When Tracy Pico walked into the American Red Cross blood donation center in Pleasant Hill, California to donate blood, she was on a mission. She was determined to help another person in need just as others had donated blood for her 14-year-old daughter, Brandi. Last year, Brandi endured a long and arduous course of treatment for cancer which included multiple transfusions.
Tracy’s family have all been blood donors for years. In fact, her father has been a regular donor for over 30 years at the Red Cross facility in Pleasant Hill. But it was Brandi’s ordeal with cancer that ignited her personal commitment to become a blood donor.
In June of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brandi was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer that typically occurs in children and young adults. Her early symptoms, which included a painful bump below her left knee, were initially thought to be caused by another condition that, although painful, would eventually resolve. Unfortunately, the first diagnosis was wrong, and Brandi faced a devastating cancer diagnosis at an incredibly young age.
As the pandemic wears on, research shows that more people want to help those in need. This month, we celebrate this humanitarian spirit during Red Cross Month and ask others to join us.
For almost 80 years, the president of the U.S. has proclaimed March as “Red Cross Month” to honor people giving back through our lifesaving mission — which is powered by more than 90% volunteers. The volunteer superstars from our 2019 recognition events are featured below. May their stories inspire countless others to heed the call.
After speaking with Dave Dorman for 30 minutes, you might wonder if he does anything else outside of the Red Cross. He’s a self-described “semi-full-time volunteer.” This same unwavering dedication earned him the Regional Volunteer of the Year Award.
While he’s officially been a proud Red Cross volunteer since 1984, Dave’s first contact with the Red Cross occurred during water safety instructor and lifeguard training in the 1950s. In the 1970s, he taught first aid and artificial respiration for his employer and discovered his Red Cross calling. He would eventually gravitate to disaster operations, and more specifically, to logistics support: acquiring, organizing, and delivering materials during a disaster.
In 1991, during the Oakland Hills Fire, Jane Jennings had her first interaction with the American Red Cross. “They were running shelters for the county, and as a county worker, I was asked to be involved in the shelter. [My experience] convinced me that when I retired, I wanted to go back with the Red Cross,” says Jennings. Now, almost thirty years later, Jennings has won the Red Cross’s highest volunteer award, the Clara Barton Meritorious Leadership Award.
After retiring from a career filled with case management as a Probation Officer, Jennings found a natural transition, pivoting into a caseworker under the Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the Red Cross. “Now it’s called recovery,” explains Jennings, “but the normal casework is following up on DAT calls. DAT goes out, gives immediate assistance, and within the next day, casework starts following up with the client and writing referrals and assistance…it takes training and developing a comfort level. It’s not a job that’s impossible to do; it’s just, is that the role you’re comfortable doing?” Luckily for the Red Cross, it is a job Jennings has been comfortable performing for twenty years.
Laura Hovden, of Woodside, CA, recently received the San Mateo Volunteer of the Year Award during the Chapter’s annual volunteer recognition event. A born leader, Laura encourages others to expand their skills and expertise and take on leadership roles of their own. Her flexibility and high aptitude for success have led her to fulfill myriad duties across the organization, including regional and divisional appointments.
Laura took a moment last week to fill us in on her experiences.
Congratulations on the recognition as Volunteer of the Year!
Thank you, I feel so honored.
When did you first get involved with the Red Cross?
I joined when my kids were graduating from high school in 2014. I wanted to have something to do that would be meaningful after they were gone. At the Red Cross, I found all kinds of interesting people and just loved doing this kind of work.
Since mid-August, when many of the wildfires described below started in our region, we have been updating this post on a regular basis. Now that most of our efforts are focused on helping residents as part of the recovery phase of these Red Cross responses, we will only update this post if future circumstances warrant.
Please see the information below that summarizes all of the great work our volunteers, employees, and partners have done to support our communities. We are also so appreciative of the donors whose generosity makes our work possible.
Background: The lightning storms that swept through our Northern California Coastal Region in mid-August caused a number of large and destructive fires in our chapter areas, prompting quick responses by our region’s Red Cross teams. Other fires subsequently started in our region in September, including the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
Working alongside our government and community partners, Red Cross teams — comprising responders from inside and outside our region — have provided shelter, food, and comfort to the many residents impacted by these wildfires. Read more