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You Don't Have to Look Far to Find a Hero
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An American Red Cross chapter builds its Heroes Program around courageous men and women living in the community it serves.
October 8, 2009

Ask Northwest Illinois Red Cross chapter executive Diana Roemer for the definition of a hero. She'll answer: the military, police, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians in the Illinois counties the chapter serves—Stephenson, Jo Daviess and Carroll.

Jerry Whitmore
Freeport Police Chief Jerry Whitmore gives a pint of blood in the first-ever Battle of the Badges blood drive at the American Red Cross Northwest Illinois Chapter. The Freeport Fire Department won the competition, but the spirit shown by the community members who waited in line for up to an hour to give lit a fire under chapter volunteers and employees who vow to host future blood drives and set a new donor record each time
Photo by Candace Koch, American Red Cross Northwest Illinois Chapter Health and Safety Director

Red Cross recognition of the contributions made by these men and women every day and every night of the year has led to strong partnerships with first responders and with local military and military families. It has also led to a series of memorable community events, all falling within the Northwest Illinois Red Cross Heroes Program.

Take the Battle of the Badges blood drive, pitting members of the police department against members of the fire department. The drive was sparked by a stroke of good fortune. Extreme Makeover Home Edition selected to rebuild the fire-gutted house of one of the chapter's disaster clients. For more than a week the area was aflutter with Ty Pennington and his crew, who swept into town and reconstructed the rural home.

The rebuild, which coincided with the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, prompted three Red Cross blood drives. The chapter's Battle of the Badges, one of the drives, garnered 38 pints of life-saving blood. First responders waited in line up to an hour to donate blood, and some also signed up to become Red Cross volunteers.

The Battle of the Badges blood drive is the third of Northwest Illinois Red Cross chapter heroes celebrations. Earlier this year, on Armed Forces Day, community veterans groups helped raise United States, Red Cross and POW-MIA flags. Snapping in the May breeze high above the tear-stained faces of the crowd, the flags were the first ever flown from an outdoor flagpole in the chapter's 93-year history.

Lazy August days invited another opportunity for a Red Cross heroes event, the Hometown Heroes Happening. This vendor fair included demonstrations, a silent auction, a blood drive, ice cream and more.

Roemer comments that the Heroes program "just keeps on keeping on." Community residents want to be a part of it.

After the Extreme Makeover Home Edition left town, a popular local restaurant gave the family of the rebuilt home a week's worth of free meals, combined with a week-long fundraiser for the Red Cross. The week culminated with an open house to meet the family. Not one to miss an opportunity, Roemer, with the Northwest Illinois Red Cross chapter's community outreach trailer in tow, was there.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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