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By: Sophie Kluthe

There are still a few weeks left, but already Camp Save-a-Life has already been a great addition to the normal hustle and bustle of the Red Cross House in West Philadelphia. From fire hose demonstrations to first aid classes to learning about nutrition, the first few weeks of campers have graduated with not only fun memories, but some serious safety skills too.

Camp Save-a-Life is a free, seven- week camp at the Red Cross House in Philadelphia for kids aged 10-14. It runs from late June through mid-August. 

In true Red Cross form, the campers’ schedule includes water safety instruction at the local YMCA pool, Disaster Preparedness Jeopardy and CPR training as well.

Thanks to tech guru Stephanie Humphrey, who gave her ‘Til Death Do You Tweet’ presentation, the kids thought long and hard about how to shape their own brand, and how a few bad strokes of their phone’s keyboard could interfere with future scholarships and more. Valuable lessons for a generation whose lives are intertwined with social media more than ever before.

“Everything you do on the internet is searchable and recoverable,” she told the first week of campers. “It never truly goes away.”

Fridays are both exciting and bittersweet. Before receiving their certificates of completion, campers break into groups and perform skits about what they learned all week with their counselors beaming on the sidelines. After a handshake from Regional CEO Guy Triano, the kids pack up, and Camp Save-a-Life prepares for a new batch of smart, young, campers who are eager to absorb all the week has in store for them!

During the Fourth of July week, fewer blood drives are held across the country and many blood donors are away enjoying vacations. This creates a difficult situation for the blood supply, and the American Red Cross is facing an emergency need for blood and platelet donors after a significant shortfall in blood donations during the Independence Day holiday week and ongoing challenges finding new blood donors.

Right now, the Red Cross has less than a three-day supply of most blood types available – and less than a two-day supply of type O blood. Blood donations are currently being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in. More donations are needed now to replenish the blood supply.

Eligible individuals are urged to give now to help avoid delays in lifesaving medical care for patients this summer.

Who needs blood

Blood from generous volunteer donors helps families like the Jolliffes. In February 2018, Meghan Jolliffe suffered an amniotic fluid embolism. During childbirth her heart stopped beating for 14 minutes, resulting in the need for an emergency cesarean section. Her organs began to shut down, and her blood would not clot. Meghan received nearly 100 units of blood within a seven-hour period during her procedures. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and stabilize Meghan’s condition. Over the next several days, Meghan underwent five surgeries, dialysis and more to repair the damage to her body.

Meanwhile, after her son Sullivan was delivered, he went without oxygen for seven minutes. Doctors performed a process called therapeutic hypothermia, or whole-body cooling, to preserve his neurological function, and he also received several units of blood. In all, Meghan and Sullivan received 109 units of blood.

“My family and I are forever grateful for the generosity of Red Cross volunteer blood donors,” said Meghan. “Donating blood is so important. You or a loved one may never need these lifesaving products, but I can assure you that someone, somewhere will.”

Don’t wait – help now:

  1. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  
  2. Let your friends and family know there is a #BloodEmergency and ask them to give now.
  3. Bring someone to donate with you.

Blood transfusion is the fourth most common inpatient hospital procedure in the U.S., and these blood products can only come from volunteer donors. Yet, only 3 out of 100 people in the U.S. give blood. It’s crucial that the Red Cross has a sufficient blood supply on hand to meet the needs of patients every day and to be prepared for emergencies that require significant volumes of donated blood products

Please make an appointment to give now

Excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events.

▪ Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle – not even for a few minutes. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.

▪ Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.

▪ If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places like schools, libraries, theaters, malls, etc.

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.

▪ Avoid extreme temperature changes.

▪ Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays. Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.

▪ Postpone outdoor games and activities.

▪ Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.

▪ Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have shade and plenty of cool water.

Don’t forget your pets.

▪ Animals can suffer heat stroke, a common problem for pets in the warmer weather. Some of the signs that you pet may be experiencing heat stroke include:

• Heavy panting and unable to calm down, even when lying down

• Brick red gum color

• Fast pulse rate

• The inability to get up

▪ If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, take their temperature rectally.

• If the temperature is above 105 degrees, cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when the temperature reaches 103 degrees.

• Bring your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.

Download the Red Cross Pet First Aid App and take our online course.

