National Blood Donor Month: Local Red Cross volunteer overcomes fears to help save lives

By Ava Arteaga

American Red Cross volunteer and first-time blood donor Ava Arteaga. Submitted photo

My name is Ava; I’m twenty-two years old, and I am a recent first-time blood donor thanks to the American Red Cross and its incredible volunteers.

Shortly after joining the Red Cross as a volunteer, I realized I had never donated blood myself. I knew blood donations had decreased since the start of the pandemic and decided this would be a great way to begin my volunteer-journey and contribute to those in need of lifesaving blood.

I began this process by booking an appointment online at RedCrossBlood.org. I scheduled an appointment and decided to complete my RapidPass® next— this way I could save time on the day of the blood donation. When the day eventually arrived, I got dropped off at the blood drive by my brother and planned to have a friend pick me up. My mother is a nurse and insisted I not drive myself home.

Once inside, I was greeted by a nice Red Cross volunteer. He could tell I was feeling a bit anxious and chatted with me for a minute. He answered my questions, told me what to expect, and offered positive encouragement. I was directed to another volunteer who greeted me, took down some of my information, and recorded my blood pressure.

Within a few minutes, I was being walked over to the center of the building where several tables were spread out – some of which people were laying on. I was somewhat thrown off by this and asked what that was all about. The volunteer explained that I would be laying down during the blood donation portion to make sure I would be safe and secure in case I suddenly felt faint.

At this point my anxiety heightened a bit more. My biggest fear going into this process was that I’d faint during the donation. I sat down on the table and started imagining how I could politely say that I didn’t think this through; however, the idea of walking out gave me more anxiety than the idea of donating. So, I stayed put. I also started to quietly cry.

Laying back and staring at the blurry ceiling, I heard footsteps approaching me until I saw a figure in my peripheral vision. It was a nurse I hadn’t met yet. She started talking to me with a big smile and empathetic eyes. She assured me that I would be alright and tried to rid my nerves with jokes and laughter.

Pretty quickly, it worked. She had a nurse’s touch! She told me that she’d be keeping an eye on me and that she would let the phlebotomist know to do the same. The phlebotomist, who was just as comforting and uplifting, performed the blood extraction in no time. Within 10 minutes, I was enjoying snacks and refreshments. I even hopped on my computer and started working while I waited for my ride to arrive.

My anxiety had absolutely transformed into relief and joy. With the help of the American Red Cross volunteers and staff, I successfully donated blood for the first time. My worst fears never came to fruition. After it was all said and done, I felt fine. Besides feeling a little tired and weak, all 115 pounds of me was in top notch shape. The entire process lasted only an hour, and I was able to continue my day normally. I am already looking forward to my next blood donation!

If fear or anxiety is holding you back from donating blood, my advice is to let the staff and volunteers of the American Red Cross take care of you so that you can take care of a patient in need. Thank you, Red Cross! This month, I hope you resist those worries and make an appointment to donate blood.

International Day of Education: ‘To invest in people, prioritize education’

By Samantha Munro

International Education Day photo, courtesy of UNESCO.

Education is a human right, not based on one’s environmental or economical status. By educating the world, we educate the development of mankind and the contribution that is made to the earth at large.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed January 24th  as International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education for peace, development and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.

Today is the fifth year commemorating International Day of Education. In its celebration, it is realized that to invest in people, the prioritization of education is of utmost importance. Education is a basic and necessary building block used in accelerating progress towards sustainable development goals against the backdrop of a global recession, growing inequalities and the climate crisis.

Having a strong international presence, the American Red Cross offers International Services Training, which works in dozens of countries with its partners in the global Red Cross network as well as offering classes, presentations and workshops domestically. This training will connect you with the world around you, enhancing your knowledge and helping you add to the change of providing equal opportunities to all those that seek it.

Locally, the American Red Cross offers programs such the Pillowcase Project and Prepare with Pedro. The Pillowcase Project is a preparedness education program for grades 3-5, while Prepare with Pedro is for grades K-2. Both teach students about personal and family preparedness, safety skills, local hazards, and basic coping skills.

