Jennie Dillon Heneks: Not All Heroes Wear Capes

By Nancy Degnan

Pictured: Jennie Dillion Heneks and her son Des.

Jennie Dillion Heneks’s superpower is giving the gift of life through blood donations.

Jennie was inspired to become a blood donor with the American Red Cross after her son, Des, became ill with Kawasaki disease (KD). He needed an immediate blood treatment, and Jennie gained a new appreciation for blood donors as she watched her 4-year-old son receive the intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) that would help him recover.

Jennie and Des want to create awareness around recognizing the onset of KD, the importance of quick intervention, and the lifesaving value of blood. KD is a rare condition that mainly affects children; it causes swelling in the walls of medium-sized arteries throughout the body. The inflammation tends to affect the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle. When Jennie initially brought her son to the emergency room, Des had a high fever and couldn’t walk due to foot pain and peeling on his toes. These are symptoms noted in the second phase of the disease. (In the third and final phase, signs and symptoms slowly subside.)

The good news is that most kids with KD recover completely, but early action is key. There’s a knowledge gap when it comes to diagnosing KD, and that can result in unnecessary delays. Within the 10-day window of the onset of the condition, parents are important advocates for their kids in dealing with health care providers. Symptoms to watch for: a fever that lasts three to four days, redness in both eyes, a very red and swollen tongue, redness of the palms or soles, skin peeling, a rash, and swollen lymph nodes.

As mentioned, recognizing the early signs—ideally during the first phase—is key. When KD is diagnosed and treated within the first 10 days, there’s a better chance of full recovery without residual problems. The longer the symptoms progress, the higher the likelihood of long-term damage and the need for ongoing treatments.

Pictured: Des Heneks today, living a full life thanks to the blood treatment he received when he was four years old.

Jennie is thankful that the on-call doctor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was a cardiologist familiar with KD. Thanks to the rapid diagnosis, Des was treated with one IVIG treatment over the course of 36 hours and observed in the ICU for the next seven days to ensure his recovery.

Today, Des is a healthy 13-year-old with a black belt in karate. He is living a full life, thanks to the blood treatment he received at age 4.

Jennie and Des are heroes with heart. Jennie is giving life by giving blood, and with the help of her son, she is creating awareness of the symptoms associated with KD. By helping parents and doctors recognize the early warning signs, she hopes young patients with KD can recover quickly and keep sharing their smiles!

Nine Ways to Safely Celebrate Independence Day, America’s Most Accident-Prone Holiday

By Marta Rusek (she/her)

Image description: A fireworks safety graphic from the American Red Cross featuring red, white, and blue colors. It reads: Do This, NOT That. Green checkmark emoji: Keep water nearby in case fireworks start a fire. Red x emoji: Don’t point fireworks at pets. Green checkmark emoji: Wear eye protection if you light a firework. Red x emoji: Never try relighting a dud.

I love Independence Day. For me, it’s the perfect day to sleep in, take a stroll over to Independence Hall, calculate how many years stand between me and my dream of celebrating the Tricentennial, and enjoy fireworks from a safe distance. For everyone else and their mother, it’s a celebration of American abundance and uninhibited fun, complete with grilling copious amounts of food, cannon-balling into the nearest pool, and setting off as many fireworks as possible, just as the Founding Fathers intended. 

Surprisingly, the Fourth of July is also the holiday whose festivities are most likely to cause an accident. Grill fires, swimming disasters, and mishandled fireworks can bring your highly-anticipated celebration to a grinding halt. Fortunately, the American Red Cross, our first and last resource for disaster prevention, is here to save us from ourselves this July 4th with the following helpful hints:

