Youth Volunteers Raise Money for Disaster Relief

On a bright and sunny Saturday, March 31st at Oak Canyon Community Park in Ventura County, CA, I had the honor of joining local Red Cross event-base volunteers Anurag Karra (North Hollywood Highly Gifted Magnet High School), Sriram Potluri (Oak Park High School), and Aneesh Ankareddy (Oak Park High School) for a 5K Walk-a-Thon.


The youth-led event benefited American Red Cross Disaster Relief as a local community response to the Thomas Fire in December 2017-January 2018.  After what I considered very little back-and-forth on getting the event organized, these young men pulled off a high quality fundraising event that was successful from various points of view, including number of participants, food and refreshments, and money raised for the Red Cross. Anurag, Sriram, and Aneesh even expressed a desire to hold a similar 5K Walk-a-Thon event next year, or they even may lead a smoke alarm installation event in Ventura County!


Did you know? 25% of Red Cross volunteers are age 24 years or younger. Being young is no barrier to being able to help people in need, in your community and around the world! Youth volunteers and Red Cross Clubs throughout the region play a vital role in serving the Red Cross and our community. They raise funds for everything from local disaster relief to the international Measles Initiative, as well as educate their local communities on emergency preparedness. These dedicated Red Crossers learn lifelong skills through their volunteerism, and provide important services to our most vulnerable communities.


Learn more about youth volunteer opportunities in your local Red Cross chapter. Inspired by these teens’ philanthropy? Consider making a donation or let us know your fundraising ideas in the comments!

Morris Franklin
Regional Philanthropy Officer
Pacific Coast and Ventura County chapters

Day in the Life: Pillowcase Project, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The Pillowcase Project, New York 2013“Get out! Stay out! Call 9-1-1!”

The elementary school students shouted the phrase in unison at Katie Kellum as she stood in the front of their classroom. A big smile broke out across her face as she realized her presentation was resonating with her audience of little preparedness experts.

“It was awesome to see that they not only remembered a very important part of the presentation, but their enthusiasm and readiness to repeat back what they learned,” said Katie.

Katie is one of many volunteer youth educators with the Red Cross, and today she was teaching a Pillowcase Project presentation to elementary students in an after school program. The Pillowcase Project, presented by Disney, is a preparedness education program for children in grades 3 – 5, which teaches students about personal and family preparedness, local hazards, and basic coping skills.

Katie-Pillowcase“Initially, I was drawn to the mission of the Red Cross,” said Katie, “I was recruited by one of my clinical instructors while in the second semester of Nursing school. I jumped at the chance to be a part of the organization, and began helping set up shelters for relief during evacuations as a result of forest fires. I later got involved with the Pillowcase Project as a method of educating school aged children about home fire prevention.”

Katie had the class take out their Preparedness Workbooks and turn to page 6. She explained that this is where they can practice and share what they learned about emergency preparedness with everyone at home. They could work with a grownup to draw a home fire escape map that shows two ways out of every room in their home, and a meeting place outside.

“My favorite part of volunteering is being able to interact with kids, teach them some valuable information that they can share, and have a significant role in preventing home fires and preparing the kids for the possibility of any kind of disaster,” said Katie.

Then it was time for the best part of the presentation: the pillowcases! Katie pulled out her own pillowcase and showed the students The Pillowcase Project, New York 2013examples of items to include in a kit. They worked as a class to determine which items are most important for their own kits. Now it was time for them to decorate their own pillowcases to take home.

Volunteer educators like Katie are part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian service in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12 – 18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.

Day in the Life: Red Cross Club Blood Drive, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Blood Services Vehicles 2013The CSU Channel Islands campus was still quiet as Laurie Hurtado made her way to the library. She and other Red Cross Club members were there early to set up for their blood drive. All week they had been tabling in front of the library to sign students and faculty up for the big event.

Laurie came prepared with her club t-shirt and stack of forms. Together the group set up their table, complete with clipboards, balloons, and flyers.

Red Cross Club members like Laurie play an integral role in community outreach. From blood drives, to fundraising, to preparedness education, these clubs are a fun and energetic experience for high school and college students throughout the region. Red Cross Clubs also offer many opportunities for self-development, and empower students to build critical leadership skills.

“I have been a blood donor since 2005, so I was thrilled to become a club member at school and to have the opportunity to participate in other ways for the organization,” said Laurie, “Being a student nurse, I find that being a volunteer for the Red Cross enhances my education and leadership skills.”

Earlier in the week, Laurie and her fellow club members decorated a beautiful glass case display in the library to celebrate Blood Donation Awareness Week. Their engaging visuals, facts, and stories were starting pay off as students began to approach their table.

Utah State University Blood Drive 2012“My favorite part about being a Red Cross club member and volunteer is being an active member on my campus and in my community. I like spreading awareness about blood donations and encouraging people to donate,” said Laurie.

It was Laurie’s turn to make her own donation, one of more than 41,000 donations that are needed every day. She climbed into a chair and got ready. Just then a woman approached her and said thank you. The only reason she was alive was because of a blood transfusion she had years ago.

“Every time I get nervous about the needle stick, I think of that woman and how scared she must have felt when her life was in jeopardy. I am instantly humbled and no longer nervous.”

Red Cross Club members like Laurie are part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian services in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12-18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.