Holidays for Heroes


About the Campaign: Each winter, the Red Cross collects holiday cards from individuals and corporations, and distributes them to veterans, active military members and their families during November and December as a way of brightening their holidays and saying soldiers-with-cardsthank you for their courageous and heroic service. This campaign, known as Holidays for Heroes, annually distributes more than 30,000 cards at VAs, nursing homes, local military units and any other place where active or retired veterans are located in the region. This includes airports for those military members traveling through the region at the time.

Although this is a national Red Cross campaign, all cards collected by the local chapter are distributed

How You Can Get Involved | Buy or create holiday cards, write a message of thanks or season’s greetings, and drop them off or mail them to your nearest Red Cross chapter. Or, blank cards are available at all Red Cross offices. Stop by and sign one or two there.

This is a great activity for school classes, Scout troops, church groups or social groups. Handmade cards, particularly from school children, are the most popular to receive.

For more details, call the Holidays for Heroes information line at 513-579-3004.

2015-12-01-10-29-23What You Need to Know | In order to make cards as meaningful as possible to a wide audience, we recommend you use generic titles such as “Dear Service Member, Veteran or Military Family Member” when writing the cards. You don’t want your “Dear Sailor” card ending up in the hands of a Marine.

Also, cards should not contain glitter, because some cards may end up at the bedside of a wounded service member and the glitter could aggravate existing health issues. And img_0602please don’t add any pictures, letters, checks, credit cards, wads of money, cookies, candy, guns, tanks, fighter jets or such items to the cards. A simple, handwritten note is what’s valued the most.

Double Your Effort | When you get done, take a picture of your work and share it with us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Get Some Motivation | Check out these videos of others participating in the Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign.


SAF program receives ‘Welcome Home’ kits from IKEA, P&G

Moving into a new home is stressful, but employees from IKEA and Procter & Gamble in Greater Cincinnati made it a little bit easier for members of the Armed Services in this area. On Monday, Nov. 14, the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the American Red Cross delivered 100 “Welcome Home” kits from IKEA and 100 “Home Starter Kits” from P&G to the Cincinnati VA Community Outreach Division.

ikea-welcome-kitsThe kits are designated for veterans involved in emergency shelter housing, rapid-rehousing, transitional housing, and those in the process of securing individual housing in the community. The Community Outreach Division of the Cincinnati VA helps provide healthcare, housing and employment programs for veterans in need.

IKEA’s “Welcome Home” kits consist of bedding and towels, which are essential items in a home of their own. The P&G “Starter Kits” consist of detergent, fabric softener, magic erasers and dryer sheets. The organizations donated the kits to the Red Cross, and were delivered to the VA by Cory Paul, Regional Director for the American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces.

The Red Cross SAF program helps members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with and respond to the challenges of military service—including the transition back to civilian life.

“Most people know the Red Cross for the care and assistance we provide during disasters, from hurricanes to home fires,” says Trish Smitson, CEO of the Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region of the American Red Cross. “Outside of the military community, though, the services the Red Cross provides to members of the Armed Services aren’t as well known. Every day, the Red Cross provides 24/7 global emergency communication services and support in military and veteran health care facilities across the country and around the world, just like that of the Cincinnati VA.

“We’re thrilled to be able to partner with P&G and IKEA to provide these products to veterans in our community and help them make a successful transition back into civilian life. And we’re honored to be able to serve those who served.”

Helping veterans home

For most Americans, the idea of coming home after being away for a long period is one that is filled with excitement and ease. However, for those members of the military who have been deployed overseas and spent significant time in battle, the idea of coming home can be both strange and stressful.

The physical and psychological effects of war are well-documented. And transitioning from the highly regulated military life to the free life of a civilian can be more than some people can handle. That’s why the region’s Services to the Armed Forces program has been actively securing grants and donations. Since July, the program has secured more than $10,000 in grants and gifts that are aimed at assisting veterans transition back to life in the States.

“These programs are appropriate for any veteran,” says Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces Regional Director Cory Paul. “Some of the people have recently returned, and some have been a veteran for 60-plus years. It doesn’t matter. Some of these men and women went right back to work the day after they got home.”