  • When it comes to grilling, take it outside. Never use a grill inside a camper, in a tent, inside your house, or any enclosed space. Fire from the grill can flare up unexpectedly and spread rapidly indoors.
  • Keep children and pets at a safe distance. Hot dogs are the only little doggies allowed near an active grill. Kids and fur babies are fast and can get into trouble in very little time, so make sure they are kept as far away from the grilling area.
  • Use proper grilling tools. Long-handled utensils designed to withstand high temperatures will not only craft the perfect Independence Day feast, they’ll also keep the fire from the grill at arm’s length.
  • Talk to your kids about water safety long before they take a dip. Safe swimming habits are learned, and the Red Cross makes it easy to teach kids from Kindergarten to sixth grade how to enjoy the water safely for life. Check out the Water Safety for Kids resource, and the main Water Safety page here.
  • Go on supervised swim adventures only. While it’s tempting to seek out a private spot where you and your family can swim without crowds in every direction, it’s safest to visit a designated swimming destination with lifeguards certified in CPR and first aid. If you’re swimming with small children or weak swimmers, make sure they wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved swim vest in the water.
  • After the fun is done, flip it over. Kiddie pools are a great way for little kids and the young at heart to keep cool on a hot day. You can prevent accidental drowning (yes, drowning can occur in shallow water) by draining the pool and flipping it upside down when you’re finished.
  • When it comes to celebrating with fireworks, follow the instructions and local regulations closely. Fireworks are fun, but unpredictable. Never give them to small children to play with, and never point them at a person, animal, building, car, or anything flammable. Read up on fireworks regulations in the Philadelphia area here
  • Keep a source of water nearby, in case the fireworks fun goes sideways. 
  • Light one firework at a time, and never try to relight a dud. Your loved ones (and your fingers) will thank you!

And one more tip – in the midst of the fireworks, food, and fun, remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is still going on. News of the Delta strain of the coronavirus is cause for caution, so keep your face masks handy, your hands clean, and stay home if you start to feel sick before the festivities. Celebrate safely this July 4th so we can commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory in style —greased poles and all— in 2022! 

Image Description: A Black woman wearing a red and white American Red Cross baseball cap smiles at the camera. In the background are dark blue and red drawings of stars, swirls, and fireworks to celebrate July 4th.

Looking for an activity for the three-day weekend that will save lives? Give blood through the Red Cross!

As a thank-you, all those who come to give July 1-6 will receive a Red Cross embroidered hat, while supplies last. And, donors who come to give July 7-31 will receive a $10 Gift Card by email, plus a chance to win gas for a year (a $5,000 value). (Terms and conditions apply; visit

The Rewards of Blood Donation, from a Longtime Donor

By Maria Marabito

June 14, Flag Day, is marked on most Americans’ calendars. But did you know that June 14 is also World Blood Donor Day? This observance, a joint initiative of the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, was created in 2005 for two reasons: to raise awareness of the global need for blood, and to thank blood donors for their lifesaving gifts.

Blood donation is a selfless, honorable act. Blood can’t be manufactured; it can only come from volunteer donors. This year’s theme is “Give blood and keep the world beating.” In the United States alone, about 6.8 million people donate lifesaving blood. Christina McCarthy is one of them.

McCarthy, a clinical assistant at a pain management office, has been giving blood regularly with the Red Cross for about six years now. Like many blood donors, she was inspired to do her part because of a family connection. Her grandfather, who passed away in 2013, had heart issues that landed him in the hospital on a regular basis. He received many transfusions as part of his care, which motivated McCarthy and her family to start donating themselves.

Photo courtesy of Christina McCarthy

McCarthy’s mother was the first in the family to get the ball rolling. Once Christina began working in the medical field, she realized just how important — and how easy— blood donations are. Her sister and some coworkers have since donated as well. 

“I recruited a couple of coworkers for the last blood drive I went to; two women went with me, and now they’re starting to do it on a semi-regular basis as well,” McCarthy says.

The feel-good rewards are immediate, and you’ll be plenty pleased with yourself. But for an extra shot of satisfaction, you can actually find out where your blood donation went: Just use the Red Cross blood donor app. “I like how the Red Cross  tells you when they’ve processed your blood, and they send you an email telling you where it’s going. I think that’s really helpful,” McCarthy says. “I know my last couple of donations have gone to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, so that makes me feel really good.”