▪ The American Red Cross Pet First Aid App provides dog and cat owners with resources on how to maintain their pet’s health and well-being and what to do during emergencies until veterinary care is available. You can locate pet-friendly hotels and find emergency pet care facilities or alternate veterinarians in case you are out of town or need to evacuate. The app is available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

▪ Our Cat and Dog First Aid online course helps you determine if your pet is experiencing a life-threatening emergency and provides expert tips on what to do. Course modules include preventive care and First Aid as well as step-by-step instructions—with visual aids—to help pets who are choking, bleeding, having a seizure or need CPR. The course is available at redcross.org.

By: Susan West

Volunteering never happens in a vacuum.

It takes a trained, well-oiled  team to serve people impacted by disaster, and the Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Training Conference, held for four days on the campus of Moravian College in Bethlehem, offered information overload for everyone. For logistics geeks, there was “ConOps”—a.k.a. “Concept of Operations” training, which explored the organizational structure of a relief operation. For Mass Care volunteers, a simulation session walked people through the steps of opening a shelter. For Disaster Action Team members, instruction focused on the recovery needs of people who have endured the worst times of their lives after a fire, flood, hurricane, or other emergency.

Empathy Education

Training is key. One of the most revelatory events at the conference was something called a poverty simulation, designed by Tammy Schoonover of the Bucks County Opportunity Council. The session was meant to challenge our assumptions about people who are under-resourced. After dividing the class into several three- to six-member “families,” Tammy assigned each family a set of circumstances—say, one working parent earning $9 an hour with a daughter in school, a disabled mother-in-law, and some public assistance. Then she threw curveballs at them—car breakdown, big utility bill, stolen purse, Dad with the flu, shuttered daycare. The exercise spotlighted the stress of living on the edge of debt. “Survival can be a full-time job for under-resourced families,” she said. “Poverty causes us to spin in a cycle of survival.” Dealing with impersonal social service bureaucracies, payday lenders, and unresponsive law enforcement can be frustrating and dehumanizing. If Tammy’s intention was to foster empathy and dispel myths about poverty, everyone agreed that she accomplished that goal.

Tammy Schoonover, Bucks County Opportunity Council

Classes and Camaraderie

Why do people volunteer? The reasons given were as varied as the curriculum at the conference. One attendee, a former telecommunications manager dealing with memory loss and cognitive impairment at age 61, is a fierce advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness. “I can’t do the complicated things anymore,” he told me, “but at least I can load trucks.” Others discovered the Red Cross after disaster touched them or a family member. Still others saw volunteering as ministry. “The more training we have, the more sensitive we become,” said one attendee.

Join the Fun

Volunteering has many benefits both physical and emotional. It combats isolation by getting us out into our communities. It helps prevent depression by instilling in us a sense of purpose. It helps us feel valued and part of a team. Perhaps most important, volunteering gives us a chance to leave a legacy and make a difference in the world. It’s good for us and it’s good for  society. The Red Cross has many roles for volunteers to fulfill, and the organization is committed to arming its volunteers with the tools and expertise needed to perform those roles. In short, the Red Cross will train you up good. For more information about how you can volunteer, go to https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html

By: Sophie Kluthe

Employees at UPS in South Philadelphia pack and donate comfort kits

Take a peek into your own bathroom and you’ll probably find at minimum, some soap, a towel and anti-perspirant. Sometimes that shower-fresh feel is all you need to have the confidence to tackle your day. Unfortunately, that’s not a possibility or the reality for a lot of men and women in the years after they finish defending their flag.  

SAF Director Bill Rodebaugh and his right hand volunteer, Julie Martinez, at the UPS comfort kit event

Regional Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces Director, Bill Rodebaugh, knows the scenario all too well as his work is devoted to serving active military, their families and veterans.  

“It is an awful reality that veterans who have served their country can find themselves in situations where they can no longer maintain the basic qualities of life that most of us enjoy.  Being able to wash and be clean has a quality of refreshing a person not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well,” Rodebaugh said. 

That’s where companies and comfort kits come in. Recently, TheZenith Insurance Company, ThermoFisher Scientific and UPS have donated, and even taken the time to pack comfort kits for local veterans in need.  

Earlier this week UPS employees (above) gathered around tables in assembly line-fashion, rapidly filling small bags with items like a razor, shampoo, soap and a wash cloth. It wasn’t long before they filled 35 boxes with about 1,200 of these kits.  

At TheZenith Insurance Company a few weeks back (pictured above), employees smiled and packed to folk music, walking around the tables in shifts, lovingly adding one of each item to the bags.  

It only takes a few hours of the employees’ time, but it’s harder to measure the outcome once these kits get to where they’re going.  