13445750_10153746287585669_2821590129837029690_nThe program secured five separate Veteran and Military Hospital Outreach Grants from the Red Cross totaling $5,400. Those grants are designed to supplement services provided by the Veterans Administration. The money has gone to purchase a number of items, including two large drum kits—each with about a dozen different drums—that are used to create drum circles. Members of the Cincinnati Arts Association partnered with the Red Cross to teach the musical aspect of the circles. Music therapy is a proven technique for stress reduction among veterans. The goal is to have the drums travel to Community-Based Outpatient Clinics as well.

The grants have also gone to purchase hats, gloves and socks that were handed out at a Homeless Veteran Stand Down to help about 240 homeless veterans make it through the winter season; dental hygiene kits for veterans at the Cincinnati and Dayton VAs; and various craft kits and snap-together model cars, airplanes and boats for stress reduction at the Cincinnati and Dayton VAs. The crafts and models also help with assessing cognitive functioning, motor control, sensory and perceptual stimulation, diversional therapy among other areas.

Ready Belvoir Military Family PreparednessThe SAF program also received $5,400 in donated “Welcome Home Kits” from Procter and Gamble and the United Way. P&G employees packed the kits with items such as soap, paper towels, scrubbing sponges and other items that someone might need while moving into a home. The kits were distributed at the Cincinnati and Dayton VA Hospitals, as well as at a Homeless Veteran Stand Down in Dayton for veterans who were transitioning into temporary housing.



UC students honored for saving the life of a fellow Bearcat

Taylor Fausey had no way of knowing that her optimistic attempt to improve her health would be the key factor that would lead to her death.

dscn1872On Sept. 22, 2015, the University of Cincinnati freshman decided to take a midday break from her studies and walk over to the student recreation center for some exercise. She headed to the center’s cardio theater and jumped onto a treadmill. Three miles and 30 minutes later, she shifted the machine into a cooldown mode and began to catch her breath. That’s when things began to go wrong. Horribly wrong.

Fausey slipped off the treadmill and collapsed onto the rubberized floor. To those on the machines around her, it appeared as if she had just fallen off the treadmill, an embarrassing but not too uncommon occurrence. But that wasn’t the case. After finishing her run, Fausey went into complete cardiac arrest. Her heart stopped. She ceased breathing. There, on the rec center floor, she lay dead.

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The University of Cincinnati has 16 fulltime staff and 78 student workers who operate the 200,000-square-foot center. All of the employees—as well as lifeguards in the pool area—all have two things in common: They all have Red Cross lifesaving training, and they undergo regular emergency drills. A year earlier, a guest in the center had a heart attack while working out, which gave the center the chance to evaluate and install new emergency action protocols. Defibrillators are located throughout the facility. Workers wear hip packs with first aid and lifesaving gear. They are all connected with radios and speak in an array of codes for different types of emergencies.

The facility is generally open 17 hours a day, and at 3:00 p.m., at the time Fausey collapsed, a shift change was taking place so the better part of two crews were in the building at time. Tyler Ikerd, a junior health education major and fitness instructor at the center, was working at a nearby assistance desk when a student came rushing up to him. “Help,” the student said. “Someone fell off the treadmill.” He grabbed the hip pack and ran into the cardio theater. With the help of a physician who was working out at the time, they rolled Fausey onto her back and checked for signs of life. There were none.

Joe Brueggemeyer was working at another desk when another student came with the same message. Brueggemeyer grabbed a defibrillator and ran to the scene where Ikerd was already administering CPR. He hooked up the defibrillator and began assisting with resuscitation breaths.

With a “code blue” call made through the radios and a shift change taking place, 22 employees were quickly on the scene. Most of the group went into crowd control and moved the treadmills out of the way to make room for the stretcher, while Brueggemeyer, Ikerd and five others—Phil Carroll, Josh Moulton, Emily Warnock, Tess Webb and Britany Wiechelman—began a lifesaving rotation, shifting from CPR to rescue breaths to the defibrillator.

Together, they administered two defibrillator shocks and worked nonstop to resuscitate Fausey—for 13 minutes.

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dscn1864Fausey was barely a month into her college career at UC, where she was an early childhood education major. By all accounts, she was relatively healthy and had never experienced any kinds of heart issues. After a third defibrillator shock by the paramedics, Fausey began breathing on her own and was transported to University Hospital, where she underwent two weeks of tests to determine what went wrong with her heart. After a number of procedures, she made what appears to be a full recovery, and even made the Dean’s List despite two weeks of missed classes.

