Tag Archives: Colorado


This Sunday, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles play the Denver Broncos. And believe it not, that has created somewhat of a quandary for me. Normally, it’s a no-brainer as to where my loyalties would lie. I’m a lifelong Eagles fan. (It took years of therapy to make that admission BTW.) But being in the disaster business, and working for the Red Cross in particular, it’s not that cut and dry — to the point where I’m actually asking myself, what should my rooting interest be?

I have nothing against the Broncos. I really like Peyton Manning and I like seeing him succeed. Colorado is beautiful. I don’t get to visit it to go skiing nearly enough.  I also have some wonderful Red Cross colleagues in Colorado. But this is the Eagles and if they have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to pull off an upset. So here’s my quandary.

Anyone who has been keeping up with the news, knows Denver and the state of Colorado have been through a lot this summer (and the last year for that matter.) (KUSA-TV story via USA Today). The past few weeks I’ve seen incredible footage of homes being wiped away by flooding, all on the heels of terrible wildfires the past two summers. I’ve read and heard the stories of families who lost their homes to wildfires last summer, just to see them get washed away by flooding this summer. My colleagues in Colorado have friends and neighbors who were directly affected. My heart breaks for the thousands of people who must start over.

Now I realize a football game won’t fix any of that. I realize that it is, in fact, just a game. But history has shown us that sports can play a big role in healing cities and communities affected by tragedy. Think of the impact sports had on New York City (and the country) after 9/11. Who wasn’t pulling for the Yankees in that World Series? Just a few short years after Katrina, no one could deny the positive impact the Saints winning the Super Bowl had on the city’s psyche and economy. After Sandy, the Giants helped NY and NJ mentally recover, at least for a few hours every week. Everyone was a Red Sox and Bruins fan in the weeks following the Boston Marathon bombing. Rooting against those teams was almost sacrilege.

Which brings me back to this Sunday’s Eagles game against the Broncos. If the Eagles were playing the Cowboys, I admit, it may be a different story. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to root for the Cowboys, no matter the circumstance. That’s just a fact of life of someone from Philadelphia. But Denver is a different story.


So what should I do? Let my lifelong love of the Eagles trump my genuine wish for the Broncos, in a small way, help the people of Denver feel better? Or toss my lifelong loyalty aside, this once, and root for a Broncos victory?

Ultimately, I turned to my Red Cross colleagues in Colorado for the answer. I saw through their tweets, photos, videos, and stories that demonstrated very clearly that the people of Colorado “got this.” With the help of agencies like the Red Cross and their fellow citizens, Coloradans are showing an unbelievable and inspiring resilience. Their ability to absorb what has happened and vow to overcome it, with no complaint, is remarkable.

Just like folks in New York, New Orleans, and Boston, Coloradans showed me that they don’t need me to root for their football team in order to feel loved and supported. Adversity brings out the best in us. It  brings out our selflessness. It brings out our love. It brings out our humanity. Those qualities make us winners and Colorado has plenty of all of them.

Go Eagles.

Danelle Stoppel, a Red Cross volunteer with the SEPA Chapter who specializes in mental health services who is a very experienced volunteer when it comes to disasters. She has no problems transiting from volunteering at the local level to the national level. During her last two deployments, Danelle has been traveling and keeping us updated on what she has been experiencing through text message. After spending time in Colorado, she is now in Tulsa, Oklahoma just a month later. Here is her latest string of texts outlining her recent deployment:


August 9, 2012

Arrived in Oklahoma and redirected to Tulsa.  Along the interstate there were long stretches of burned areas.  I was assigned to a work site in Creek County where American Red Cross (ARC) services are being delivered.  There are strong community liaisons like Colorado spring, the Baptist church and the medical corp.  Temperatures are in the 100s, but there is little humidity.  There are strong winds and no chance of rain until Sunday.


All that is left of a neighborhood after the Creek County Wildfires in Oklahoma. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

August 10, 2012

Disaster Relief (DR) is very small. I have been assigned to Mannford and services are concentrated there.  Like Colorado Springs, the local chapter, county and state agencies are working together.  Services begin at twelve noon, but I am meeting with client case management to coordinate mental health services in an outreach effort.  I will know more after that meeting.  I still have not seen the damaged areas since these fires were scattered over a large area.  I met a gentleman last night who lost everything.

August 10, 2012

All services in Creek County are located in a service center.  Four other mental health workers and myself are  working with client case management as people arrive.  We serviced over 80 families today.  Families are receiving funds from the Red Cross.

Red Cross provides services to aid victims of the wildfires. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

August 10, 2012

Many of the families from Creek County live on large tracts of land…50,100 acres with multiple houses of family members’ land that has been in the family forever.  People reported helping their neighbor rescue their horses only to return home and find their own land on fire.  One young woman operates a family salvage business and in June a fire swept through about ten acres burning most of their salvaged autos.  She was married several weeks after and last week her home was completely destroyed including all of her wedding presents.  Her husband fled their home wearing the first present she ever bought him, a green pair of shorts.  She laughed thinking of how much she hated those shorts since they were now four years old and had a large white stain on them.  But those pants survived the fire as did her husband.  People from here are very hard working and never ask for help.  Many of them are now realizing that they need help.  Due to the fire and the drought many farmers do not have feed for their livestock.  See attached request


A flyer for hay and feed donations in Creek County. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

August 11, 2012

The staff at ARC are overwhelmed with the number of people seeking assistance.  In the last four days over 300 901s have been written.  Many animals /pets have been injured, missing and lost in the fire.  A local group called the Alliance for Animals is providing free medical services.  The front of the center has posters for missing pets.  The four mental health workers are working hand in hand with client management.  It has been difficult to assess since large tracts of land were affected. The fires were finally contracted on Tuesday.  Families were allowed to return to their properties late on Tuesday.  Emotions are very raw since FEMA has yet to arrive.  A farmer came into the center and reported that his entire farm of 1,000 acres has been burned and he needs assistance with his livestock.  People reported having only minutes to leave their homes.