Photos: Part of the SAF team poses with employees from ThermoFisher Scientific after thanking them for their donation.

“Building these kits seems so small. but it does a lot to show our veterans that we hold them in high regard and value. If they in turn can begin to recognize and remember what it is to be valued, then perhaps they can take the first steps in valuing themselves again and be encouraged to seek help and better their situation,” Rodebaugh said. 

A military veteran himself, Rodebaugh knows a thing or two about serving your country. He also knows that small acts of kindness, and in this case, comforts, can pave the way for bigger change. 

“For those of you involved in building these kits, you are expressing your humanity in a way that truly reflects the goodness we all strive to do, because you are valuing the humanity of another you lift us all and in that way you have bettered your community in a lasting way.” 

Would your company or organization want to donate comfort kits to local veterans in need? If so, email natalie.reznik@redcross.org for more information.  

2018 Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

June 1-7 is National CPR and AED Awareness Week. The American Red Cross, along with other National Cardiac Arrest Collaborative members, is stressing that every second counts in cardiac arrest and people can save lives by knowing how to perform CPR and use an AED.

If someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest, their heart suddenly stops beating, stopping blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. More than 1,600 people suffer cardiac arrest every day in the United States, so if you see someone collapse without warning, know your ‘Cardiac Arrest 1-2-3.’

The best way to prepare when every second counts is to take a First Aid/CPR/AED course: https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class

By: Samantha Antenucci

After a long winter and wet spring, summer is now ready for its closeup! Sun and warmth usher in your kids’ favorite outdoor activities, but there’s danger afoot: Sunburn, bug bites, and water mishaps could ruin your vacation. Whether you’re home, on the road, or out camping, keep our stay-safe tips in mind.

Sun Safety

Melanoma rates are on the rise, so make sunscreen a part of your family’s everyday get-ready routine. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, children’s skin is particularly sensitive and prone to burning; plus, having a severe sunburn as a child is a risk factor for a serious skin cancer later in life. And if you think people with darker skin is and/or those who “tan easily” are less at risk, think again; this is a huge misconception. The risk is real for everyone. A few reminders:

-Never forget sunscreen! Choose a product with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 to 30—minimum. Whenever you’re out enjoying the weather, use it on all exposed skin.

-Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before leaving the house, and reapply it every two hours. Also reapply after coming out of the water.

-Don’t drop your guard just because it’s a cloudy day. The sun’s UV rays can burn right through the clouds. Slather it on!

-Loose-fitting and brightly colored clothes can help keep you and your kids cool in the heat. Beach day? Make your own shade with umbrellas.

-Keep water nearby and drink it—even if you’re not feeling thirsty. You can easily become dehydrated in warm weather.

Water Safety

Being around water is a great way to cool down, but be aware of your surroundings. More than 800 children drown each year, according to CDC estimates. The Red Cross has many tips for water safety:

-Enroll in swim classes! Learning to swim is not only fun but also gives you the confidence to safely enjoy the pool or beach.

-Always swim with a buddy, but do not trust a child’s life to another child. It is vital that an adult or lifeguard be present when children swim.

-Teach your children to ask for permission to go near water.

-Life jackets can save the lives of novice and experienced swimmers, but they have to be worn! A boat must have one life jacket for each person aboard.

-Adult-sized life jackets will not work for children. A child’s life jacket should fit snugly, and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through.

Bites and Stings

Ticks and insects can be a nuisance—or an outright health threat. Pennsylvania, a hotspot for the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease, leads the nation in cases of Lyme—already the most common tick-borne illness in both North America and Europe. A few tips:

-Stung by a bee? Do not pull the stinger out with your fingers or tweezers. Doing this can push the venom back into your skin. Instead, take a credit card or I.D. card and scrape downward. This should remove the stinger without injecting the venom back into the person’s body.

-Be aware of your allergies! If you have an EpiPen, keep it nearby. If you’re bitten or stung and feel itching and have difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately.

-Insect repellents containing DEET are effective, but be sure to read the label and avoid products with a DEET concentration higher than 30 percent. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that DEET not be used on infants.

-DEET should only be used on exposed skin that is free of cuts and open wounds. Do not spray insect repellent directly onto the face; first spray it on your hands and rub the repellant on the face.

-Ticks often lurk in tall grass, so tuck your pant legs into your boots and socks, and wear long-sleeved shirts. Do a “tick check” at the end of the day.

-To remove a tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Make sure to disinfect the area and keep a close eye out for any telltale rashes or signs of infection.