The app not only allows you to schedule your donations but also keeps track of them and lets you know when it’s safe to donate again. “I donate every time my app reminds me, so every 48 days or something like that,” McCarthy says. [Editor’s note: you can donate whole blood every 56 days.]

If you’re nervous, McCarthy insists that the needles aren’t bad at all. (New, sterile needles are used and discarded after one use.) You’ll even be given a free mini-physical at your appointment — temperature, blood pressure, pulse and hemoglobin — to ensure that you’re healthy enough to donate that day. But don’t go on an empty stomach: McCarthy says she passed out the first time, because she didn’t eat enough beforehand. (She recommends a large meal.) That didn’t stop her from going again and turning it into a routine. 

Why give blood? “It is one thing you can do that can literally save someone else’s life, and it’s free for you to do and it takes not even a half hour, so why wouldn’t you do it?” McCarthy says.  [Editor’s note: please allow for 1 hour when you schedule a blood donation appointment.]

In fact, a single donation can potentially save up to three lives.  

And in case you were wondering, the pandemic hasn’t stopped the Red Cross from collecting blood. “They’ve been doing a good job at staggering the appointment times so there aren’t too many people at once. It definitely wouldn’t stop me from donating,” McCarthy says.

There are four blood and platelet donation centers and many blood drive collection sites within the five counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Finding a location and time is easy: Just use the Red Cross’s online blood drive finder. You can also use the Red Cross blood donor app to schedule and manage appointments. Depending on the type of donation (whole blood, power red, or platelet), you can donate as often as every 56 days. Today’s your day to save a life… or three!

Primary image description: an illustration, with the American Red Cross logo above the words “World Blood Donor Day” in white letters on a dark blue background. Next to the logo and words is a bright red drop with a water-color rendering of the world inside it.

Five Ways to Winterproof Your Pet

By Samantha Antenucci

As a loving pet owner, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my cat and five dogs (two of which are pictured below!). Pets are valuable family members—and as with any family member, they need to be looked after, especially when challenging weather poses health risks for them.  

This winter’s polar vortex in the Midwest and East Coast left single-digit temps and subzero wind chills in its wake. Although that episode has passed, it doesn’t mean winter has loosened its grip on the Northeast. We may still see subfreezing weather blast through before the season is over, and inclement conditions can stress our pets. Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that your furry friends survive the season. 

Keep ’em in if it’s cold out 

Yes, Fido has a fur coat, but extreme cold is dangerous for humans and animals alike. So bring your pet indoors when temperatures dip. If it’s an outdoor pet, it still needs warm indoor shelter during freezing and below-freezing temps. The rest of the time, your pet needs an enclosure that protects it from wind, rain, and snow. The size of the enclosure matters—it should be large enough for the animal to sit and lie down, but small enough to ensure conservation of body heat. It should also face away from any wind and be elevated above ground to prevent further heat loss. It is also good practice to cover the doorway with a waterproof material for warmth and to keep the elements out.  

Wipe those salty paws 

Unless you’re in the country, chances are that after a storm, your streets and sidewalks are heavily treated with salt or chemical deicers. These compounds can stick to your dog’s paw pads during a walk,  causing major irritation. In addition, if Fido tries to lick his pads clean, the salt and chemicals can make him sick. So make a habit of ending your winter walks by wiping off your dog’s feet with a damp cloth or towel, and checking regularly for cracked or bleeding paws. 

Avoid household hazards  

Speaking of chemicals, antifreeze is a deadly poison that’s often kept indoors. Its sweet taste attracts animals and ingestion can lead to death. Keep this and other household chemicals safely stored, and clean up any spills immediately.  

Consider the local critters  

Your own pets are not the only animals who may suffer in winter, so keep an eye out for creatures in need. Neighborhood cats have been known to crawl under car hoods or onto the tops of tires to keep warm. Before starting your engine in the morning, bang on the hood to scare away any animals that could be hiding inside. 

