I have been training for the Chicago Bank of America Marathon, raising funds and supporting the Red Run Team (the Red Cross marathon running team.) During this past three months, I have been feeling tired but I had attributed this to my new training schedule. Never once I thought that my tiredness, lack of energy and constant sleepy mood was anything else than just getting used to my new running routine.

But after my failed attempt of donating blood and a call to my personal physician, I was diagnosed as anemic.So for the past week I have been undergoing several tests to find out the root of the problem. Though we still don’t know what is causing my new found anemia, it was the act of trying to save a life that perhaps save my own. Who knows? I might be in need of a blood transfusion in my near future and if it were not for people like you, who find the time to donate your blood to the Red Cross, I might be left dry with no place to turn.

So what to learn from this? Doing the right thing sometimes comes around and rewards you like it happened to me. If it were not for the Red Cross, I will still be pushing myself to the limits even when it could potentially do me more harm than good. But also, you never know if you will also be in need of this precious gift.

So this summer, between your barbecues and beach outings, please find a extra hour to save a life. You never know whose life you may be saving!

It is super easy! You can call 1-800-GIVELIFE or visit the Red Cross National Blood donation page at

Car not quite clunky enough? Donate it!

Are you one of the Americans who’s trying to unload a creaky old car during the Cash for Clunkers craze? Many people are finding that their cars are just a LITTLE too fuel efficient to qualify. My coworker just told me his college daughter’s 15-year-old Taurus doesn’t quite make the cut. This made my wonder if my dad’s 1993 Buick Park Ave would have been clunky enough to qualify for cash. So I did a little Googling and reminiscing…

I started driving the P.A. when I was 16. That car was BIG. I think that’s why my dad was happy to let us drive it—because it felt as safe as a tank. When I got into an accident making a left, my Buick totaled the oncoming Saturn but was left with barely a dinged fender.

That car made it through years of commuting to high school, summers as my brother’s trashmobile when he was working construction, and many a college road trip. Mere months before my brother’s graduation from I.U., the Green Hornet gave up the ghost in our driveway. My dad paid someone to haul it away, wondering why he’d had enough faith to fill the tank with gas. I still have the email he sent to me that day, when I was away at school:

I thought you might want to get one more look at the dear departed Buick Park Avenue. A great car ! 123,000 miles, 12.5 years, many great memories, reduced to being towed away unceremoniously. You served us well PA.

According to my Googling (this is NOT official!), that car doesn’t quite make the clunker grade. But it sure would have been a nice tax write-off for my dad if we’d known about the Red Cross car donation program. So put your quasi-clunker where your heart is. Check out the details here or call (312) 729-6120, and we’ll have someone come take that clunker off your hands for a good cause.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy Birthday To Human Rights

Dear Red Cross Readers,
Today’s date marks a very special day for International Humanitarian Law. It’s the 60th anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The International Committee of the Red Cross, an impartial, neutral, and independent organization, is mandated by the signatory states of the convention to monitor compliance with these laws. One way that we support this effort here at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is by facilitating communication between victims of war and their families here in the United States. This is a service that insures dignity to combatants out of action. Also, we offer a free class on the subject of International Humanitarian Law to anyone who is interested! We will soon be hosting a very exciting presentation on this subject and you can expect more details on that in the next few weeks.

George Hofmann - Development Operations Intern at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Those dangerous tomatoes...

Photo by Hazel I.

Last night I made gazpacho for dinner. It was HOT outside, we don’t have AC and there was no way I was going to turn on the stove or anything that gives off heat. Did you know you have to peel tomatoes before they get pureed for gazpacho? Have you ever tried peeling a tomato? It’s so slippery and not that easy and you might see where this is going…I was peeling along with my little paring knife and sliced into my finger. Ouch.

There’s a reason I didn’t go into healthcare. I get a little woozy at the sight of blood. Ok, a lot woozy. But it's important to be able to deal with injuries, and I did make my way through a Red Cross First Aid course. So, I knew it wasn’t a big deal, even if there was a LOT of blood. Like, four whole DROPS of it. I wrapped my finger with a paper towel and went hunting for my Red Cross first aid kit.

