University’s American Red Cross Club celebrates National American Red Cross Month

Each year, students of the University’s American Red Cross Club come together in the name of fundraising, blood donation and giving aid to disaster victims on-site. With many tasks on hand, the registered student organization shares one common goal: helping people in need. With March being National American Red Cross Month, this hardworking group of students is putting in extra effort.

Franklin D. Roosevelt named March American Red Cross Month in 1943 in response to disastrous floods in the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys. In his first Presidential Proclamation of March as Red Cross Month in 1943, he stated, “I request that during that month (March) our people rededicate themselves to the splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross.”

University students are carrying on this tradition by holding a fundraiser in honor of American Red Cross Month. From Monday to Thursday, they are selling espresso shot glasses in the Illini Union. They are also holding a Canteen Run, a on-site event to assist those in need, on March 16. All proceeds will go to the Measles & Rubella Initiative, a global partnership fighting measles and rubella.

Kelly Formoso, youth adviser for the American Red Cross Club and branch manager of the Mid-Illinois chapter of the American Red Cross, said she recognizes the hard work everyone has been doing.

In addition, the club is also busy this month working on social media training to promote the America Red Cross using members’ personal networks, social events within the club to strengthen membership, and plans for their April blood drive.

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On a national level, American Red Cross Month stands for recognizing the organization itself.

“Red Cross Month is encompassing and celebrating what the American Red Cross does,” Formoso said. “We try to promote what they do.”

She also said that there is an emphasis within the club about how to get more involved in the Red Cross community.

In the fall, the club fundraised through working at football games and holding a football toss on Dad’s Weekend, said Megan Ladd, fundraising chair and sophomore in LAS. Later this spring, they plan to set up tables on the Quad and sell food from different ethnic groups, a tradition called Taste of Diversity.

The money that is raised throughout the year typically goes to the Mid-Illinois chapter of the American Red Cross, where Formoso runs the youth program. The program educates local children about life-saving preparedness education, Formoso said.

However, the club has already completed that goal of $1,000, so they are now raising money for the Measles Initiative, Ladd said.

Another big event that the American Red Cross Club hosts are blood drives. Although there is no blood drive planned for this month, the club is planning their next one in April. Each year they hold two blood drives per semester. Marielle Nagele, blood services representative and junior in LAS, said she enjoys the opportunity to give back because of a personal connection.

“I knew people in high school who had cancer,” she said. “There’s always a blood shortage, and (donating blood) is a great way to help people.”

Last year, the club held an extra blood drive in honor of Davis McKay, a 5-year-old boy from Champaign who has Leukemia and Down Syndrome. Next year, they are planning on holding a blood drive on Sept. 11, in memory of the people who were lost in the 2001 tragedy, Nagele said.

According to the American Red Cross Club, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood, and the American Red Cross supplies 45 percent of the nation’s blood supply.

Aside from fundraising and organizing blood drives, certified club members also can help out in areas affected by weather-related disasters. Club President Liz Madrzyk, senior in LAS, is one of the members who helped build a shelter in Gifford, Ill., for the tornado victims in November.

“You get to be right there, up close and personal,” she said. “People were so thankful. It was mind-blowing.”

Although there are many different tasks involved in the American Red Cross Club, they share a common interest in helping people.

“They stay volunteers their whole lives,” Formoso said.

Abby can be reached at [email protected].