Expect the unexpected                               

Being prepared in winter is vital; extreme weather can knock out heat, power, and communications. Make a plan to deal with storms, and keep an emergency kit handy—including five days’ worth of food, water, and medications. That way you can better protect your whole family—and your pet—from unforeseen hardships.  

For more tips on weather safety for your pets, check out the American Red Cross’s Pet First Aid app. With veterinary advice and emergency preparedness info, the Pet First Aid app can help you keep your pets safe and warm this winter. To access all Red Cross apps, click here.

Black History Month Spotlight- Gregory L. Smith

By: Kathy Huston

It’s Black History Month and we wanted to celebrate an honored member, and leader within our Eastern Pennsylvania Region, Gregory L. Smith.  

Smith has a long history of dedication to the American Red Cross, which started in 1992 as a volunteer. Since then, Smith has worked his way to his current role as Regional Disaster Program Officer for the Eastern PA Region, headquartered in Philadelphia.  

“In this role, I am the lead employee responsible for preparedness, readiness, response and recovery activities for the 17 counties that comprise the region’s territory,” Smith said. 

Smith has held a number of titles during his years of service, including Disaster Cycle Service supervisor, manager and director in Northern California, Columbus, OH and Philadelphia, PA, and at the national headquarters, where he also served as the VP of Volunteers, Youth and Nursing Programs from 2000 through 2002.  

Over the past two decades, Smith has seen his fair share of major disasters. His wealth of information and knowledge come, in part, from deployments to support major disaster relief operations across the country, including the North Ridge earthquake, hurricanes Fran, Ike, Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Matthew and Florence, and tornados in Moore, OK and Joplin, MO. He was also on the scene for the relief efforts that followed 9/11 in New York City.   

During the month of February, when we reflect on the contributions of African Americans and the cultural richness and diversity of our country, Smith explains why honoring diversity and inclusiveness ultimately helps the organization succeed in following through on its mission.  

“Diversity is vital for the American Red Cross, because we must reflect the diverse communities we serve, whether translating the care and concerns of our donors into actions, or engaging volunteers in the delivery of our services,” he said.  

In talking to him, it’s clear that Smith is motivated by the impacts he has made, and continues to make, on individuals, families and communities, as they prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters and emergencies.  

“My greatest motivation is that I can engage and support community volunteers in these efforts,” he notes. 

For Smith, black history is a year-round celebration, as is his determination to carry out his unwavering service to the American Red Cross. 

 “I do my best every single day to demonstrate that you can look like me and not only deliver the Red Cross mission, but be a leader in the movement as well,” he said. 

Smith’s dedication and commitment to making a positive impact on the communities he serves is certainly an example we can all look up to.  

Score with these Super Bowl Safety Tips

By Kathleen Huston

Safety is the Goal at Your Super Bowl Party

Quicker than you can say “double doink” (with a shout-out to my Philadelphia Eagles, who unfortunately didn’t make it this year), the Rams and the Patriots will go head to head in Atlanta, GA for Super Bowl LIII. Here are some timely tips to help ensure that all you fans out there don’t take a hit as well.

For the Host With the Most

The focus of your get-together should be on the five F’s: football, fun, family, friends and food. You might be watching for a while! The longest Super Bowl game was number XLII in 2013, clocking in at four hours and 14 minutes, according to

In addition to your chips and dips and pizzas and wings, be sure to have healthier options on hand. Hummus, guacamole, veggies and dip, turkey chili with lots of healthy peppers and beans, nuts, and popcorn without butter all fit the bill. Also make sure nonalcoholic drinks (especially water) are in plentiful supply.

Finally, sure, your fun and festive football-themed hand towel in the bathroom is nice for guests to look at, but have disposable towels at the ready so they can avoid getting the last person’s germs. Also, make sure your hand soap dispenser is full. In that same vein, have serving utensils to use with each food item — even a spoon in the nut bowl — so guests don’t have to stick their hands in anything and risk spreading the flu virus.