It is sometimes human nature to unconsciously take things for granted, something that has always been present in our lives. Only when we realize that not everyone has been given the opportunities to develop their mind, we start to appreciate even more that we were.

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has dedicated the fifth International Day of Education to all the girls and women in Afghanistan, who have been denied their right to learn, study and teach. Read UNESCO’s full message here.

National Blood Donor Month: Blood donation is no laughing matter for comedian Mary Frances Connelly

By Jackie Faiman

Mary Frances Connelly. Submitted photo.

Mary Frances Connelly is a mother, a grandmother and a native Philadelphian. She is a standup comedian who has been refining and earning a living from her act for 37 years. She first got into standup to support herself and her daughter, though she admits that it sounds crazy to enter show business for the money. She figured out she was funny early on when she had the boys on her bus ride to school laughing so hard they cried.

“I could make girls laugh, but it’s rare that a female comic can make men laugh.”

She is also a regular blood donor for the Red Cross.

She remembers the event that moved her to become a donor. It was 1982 and she had just given birth to her daughter. During the difficult delivery, she received two units of blood which, she says, saved her life. Now she wants to pay forward the gratitude she felt for that gift.

She has her regular blood donation down to a science. She schedules it for a Friday evening. After a meal at a local diner, she visits a donation site at a church in Downingtown. Afterward she stops at her daughter’s home to care for her grandson.

“He wants to know all about that red bandage.”

And she plans to keep donating for as long as she can.

“You just feel so good when you’re doing it, and you know that you’re making a difference in someone else’s life.”

Like many donors, Mary Frances uses and loves the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

“The App keeps you apprised of your donation. It tells you when they are vetting it and which hospital it goes to. My first one last year went to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). I told my grandson…and he got very excited knowing that my blood was helping little kids.”

When asked why she gravitated to the Red Cross, Mary Frances points out that the organization steps in at a critical point in peoples’ lives, whether providing a blood donation or relief after a flood or a hurricane.

“They let you know that there will be a new kind of normal. When you see the Red Cross, you know that things are going to be OK.”

Keep your eyes out for National Eye Care Month

By Nathan Fligelman

“Optometrist Diopter In A Laboratory” by Alex Grichenko, published under CC0 Public Domain license.

January is the month during which National Eye Care and National Glaucoma Awareness is observed. Your eyes serve as a pair of critical organs which, through conveying the action of sight, are giving you the opportunity to see and further read this very article!

Due to their heightened level of importance, as well as their relative sensitivity to damage and irritation, it’s crucial that you take care of your eyes on a daily and consistent basis. To ‘observe’ this month, learn and spread awareness of safe practices regarding the eye, visit an optometrist/ophthalmologist, and ensure that your eyes get the proper rest that they require.

Get an eye check-up

In order to help spread awareness for this month, many eye-health clinics and hospitals offer discounts for annual checkups held during January. But it’s important to care for your eyes year-round, not just in January! During a checkup, a licensed professional will correct any vision loss and scan your eyes for potential symptoms of deterioration/illness. Early detection of potentially serious eye-health issues is of the utmost importance.

Glaucoma scans can save your sight

Glaucoma scans are an important of most eye exams. About three million Americans have been diagnosed glaucoma, a potentially genetic disease known for being a “sneak thief of sight.” Glaucoma attacks the optic nerve of the eye (by the force of pressure) in a chronic and progressive manner. This disease is partly dangerous because over a third of a person’s vision may be lost as a result of the damage before they even notice that it is gone. Glaucoma, thus, is the second-leading cause of blindness across the world. While modern medical advances have improved Glaucoma treatment, it is still extremely important for everyone to be tested for this condition on a consistent and early basis.

Update your prescriptions

On a more general note, it is also important to visit an eye doctor for yearly (at least) general checkups in order to ensure that your vision is proper. Many people wear glasses and contacts to help them see in a much more proficient and comfortable fashion. Generally, a person’s vision tends to deteriorate as they get older; hence, there is a continuous need for follow-up appointments and potential prescription revisions/new lens provisions.

