“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Storm Landon hit our region hard with high winds, ice, and snow. Through it all there was one constant; the critical importance of the Red Cross mission and our power to bring help and hope when it’s needed most. Below are two stories from this busy weekend I wanted to share.

Capital Region Blood Battle Drive – Albany Office

Friday marked round three of the Capital Region Blood Battle, a friendly competition among CEOs in the Capital Region to battle the blood crisis. Living Resources was the sponsor of the drive, and the weather was not on their side. That day we collected 17 units of blood with the potential to save 91 lives.

Living Resources staff member Cathi Butryn, a first-time blood donor, shared her story and experience and reminded us all why we battle.

Cathi’s Story

“Ineligible is a humiliating word. It reminds me of looking up at the amusement park sign that says, ‘You must be at least this tall to ride’ and thinking, ‘All the other kids are big enough and cool enough to participate but I’m left behind.’

“When I was in elementary school, my father was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. We often called on friends and family to participate in blood drives in his honor to compensate for his frequent need for blood transfusions. Being the youngest in the family, I took on the role of cheerleader, giving out stickers and cookies to those who participated, but I wasn’t allowed in the “room where it happened.” When I was old enough to participate, I had a variety of medical issues which made me ineligible. As time went on, I gave up trying, figuring it was a lost cause. That is until I heard about the Red Cross CEO Blood Battle.

“When Living Resources announced its participation in the Blood Battle, I decided to battle my own demons. I sat down with my doctor to review my past medical history and present state of health. She determined that I didn’t have any barriers to donation, so I immediately registered.

“As if to test my resolve, the Living Resources sponsor day happened to coincide with a huge snow and ice storm, but after 40 years of waiting, I had made up my mind. Once the weather abated and the plows made the roads passable, I took off for Albany.

“The Red Cross employees are a hardy crew. They were ready to assist anyone who braved the storm to share their blood. I found them to be extremely upbeat and encouraging, even more so after they heard it my first time donating. Their masterful balance of joking and attentive care helped put my 50+ year-old nerves at ease. It wasn’t until they sat me up and asked me how I felt that a tear escaped and ran down my cheek. I felt overjoyed that I was finally able to donate, sad that I couldn’t donate until now, and validated that I am now, finally, a blood donor. Mostly, I felt the presence of my dad who passed away when I was 16. I whispered to his spirit, ‘This is for you!’ “

Meanwhile, as the blood drive continued, just 50 miles south Ulster County faced a devastating ice storm knocking out power to more than 50 thousand homes. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan declared a state of emergency for the county. 

Many of our own team were impacted but it never slowed us down. Working closely with our community partners our team set up five shelters throughout the county. Volunteers from our neighboring regions joined us to ensure people had a warm, safe place to stay and meals. We helped care for displaced residents, linesmen, and all sorts of pets.

The storm provided logistical challenges but not for our team. Birthdays were celebrated. Needs were met and we took care of more than 70 people round the clock.

We shared stories such as our volunteer John McCarthy who explains how he has been involved with the Red Cross since 1952.  Watch his story here

The recovery was so massive Governor Hochul came to tour the area, met with our team and praised our work.

Two separate and completely events, but our can-do attitude prevailed.  We may never know the extent and reach of our work this weekend but, one thing is certain, we made an enormous difference in people’s lives. With the Red Cross in action, we make the best of times out of the worst of times.