For the Party People

Be sure to designate a sober driver before game day. If everyone in your group wants to imbibe, make sure you install a ride service app on your phone or have a taxi company number available in your contacts.

If you’re sick, don’t think you should rally and attend anyway. Stay home. You aren’t doing yourself any favors and nobody wants to score your cold or flu either. There’s always next year!

If you are the designated driver, practice defensive driving (as you always should). Snopes has confirmed time and again that car accidents soar after Super Bowls. “Even those fans who don’t drink during or after the game pose a risk to themselves and others once they hit the road because of the distraction factor,” it notes. Whether you’re wallowing in the fact that you’re team didn’t make the cut or celebrating your victory over and over again in your head, save those thoughts until you’re home safe and sound. You don’t want to be one of those distracted drivers yourself.

Download the App

To wrap it up, the Red Cross offers a free first-aid app you can install on your phone now. Among its many features, it provides tips and videos addressing common first-aid scenarios. Content is available in English and Spanish. Read more about it here.

Philadelphia Students Donate Nearly $1,000 to American Red Cross

By: Sophie Kluthe

Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. It’s something we at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross witnessed first-hand this week, and we didn’t have to look very far to see it. 

Right across the street from our chapter office in Philadelphia, some tenacious students at the Albert M. Greenfield School were raising money — collecting change — with the hopes of creating change in the world around them.  

Students and teachers at the Albert M. Greenfield School pose for a photo with Regional Red Cross CEO, Guy Triano (far right).

John Neary, an 8th grade literacy teacher at the school told us what the fundraiser was about. “Earlier this school year, our school ran a charitable campaign called ‘World of Change.’  The campaign was organized and led by a group of middle school students in an after-school club called Student Voice.  Our belief is that even small acts of kindness can make a big difference in the world,” Neary said.  

He said each classroom was given six empty mason jars, with each jar representing an area of need: Hunger, Housing, Health, Literacy, Recreation, and Employment. Over the course of two weeks, students collected coins and donated them to the jars. The school nominated the American Red Cross as one of the organizations to possibly benefit from the money in the Health jar.  

“We put together a ballot, and our community voted on which organization would receive the money collected for each category. I am happy to say that the Red Cross was an overwhelming favorite!” Neary said. 

The Red Cross is the proud recipient of precisely $996.28! What we are equally as proud of, was the time and dedication the students at Albert M. Greenfield School put into collecting all the coins for the jars. It proves that no matter a person’s age, or the amount they have to give, every little bit counts!

Giving Tuesday With the Red Cross


On Tuesday, December 2, 2014 people from around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. Giving Tuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. We have a day for giving thanks, two days for getting deals, and on #GivingTuesday charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students will come together to give something more.

timeThe American Red Cross relies on the generosity of those looking to give back to our humanitarian mission. From providing disaster relief, to responding to local emergencies, to educating communities on lifesaving preparedness and training, to supporting our military and their families, our work is only made possible by donors and volunteers.

This #GivingTuesday choose to give your time, your money or your blood to the American Red Cross.

The 2014 American Red Cross Holiday Gift Catalog provides a list of gifts that support our military, ease urgent needs, and help spread global compassion. Gift prices start at $15.00, which will provide fire safety training and the installation of one fire alarm to help keep families safe and prepared. Gift prices range all the way to $1,000.00, providing a full day of emergency shelter for 20 people, which includes three meals, two blankets, one cot, snacks and personal hygiene supplies. Free gifts are included with donation while supplies last. For a complete list of gifts, please click here.unselfie movement

In addition to making a financial donation, volunteering your time is another way to contribute to #GivingTuesday. Getting involved is an easy way to give back to your local community this holiday season. To join the team of volunteers delivering care and compassion to those in need everyday, please click here. And don’t forget that the American Red Cross supplies more than 40% of the nation’s blood supply, so we are always in need of more donations. You can sign up to make a blood donation or host a virtual blood drive right on our website.FAB_give_blood

Now here’s the best part. Throughout the day on #GivingTuesday the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania will be following along on social media as you tweet, post, like, and share how you are contributing to #GivingTuesday. You can take a photo, video, or post an #UNSelfie of your #GivingTuesday activities to join in the worldwide movement. We look forward to seeing the global impact of everyone’s contributions and activities on #GivingTuesday and hearing all about #WhyIGive.