Overall, it is critical to take care of your eyes; ‘eye’ highly recommend that you preemptively schedule your next care appointment in the near future!

Fun eye facts

  • Opticians help to correct vision problems through fitting the lenses of glasses/contacts. Optometrists perform preliminary eye exams and vision tests, as well as can prescribe medications. Ophthalmologists continue upon the work of optometrists, as well as additionally perform procedures.
  • The world’s most common eye color is brown.
  • Ancient sunglasses existed as far back as 20 centuries ago!
  • The average human eye blinks over 4 million times throughout the duration of a year.

National Blood Donor Month: Q & A with writer and 3-gallon blood donor Shawn Proctor

By Sanaya SinhaRoy

Frequent Red Cross blood donor Shawn Proctor with his son, Colin, a new donor and senior at Villanova University. Submitted photo.

“Great things are done by a series of small things put together.” These wise words by Vincent Van Gough can be shown through the act of donating blood. The importance of donating blood is vital. If just one person takes the time to sit down and donate, it can save the lives of up to 3 people. Middle-grade fiction writer Shawn Proctor knows this and has donated 3 gallons of blood so far.

Shawn has been published in many different literary journals and was nominated for Best New American Voices. He works at Villanova University, where he was first exposed to the idea of donating blood. Here is what he says about his work as a writer as well as his experience of being a regular blood donor.

Q: When did you make the decision to start donating blood and why?

A: I work at Villanova University and noticed the College of Nursing was hosting a blood drive. I was a bit afraid of needles at the time, but my mother is a respiratory therapist, and I knew the importance of donating blood. I decided to give it a try on my lunch break. 

Q: How did you feel after you donated blood for the first time?

A: So happy. So many of my co-workers were at the drive. I loved seeing a community of students, staff, and faculty come together for the common good, and I was thrilled to contribute my small part to that collective effort. 

Q:  What gave you the motivation to start donating blood regularly

A: At first, the convenience. The Blood Donor App makes it SO easy to find and schedule a donation. Then I learned at a Red Cross drive that my blood is particularly ideal for babies in neonatal intensive care units. My wife works with very young babies at a school. Knowing that my blood can save someone’s small child, to give them a chance to grow up – that’s all the motivation I could ever need.  

Q: Having donated 3 gallons of blood already, what would you say to others that are a hesitant of donating for the first time?

A: Download the Blood Donor app and give donating whole blood a try. The donation process is usually fairly short, but it might take a few times before you get really comfortable. And that’s OK. I listen to audio books or music while donating. Additionally, before you leave, they give you yummy snacks and, sometimes, fun freebies, like a shirt. The Shark Week shirt this year was (*blows chef’s kiss*) amazing. 

Q: As a middle-grade fiction writer, how many different stories have you written in your career?

A: In the beginning of my career, I focused mainly on short fiction, so there are several hundred stories in my back catalog –25 have been published in places like Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, and Flash Fiction Online. More and more, I am working on novels for children and have been pitching literary agents in the hopes publishing those longer tales too. 

Q: What is the hardest part of being a writer in today’s world?

A: Finding an audience. Your stories compete with an ocean of entertainment media, not to mention the constant social media fads and distractions of cell phones. Stories have to be captivating or you risk … um … opps, sorry! I just heard a notification on Twitter about something a celebrity said on Instagram. Or was it TikTok?

Anyway, where was I? 

Q: Have you ever thought of using your creative writing skills to inspire others to donate blood? 

A: I typically bring in elements of things that are important to me in my stories. For example, I wrote about the horses on Assateague Island in one novel and the importance of the arts in schools in another. Donating blood to the Red Cross is similarly vital, and I know it will find a place in a story someday soon.

Q: Is there any additional information you would like to share?

A: During the pandemic, I felt like there was so much division in our country. People were isolated. I resumed donating blood as soon as the Red Cross indicated it was safe to do so, because I knew this was one small way to help out during a very difficult time for many people. 

Now that restrictions have eased, my children are getting involved donating as well, as they are old enough and motivated to help out others.

