Celebrate Chicagoland Heroes: Support the Red Cross Now and Double Your Impact With This Donation-Matching Opportunity

July 2023 saw record-breaking floods on Chicago’s Westside, causing severe home and property damage in the city’s Austin neighborhood. As a longtime Austin resident and community advocate, Jacqueline Reed spearheaded relief efforts, mobilizing resources and volunteers to help 75 homes become habitable. 

Jacqueline Reed_RedCross_DisasterReliefHero
Jacqueline Reed, Disaster Relief Hero — Photo courtesy of the Red Cross

That same month, Firefighter and Paramedic Nicholas DeLeon encountered an active shooter at a local grocery store while shopping for a fire station cookout. DeLeon jumped into action, quickly dialing 9-1-1 and safely assisting fellow shoppers out of the store while attending to the injured until additional help arrived. 

Nicholas DeLeon, Red Cross Firefighter Hero — Photo courtesy of the Red Cross.

Reed and DeLeon are just two of the 12 Chicagoland heroes with similarly remarkable stories being honored on Tuesday, May 14, at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s 22nd Annual Heroes Breakfast. This annual event celebrates individuals and groups for their immense acts of bravery and dedication to servicing their community. 

“For the past 22 years, community heroes have graced our breakfast — each dedicated to serving others, saving lives and providing hope during someone’s darkest moments. I am honored to relay the humanitarian stories of generosity and compassion from each hero and to reflect on the power of the Red Cross mission,” said Celena Roldán Sarillo, Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of Illinois.

Communities nationwide rely on the Red Cross for assistance and support. Without the donors, volunteers and pure generosity from community members, the Red Cross could not carry on its mission. To broaden the Red Cross’ relief, the Make It Better Foundation, along with the Edwardson Family Foundation, Patrick M. and Jennifer Gallagher, is matching all donations up to $110,000 leading up to the Heroes Breakfast.  

Honoring The Red Cross Heroes Through Art

Mural by Damon Lamar Reed. Photo courtesy of the Red Cross.
Mural by Damon Lamar Reed. Photo courtesy of the Red Cross.

The annual heroes Breakfast is one of the many ways The Red Cross hopes to spread awareness about the impact of neighborhood heroes.  

Drivers recently going down the Kennedy Expressway may have noticed a colorful piece of art alongside the Wintrust building near North Ave. This digitally printed mural is the work of Damon Lamar Reed, a South Shore artist dedicated to the power of art and its ability to spark change. The Red Cross commissioned Reed to create this mural to highlight the impact of the organization’s efforts to assist those in need.

The Wintrust Mural celebrates and raises awareness of Chicago’s nonprofits, featuring more than 55 nonprofits over the years.

The Impact of Your Donations 

If you feel inspired by volunteers’ work improving communities and assisting those in need, consider making a monetary donation to support the Red Cross’ efforts. 

The Red Cross is transparent about what your donations can do, so you can feel confident in the impact of your contribution.

  • $10,000 covers the cost of conducting two Sound the Alarm events, which include installing 200 smoke alarms in homes, utilizing an ERV for the day, providing lunch for volunteers at the event and providing a fire safety package for the homes served. 
  • $5,000 sends 13 Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) and volunteer drivers to a disaster where they deliver water and meals directly to people who need them. 
  • $2,500 provides financial assistance for two families impacted by a local disaster to purchase essentials like food, lodging and clothing.
  • $1,000 keeps 38 military families connected during an emergency. Trained caseworkers operate a 24/7 phone bank to get deployed service members home, most often after the death of a loved one or the birth of a child. 
  • $500 provides 500 children with the measles vaccination. As a founding member of the Measles & Rubella Initiative, the Red Cross has helped vaccinate more than 2.9 billion children in 88 countries. 
  • $250 provides hot meals to 22 people after an emergency evacuation.
  • $100 provides two fire kits containing basic supplies to search through the debris after a fire.
Red Cross Disaster Relief
Red Cross Disaster Relief. Photo courtesy of the Red Cross.

The 2024 Illinois Red Cross Heroes Breakfast was made possible thanks to the generous support of sponsors, including:

Champion Sponsors: CDW, ITW, Kirkland & Ellis

Inspiring Action Sponsors: Edwardson Family Foundation, Patrick M. and Jennifer Gallagher, Make It Better Foundation

Hero Sponsors: Aon, William Blair, CNA, Fresenius Kabi, KPMG LLP, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Nicor Gas, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., United Airlines, Wintrust

Interactive Technology Sponsors: Elevance Health, Stepan Company

Media Sponsors: CBS 2 Chicago, Make It Better Foundation

How To Help:

Join this impressive lineup up impactful sponsors and help the Red Cross provide immediate relief where it is needed most. Your generous support powers the American Red Cross’ response to urgent humanitarian needs. Donate today through May 14 to take advantage of the donation-matching opportunity. To learn more about the legacy of the Heroes Breakfast, visit last year’s content.

More From Better:

Jessica Braun Gervais is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and fitness. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from Columbia College and has written content for various health and wellness institutions. Jessica Braun’s passion for wellness comes from her life as an elite athlete competing in Muay Thai kickboxing competitions across the country. In addition to sharing her expertise through writing, Jessica Braun also works as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. When she’s not writing or training, Jessica Braun enjoys reading historical fiction novels, discovering new coffee shops, and cuddling with her cattle dog, Brady.

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