That thing is STOCKED! A little bit of antiseptic, a little bit of antibiotic, a bandage, bam! Back to the gazpacho!

So now I want to know: What was the last time you had to break out your first aid kit? Take a spill on a bike? Your kid bonk her head on a swing? Tell me about it in the comments!

P.S. These vintage first aid kits (they just look vintage, the products are new!) are on sale this month—just $8.50 and a good addition to your car, backpack or purse.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My Favorite Time of Year...

Thinking back, summer has always been my favorite time of year. I love spending days outside in the sun. When I am not working at the American Red Cross of Chicago you can usually find me spending my days at the beach, in my pool, or at some Chicago Event (Chicago White Sox games, Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza happen to be my favorite). To me everything just seems better in the summer.

This isn’t a recent development. When I was younger my favorite time of the year was the last day of school and I knew I could run around with friends everyday. I remember as a child I would spend countless hours in my pool or at the park playing baseball and tag day after day.

Not much has changed. While I may not be engaging in games of tags, I usually spend my days outside with friends and family enjoying a beautiful Chicago summer. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Between baseball games, street festivals, concerts, movies-in-the-park and backyard barbeques it never seems like things can go wrong in the summer.

However, in recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather-related events. Fortunately, this summer has been a mild one so far. While this severely limits my time at the beach, I have been able to spend my days outside without a constant fear of sunburn. This week Chicago temperatures seem to finally be climbing the charts. Temperatures have been in the 80’s, and according to should be reaching mid-90’s by Saturday.

As what seems like “true” summer weather approaches it is important to remember Heat Safety Tips, before you or your loved ones head into the sun. You can learn how to take preventive steps in the face of rising temperatures and help your children play safe in the heat too. Learn how you can Help Kids Play it Safe in the Extreme Heat.

I want everyone to have fun this summer as you head to you favorite beach, pool, or grill spot, but more importantly I want everyone to stay safe in the heat!

Enjoy your summer!

Megan Wallace~ Marketing and Communications Intern

Monday, August 03, 2009

¿Habla EspaƱol? La Red Cross does!

Data based on the May 2007 Census Bureau Report.

Hispanics, Latinos and the Latino community are words and phrases that are making lots of headlines lately. For example according to a recent article by US Today Newspaper, the Hispanic/Latino population will double by the year 2050. Hispanics already are the largest minority group in the US. This segment of the population is expected to double by 2050 making their share of the population be, a whopping 29%.A significant jump if you compare that, to its current standing.

The lattes numbers from the US census Bureau puts the Hispanic/ Latino population to an estimated 45.5 million or 15% of the population of the United States. These predictions of the Hispanic/Latino population doubling itself are very significant for many institutions, organizations and of course, the Red Cross.

One of the most important parts of the Red Cross mission is to reach out to their perspective communities and prepare the population for the unforeseeable and preventable disasters. That also includes the Hispanic/Latino community and the increasing importance of emergency preparedness within the Chicago Latino community.

In order to achieve this part of their mission the Red Cross of Greater Chicago is offering Disaster Preparedness seminars and classes in Spanish. See, the Red Cross like so many other organizations, agencies and corporations are realizing that for this segment of the population language is kind of a big deal.

For the Latino community language is one of the ways they retain their cultural heritage, is a way to protect their identity and embrace where they come from. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know or want to learn English but rather that they feel more comfortable discussing important issues like this, in their mother tongue.

The Red Cross is well aware of this and in order to expand its mission of help people prevent, prepare and respond to disasters they are training a mini army of Spanish-speaking and bilingual volunteers so they can come to your communities and talk about how to be ready when a disaster strikes.

The topics of these presentations are many, including among them preparedness for heat waves, fires, floods, tornados, terrorist attacks or even a pandemic flu. All these presentations can be given at your communities, churches, schools, companies, clubs or organizations- free of charge, in both Spanish and English. So why don’t take advantage of them?

There is a Hispanic/Latino saying that is well known among all the Spanish-speaking world and this is “Que Dios nos agarre confesados!” which means that you better be caught ready when the time comes. So let’s get ready, mi gente!

So if your feel that your community is not ready and you would like us to come and show you how to prepare your community for a disaster, please contact our one and only, Latina extraordinaire Dunia Villarroel