Compiled by: Lana Pizzo

Viewing Danelle Stoppel’s posts on the wildfire situation in Colorado, has helped me learn to an even greater extent the kind of support the Red Cross offers in critical moments. As a new blogger with Red Cross Philly and as a new volunteer still growing acclimated to all the services the Red Cross provides, I was impressed to learn that in the midst of the wildfire crisis, the Red Cross was there also in Colorado providing temporary shelter, handing out supplies, serving meals and otherwise offering supportive services so essential in a crucial time of need.

Scanning through the local newspapers last week is when I first came across coverage of the ravaging wildfires tearing through parts of Colorado. The Philadelphia Daily News printed on June 28, that thousands fled their homes due to the fires. At one point the numbers reached a staggering 30,000 plus people who had been displaced. The Metro’s June 29 –July 1 weekend paper projected the number of homes destroyed in the hundreds. Add to that total, the various structures and buildings burned down in the wildfires’ periphery and the count of destroyed properties climbed by several hundred. Consequently, an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer indicated that the ongoing wildfires, which firefighters and other emergency personnel have worked hard to contain, are the most destructive in Colorado’s state history. 
Reading in the newspapers the massive damage brought about by the wildfires gave me awareness to what was happening in Colorado. Nevertheless, reading Danelle’s posts and viewing the pictures on the Red Cross Philly blog helped me to understand in a more tangible way the amount of effort and hard work that goes into supporting disaster relief situations, the hardships that the volunteers share with the victims, and the camaraderie that bonds the volunteers, workers and the people together during a time of crisis. When you go to the Red Cross Philly About” page and read the first sentence in the About Us” section you’ll see that it mirrors just the thing Danelle and other volunteers were carrying out in Colorado as Red Cross representatives which is “to be in the unique role of serving as the safety net for the American people in their hour of greatest need.” That I’m learning is the essential service the Red Cross provides.

– Jabril Redmond, volunteer

Danelle Stoppel, a Red Cross volunteer with the SEPA chapter is very experienced with the transition from volunteering at the local level to the national level and understands the ongoing problems that come with traveling through areas devastated by fire. This post was compiled from a series of text messages sent by Danelle.


All that is left of a neighborhood in Colorado Springs after the Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

June 29, 2012

Things are moving quickly from local to national.  Fire conditions continue with frequent small fires.  Last night, there was a large meeting at a local college where 345 families were told their houses were destroyed.  Tomorrow families will be bused to their homes, but they cannot get out since fires are still burning.  Disaster recovery centers will open.  I have staffed four shelters and am coordinating local efforts as they interface with national.

June 30, 2012

FEMA has arrived, but families cannot see their houses until Sunday now.  Mental health is now ten strong and includes local chapter members.  I am working with wonderful mental health people from across the country.  I will be housed at headquarters now and have been invited to participate in the strategic plan for this site.  I am working with old friends from deployments in Alabama and Pennsylvania and making new connections everyday.  There is lots of national exposure for mental health due to massive loss. Headquarters is opening away from chapter tomorrow and client case management is starting.

Volunteers in Colorado meet to learn their daily assignments                                            Photo by Danelle Stoppel

July 1, 2012

Today, the Colorado Springs recovery center opened and the American Red Cross provided services in the form of medical, client case management and mental health services.  Many people have lost their homes and their jobs.  One man told me he lost his job when a horse stable burned.  He lived in the canyon and never owned a car.  He needs money for transportation to find a new job.  Many renters have lost everything.  Five shelters are still open but evacuees return home tomorrow and do not know what they will find.  The threat of fire continues due to high temperatures and winds and many bears have moved closer to resort towns to escape the fire. The tap water smells like smoke.

SEPA Volunteer Danelle Stoppel with Colorado Springs ERV driver preparing to visit fire damaged areas

The Salvation Army is providing all food for the shelters. The ERVs arrived today; client case managers and nurses are now relieving local American Red Cross nurses.   I currently supervise 11 mental health personnel and our role will increase to client work and other areas when we are asked to become involved.  Volunteers are working 13 hours a day and we eat dinner together each night. I miss everyone at our Southeastern, PA chapter, but I am proud to represent the Philadelphia area.

Danelle’s texts only give a tiny glimpse into what happens during a major Red Cross relief operation. She and hundreds of other volunteers (including two from SEPA) were called in by our national headquarters to assist local Red Cross volunteers. Danelle’s deployment could last up to 21 days.

SEPA chapter trained Danelle to handle the work she is doing. We are proud of how capable and dedicated our volunteers are. They make it possible for the Red Cross to do what it does.

-Compiled by Lana Pizzo-