Earlier this fall, Fausey shared her story at the start of the Cincinnati Board of Directors meeting, where Ikerd, Brueggemeyer and the five other rec center employees who saved her life were honored by the Red Cross for their efforts. Each was given a citation and framed Lifesaving Award signed by American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern and American Red Cross Board of Governors Chairwoman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter.

The award is one of the highest honors given by the Red Cross nationally. It is specifically for an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Health and Safety Services course.

dscn1861“Their heroic actions exemplified the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress and reminds us of the importance of being prepared with lifesaving skills like First Aid, CPR and the use of an AED,” says Trish Smitson, CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The awards were given on Sept. 28—one year and six days after the incident, or what the rec center staff refers to as Fausey’s rebirthday. Five of the members either graduated or left UC, but Ikerd and Brueggemeyer were there.

“I never thought I would have to use the training in a real situation,” says Ikerd. “But once it happened, all of the training and all of the drills that we go through on a regular basis just kicked in. The best part was it was successful and now Taylor can have a long life.”

“It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” adds Brueggemeyer. “But what was so amazing is that we all worked together as a team. I’m just so thankful that she was able to make it through and live.”

dscn1867The awards were also given on another significant day for Fausey—the day she returns to the rec center, not as a user this time but as an employee. She was hired by Director of Campus Recreation Kim Schmidt to be a fitness floor coordinator, which entails walking around the center—including the cardio theater where she died—enforcing rules and being a resource person.
Fausey stands in the lobby of the Red Cross offices, both thanking those who saved her life and joking with them as her new colleagues. She thanks Schmidt for her new job.

“Just don’t be late,” Schmidt says with a laugh. “And don’t expect any special treatment.”


Cards for Causes

Mike Rabidoux sits at the kitchen table of his Northern Kentucky home and takes a deep breath. It is, he estimates, his last free minute until sometime in mid-December. For the next couple of months, business will consume his days. And nights. And weekends. And holidays.

img_0282Eleven years ago, Rabidoux and his wife, Debbie, stumbled into a business niche that, as it turned out, desperately needed to be filled: Printing high quality, personalized greeting cards and giving a portion of the sale price directly to a charity of the customer’s choosing. The concept is so remarkably simple that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t already filled, but it wasn’t. Sure, there were plenty of greeting card companies out there, but only one or two actually added the philanthropic component. And that was the key. There was a massive hunger out there, both among businesses and individuals, to have part of their money go toward helping others instead of just padding some corporation’s bottom line. Realizing that, the couple has been able to make a good living just trying to feed the beast.

The downside, of course, is that Rabidoux pretty much misses out on the last three months of every year trying to complete the holiday orders.

He shrugs and smiles. It’s a good problem to have, he says.

cards7And the problem is getting better. Their business, Cards for Causes, just bought one of its few competitors, so the 600,000 cards they print each year is expected to grow—as are the funds they raise for charity. In 10 years, they’ve given away $930,000, and they are expecting to break the $1 million plateau this year.

Rabidoux glances out into the backyard, where the leaves on the trees are just beginning to turn colors, and thinks back to the beginning. The business, he says, has come a long way. Especially since it was never intended to be a business in the first place.

“We just felt that life has been very good to us, so let’s see what we can do to give back, help out and make life a little better for others.”

Rabidoux made a career in the hotel and hospitality industry, working every aspect from the food and beverage side all the way up to being a regional vice president of operations. He even helped open the first Marriott in Moscow, all of which was great until he lost his job in 2001 after a hostile takeover. With so many contacts built up in the industry after so many years, he wasn’t without job offers very long. There was only one problem: None were in the area. In the years since he and Debbie married in 1978, they moved nearly 20 times as he worked his way up the career ladder. This time, though, their two sons were in middle school and the idea of uprooting them yet again at such a vulnerable age got vetoed. So they stayed. He just needed a job.

cards4If there’s one thing the hospitality industry does well it’s recognize its workers. Clocks, plaques, crystal trophies—do something well and you get rewarded. Having both given out and receiving his share of awards through the years, and knowing a lot of people in the hotel business that needed them, Rabidoux and Debbie opened a promotional marketing business in 2001.

The business included a few cards, so when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the couple decided to try to raise some money to give to the Red Cross to help.