-Submitted by Jessica Webb, Communications Volunteer

Eight Simple Tips to Surviving this Halloween

Submitted in part by Carnelita Slaughter, Red Cross Volunteer



Whether you are playing chaperone or getting together with friends, like me, you have probably been planning our Halloween festivities for weeks. Now it’s crunch time! Your frightful crew is gathering and your decorations are sending chills up the neighbors’ spines (you’ve done well). But you may be forgetting something…….. the greatest hazards of Halloween aren’t the spirits trying to communicate through your Ouija board or the creatures you’ll encounter throughout the night. No! There are other dangers that come with wandering around in the dark in busy neighborhood with uneven street lighting and small children. Good thing you have the Red Cross to guide you. We can’t promise you won’t suffer a tummy ache or sore feet but stick with us and you’ll celebrate many Spooktacular evenings to come!


  1. Look for flame resistant costumes.

Homer's burning Halloween

2. Try to stick with make-up instead of masks to make sure trick-or-treaters can see clearly as they walk the neighborhood.


3. Plan your Trick-or-Treat route in advance.
Trick or Treat Route

A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children as they make their way around the neighborhood.

4. Make it easy to be seen in the dark.

Make sure trick-or-treaters have flashlights. Put reflective tape on dark colored costumes, or try to stick with light colored costumes.

5. Only visit homes that have the porch light on.


Accept treats at the door but never go inside.


6. Only walk on sidewalks.

If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street and cross only at the corner. Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. And don’t cross between parked cars

7. Be cautious around pets and other animals.


8. Use glow sticks or LEDs inside jack-o-lanterns instead of candles.



For more tips and information click here, and be sure to download our Red Cross First Aid App at

Is Your Workplace Prepared for Emergencies?

rco_blog_img_PREPARESeptember is National Preparedness Month, and it’s important to remember that emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. Most of us have plans in place at home for emergencies like illness or natural disasters, but is your workplace prepared for these events? There’s a good chance that your employer has emergency procedures like building evacuation in place and has an easily-accessible first aid kit and automated external defibrillator (AED). However, your co-workers may not be aware of how to respond to emergencies or use equipment like an AED. The American Red Cross can help your workplace prepare for emergencies through services like safety assessment, training, and certification programs.

You can always find emergency preparedness information at, but the following programs can help your workplace better respond to emergencies.

American Red Cross Ready Rating Program 

The American Red Cross Ready Rating™, a first-of-its-kind membership program designed to help businesses and organizations become better prepared for emergencies. Membership is free, and the program is self-paced. After joining, members complete a 123-point self-assessment to find areas of improvement for emergency preparedness.

Workers learn tips and best practices for emergencies. Most importantly, members make a commitment to improve their readiness score each year in a continuing process.m10643684_241x164-learning-aed

Employee Training

The American Red Cross provides flexible training options for workplaces that meet OSHA, corporate, and other regulatory standards. From on-site employee CPR and First Aid training, to access to community classes, employers can work with employees to find the best training options based on their needs.

Instructor Training

If your workplace has a designated emergency response or health and safety team leader, they can benefit from receiving training from the American Red Cross. After completing Red Cross training, your workplace instructor can lead their own training sessions on emergency response topics like First Aid/CPR and other areas that are relevant to your field.

download workplace safetyFor more information on all Workplace Safety Training and Preparedness Programs available through the American Red Cross, see the online catalog here.