Red Cross, Payton Manning huddle up for a lifesaving play this January

By Biomedical Field Communications

Red Cross graphic: Give blood. Win a Trip.

This January, the American Red Cross and Pro Football Hall of Famer and blood donor Peyton Manning are asking people to score big for patients in need – while getting a chance to win a trip to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona – by giving blood or platelets.  

The start of the new year marks National Blood Donor Month – a time to celebrate those who generously roll up a sleeve to keep blood products stocked for hospitals providing critical care. As the busy holiday season winds down and the threat of severe winter weather and seasonal illness cases continue to rise, January can be a tough time for donors to make and keep appointments.

Step off the sidelines and resolve to donate blood or platelets. To book a time to give, visit RedCrossBlood.org, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, or call 1-800-RED CROSS. In partnership with the National Football League (NFL), those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma Jan. 1-31, 2023, will be automatically entered to win a trip for two to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona*, including access to day-of, in-stadium pre-game activities, tickets to the official Super Bowl Experience, round-trip airfare to Phoenix, three-night hotel accommodations (Feb. 10-13, 2023), plus a $500 gift card for expenses.

To lead the offense against a potential winter blood shortage, Manning invites the public to join him in helping save lives. “If everyone does their part and we collectively commit to donating blood, we can stack up more wins for hospital patients who are counting on us. A single individual is certainly impactful, but a whole team of people coming together to donate has an even greater effect.”

How to donate blood 

Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements. 

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App. 

Amplify your impact − volunteer!  

Another way to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross is to become a volunteer blood donor ambassador at Red Cross blood drives. Blood donor ambassadors help greet, check-in and thank blood donors to ensure they have a positive donation experience.  

Volunteers can also serve as transportation specialists, playing a vital role in ensuring lifesaving blood products are delivered to nearby hospitals. For more information and to apply for either position, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.  

Red Cross and Dunkin’ team up to thank donors this January

By Alana Mauger

Jessica Weissman (left), field marketing manager, Dunkin’ Brands, presents an oversized voucher to Guy Triano, regional CEO, American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania , and Helen Munizza, regional donor services executive, American Red Cross Penn Jersey Blood Services Region, on Jan. 5, 2023 in Philadelphia. Photo by Alana Mauger/American Red Cross

Local blood donors are in for a treat this National Blood Donor Month! Dunkin’ of Greater Philadelphia is once again teaming up with the American Red Cross to provide 20,000 vouchers to Red Cross blood donors in the region during January.

To help encourage blood, platelet and plasma donations throughout January, presenting donors will receive a Dunkin’ voucher for a free Medium Hot or Iced Beverage* and a free Egg & Cheese Wake-Up Wrap Sandwich**, redeemable at participating Dunkin’ restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia area, while supplies last.

Dunkin’ and the Red Cross celebrated the partnership Thursday with a special media event at the Philadelphia Blood Donation Center. The Dunkin’ Community Cruiser was on-site, handing out free samples of coffee and donuts to celebrate the partnership kickoff.

“Winter weather and cold and flu season can impact our blood supply this time of year, said Guy Triano, CEO, Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania..“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Dunkin’ and encourage donors to give to help prevent a winter blood shortage.”

Donors who give now can help stock the shelves for the rest of the winter season. Schedule an appointment to give blood or platelets by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

“Dunkin’ is excited to once again team up with the American Red Cross and reward deserving blood donors this January” said Jessica Weissman, Senior Field Marketing Manager, Dunkin’. “We hope that by offering donors a free Medium Hot or Iced Beverage and Egg & Cheese Wake-Up Wrap, Dunkin’ will help encourage the Philadelphia community to stop by a local blood drive or donation center and donate blood this winter.”