“We’re not professional fundraisers,” says Rabidoux. “We just felt that life has been very good to us, so let’s see what we can do to give back, help out and make life a little better for others. We didn’t say anything to anyone. We just put it out there. Our goal was to give $1,000. If we could raise that, that would be great. Then we got a call from a law firm in New Orleans who liked the idea. They wanted 10,000 cards. That first year we gave $3,500 for Hurricane Katrina relief. Then we thought, ‘If this works for the Red Cross and Katrina, maybe it would work for others as well.’”

cards3Thus was the birth of Cards for Causes. Today they have 1,100 different cards to choose from and nearly 600 charities listed that people can contribute to. Each quarter the couple sends out about 150 checks ranging from $20 to $15,000 to various charities around the world. Those numbers expand to almost 400 checks in the fourth quarter.

The Red Cross remains among the top 10 charities they contribute to. They have also created cards for the Cincinnati Chapter’s Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign.

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Measles and Rubella Fundraising Campaign

St. Joseph School in Crescent Springs, KY, is the most recent school to conduct a very successful measles and rubella fundraising campaign. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases ever known and is an important cause of death and disability among young children worldwide. Rubella can cause severe birth defects in countries that have little or no vaccination help.thumbnail_img_0412-1

The measles virus will infect anyone who is not protected. These campaigns help in the effort of raising money, awareness and the importance of mass vaccinations of children in underdeveloped countries. In these countries, medical facilities are scarce and children are not routinely vaccinated.

Zachary Serra, an eighth grader at the school, led the campaign to an outstanding result for a school with just 300 students–$339.00! We thank and congratulate both Zachary and his Principal, Mrs. Cathy Stover, for recognizing what a good cause this is and getting the whole school behind it.

Anyone interested in helping to run a campaign in an elementary, high school, or college can contact Paula McIntosh, International Services Manager, at 513-579-3023 and email at You can also contact Alexa Gudelsky, at 513-579-3909 or for the inquiries.


Hurricane Matthew Response

In October, Hurricane Matthew became the strongest hurricane to hit American shores since Hurricane Felix in 2007 and the costliest since Super Storm Sandy in 2012, with an estimated pricetag of $10 billion in damages.

The storm dumped 13.6 trillion gallons of water on four states—Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina—including 14 inches on Fayetteville, N.C., the city’s rainiest single day on record. In Florida alone, it’s estimated 1,700 homes were destroyed or received significant damage.

dsc_6531The Red Cross immediately responded, mobilizing nearly 5,000 disaster workers and 235 Emergency Response Vehicles—roughly half the national fleet of ERVS. Through the first two weeks, it provided 93,000 overnight shelter stays, served more than 931,000 meals and snacks, and distributed more than 187,000 relief items.

capture76The storm generated a lot of media attention not just nationally, but within the region as well. Dayton Executive Director Laura Seyfang appeared on all four Dayton television stations as well as in the Dayton Daily News answering questions about the local response to the storm. NMVO Executive Director Lynne Gump was interviewed by the Dayton Daily News about blood donations. ORV Community Executive Debbie Smith spoke to the Portsmouth Daily Times about making monetary donations. Regional Disaster Officer John Bernard and Communications Director Skip Tate were interviewed on various topics as well.

Regional CEO Trish Smitson was on three news programs in Cincinnati—including a 5:00 a.m. live remote and a five-hour telethon on the Cincinnati ABC affiliate, WCPO. During the telethon, viewers called the station and donated $13,000 to the Red Cross, which was combined with a $5,000 matching grant by St. Elizabeth Healthcare for a total of $18,000 raised.

Arguably, the most innovative media coverage was an interview with Becca Strobridge, a disaster program specialist in Dayton, while she was in the passenger seat of an Emergency capture77Response Vehicle on its way to Florida. The real-time interview was done utilizing her cell phone and the Facetime app.

Through mid-October, a total of 26 people from the region were deployed to the East Coast to help with the disaster recovery operations. Hurricane Matthew is the 10th major disaster that volunteers and staff from the region have responded to during 2016, joining:

  • Flint, Michigan, water crisis in January
  • Alberta, Canada, wildfires in May
  • Texas flooding in May
  • West Virginia flooding in June
  • Orlando mass shooting in June
  • Kentucky flooding in July
  • Louisiana flooding in August
  • Indiana tornado in August
  • Iowa flooding in September