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* NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. OFFER NOT VALID ON MOBILE APP ORDERS. Dairy alternatives, flavors, cold foam and espresso shots may be an additional charge. Limit one per customer per visit. Shop must retain coupon. May not be combined with other offers or promotions. No substitutions. Consumer must pay applicable tax. Void if copied, transferred or sold and where prohibited or restricted by law. Cash Value 1/20 of 1 cent. Terms apply. Good at participating Dunkin’ locations in Kent and New Castle Counties, DE; Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, and Salem Counties, NJ; Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia Counties, PA. EXP: 2/10/23 

** NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. OFFER NOT VALID ON MOBILE APP ORDERS. Limit one per customer per visit. Shop must retain coupon. May not be combined with other offers or promotions. No substitutions. Consumer must pay applicable tax. Void if copied, transferred or sold and where prohibited or restricted by law. Cash Value 1/20 of 1 cent. Terms apply. Good at participating Dunkin’ locations in Kent and New Castle Counties, DE; Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, and Salem Counties, NJ; Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia Counties, PA. EXP: 2/10/23

National Blood Donor Month: Family of blood donors inspires first-time giver Steph Judge

By Jenny Farley

First-time blood donor Steph Judge. Submitted photo.

Steph Judge comes from a long line of family members who have given blood over and over. “They donated from the time they could start giving,” she says. Her uncle, mother, brother, father and grandfather have all donated blood and for a while she was the lone holdout. “I was afraid I was going to pass out.”

But that all changed when she walked into a blood drive at the fire house in Upper Gwynedd Township, her mind made up. She was ready to give for the first time ever.

“My only regret is not trying it sooner.”

Judge says the whole process from start to finish was easy. She signed up on the Red Cross Blood Donor app and felt immediately taken care of by the compassionate phlebotomist who looked after her.

“I was very comfortable. I knew I was in good hands. The [phlebotomist] walked me through everything that was going to happen. Nothing hurt!”

For Judge, giving blood is personal. She has fond memories of the Red Cross plaques and pins her father and grandfather earned from their years donating blood. The Red Cross collects 40% of America’s blood supply.

Throughout his lifetime, her grandfather donated five gallons before he went from donor to recipient, needing blood transfusions during a kidney transplant. And her dad needed blood transfusions when he got sick from lung cancer.

“They were both really great men. My dad really cared about everyone. If you needed something he was there and that’s part of why I wanted to donate because I knew it was something that he did and I wanted to carry on that legacy. The same with my grandfather. Pretty selfless men which you don’t find too often.”

For Judge, being selfless runs in the family. She went into the medical field to help people, working as a physical therapy assistant.

“We help people rehab from injury. We help them get back to where they were before.” The biggest challenge? “Reminding people that they need to keep going, even when they feel like things aren’t working. They need to just keep going.”

Lately, Judge has been traveling more than ever. She has a love of hiking and checking out local wineries. One place she plans to go again… right back to donating. Judge has already signed up for her next blood and platelet donation and she is encouraging friends and coworkers to donate too.

“I told them it wasn’t as scary as some people make it seem and it’s a really good thing to do for other people.”

For more information on donating blood go to redcrossblood.org or sign up on the Red Cross Blood Donor app just like Judge did. Download the free app by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 or search “American Red Cross” in app stores. Your blood donation will save lives and you could be starting your next great family tradition.

Resolve to make a difference in 2023 by volunteering with the Red Cross

By Alana Mauger

Red Cross graphic: Resolve to Volunteer

As we near the end of 2022 and begin to think about our New Year’s resolutions, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania asks that you consider making a meaningful choice by becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

Locally, more than 1,500 people volunteer with the Red Cross. These local volunteers are part of the almost 300,000 people across the country whose support enables the Red Cross to respond to an average of more than 60,000 disasters every year and deliver more than 6.4 million blood products to hospital patients in need. Volunteers also help train more than 4.6 million people in Red Cross lifesaving skills; help provide nearly 550,000 services to military members, veterans and their families; and to reconnect almost 9,000 families separated by war or disaster around the world.

“Our Red Cross volunteers step up to help our neighbors here in Southeastern Pennsylvania each and every day,” said Guy Triano, CEO, Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania “In the last year, our volunteers responded to more than 600 local disasters, distributed over 100,000 units of blood, provided more than 2,300 case services for military families and trained more than 50,000 people in lifesaving skills. Just imagine the impact you could make in 2023 by joining us as a volunteer.”

Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering is good for you and our community. The top five benefits of resolving to volunteer in 2023 include:

  1. Meeting new people. Our volunteers are amazing individuals with diverse backgrounds that are inspired to give back, just like you.
  2. Learning new skills. Red Cross volunteer positions include free training and provide an opportunity to experience new adventures.
  3. Being part of something larger. Become a vital part of the Red Cross and our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering.
  4. Making a difference in someone’s life. Whether you are helping a family that just had a home fire or supporting the collection of lifesaving blood, your impact is real.
  5. Staying active. Many volunteer roles require physical activity which is great for your overall health.

Local Volunteer Opportunities

Below are few of the volunteer positions we need help filling. You can learn more about these positions by joining us for a Resolve to Volunteer” virtual information session on Thursday, Jan. 12 at noon. Please register in advance at rdcrss.org/3WzmR6e. Can’t make the session? Email ned.bloom@redcross.org or lynn.cohen@redcross.org for information.

  • Blood Transportation Specialists:  Help deliver blood from our collection sites throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey to our lab in Philadelphia for testing and processing and/or to deliver blood products from our lab to hospitals in the area using a Red Cross-owned vehicle.
  • Disaster Action Team Members: Sign up for on-call shifts as part of a team to help provide 24-hour emergencyresponse to local disasters, ensuring that your neighbors have access to resources for necessities such food, shelter and clothing.
  • Disaster Response Duty Officers: Volunteer from home to dispatch local Red Cross volunteers to meet with families impacted by home fires and other disasters so they can provide temporary relief such as a safe place to stay, food and clothing.
  • Service to the Armed Forces Clinic Volunteers: Help enhance the morale of veterans by providing direct and indirect assistance to patient care activities at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Coatesville, Chester County.

Training is free, but the hope you provide as a Red Cross volunteer is priceless. Visit redcross.org/volunteertoday to get started.

Mission Moment: Christmas comes to the Red Cross House for McClary family

By Alana Mauger

Shantal and Robert McClary help children Sarah, Joseph and RJ decorate Christmas cookies at the Red Cross House holiday party on Dec. 21. Photo by Dianne Heard/American Red Cross

Christmas looked a little different this year than how Shantel McClary pictured it. She didn’t expect a home fire to destroy her family’s apartment – along with all the gifts she worked extra hard to buy for her children.

“This year, we worked really hard, were in a good place to give the kids a special Christmas. Now it’s all gone,” she said.

Three families, including Shantel’s, were displaced when an afternoon fire destroyed their home in Darby, Pennsylvania on Dec. 15. American Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers responded to the scene to provide comfort and care to those impacted. Shantel’s family, which includes her husband Robert and children Savannah (age 9), Joseph (age 6) RJ (age 4) and Sarah (age 3), moved into the Red Cross House that night.

The Red Cross House is a one-of-a-kind disaster recovery center in West Philadelphia that provides support to clients in a safe and comfortable environment. Families get their own room and key with a bathroom and three meals per day while they develop a recovery plan with a Red Cross caseworker.

Despite the tragedy of losing their home, the McClary family was able to celebrate Christmas, thanks to the generosity of Red Cross volunteers and staff. The Red Cross House held a Christmas party on Dec. 21 for children and families who stayed there over the past few years – and for families currently living there. The party included a meal, cookie decorating, photos with Santa, appearances by Red Cross mascots Fred Cross and Buddy the Blood Drop, a visit from the Philadelphia Fire Department and tours of the fire truck and gifts. The joy on the children’s faces lifted everyone’s spirits.

Sarah McClary with Santa at the Red Cross House holiday party on Dec. 21. Photo by Dianne Heard/American Red Cross

With the New Year on the horizon, Shantal and Robert are looking for a new place to live, ideally in Darby so their children won’t have to switch schools. In the meantime, Shantel has been taking Savannah and Joseph to and from school via public transportation so they don’t miss a beat.  The Red Cross House has enabled the McClary family to take steps toward their recovery.

“It hasn’t been easy, but we’ll get through,” Shantal said.