Advocating for health while running a marathon

Preparing for a marathon is a commitment. Most runners

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Ken Farbstein, Red Cross blood donor, will run his 3rd Boston Marathon next month.

average more than 1,000 miles in training for the 26.2 mile event. Injuries, difficult weather conditions and the time consuming training schedule test the physical and mental strength of every person with a mind to push themselves in one of sports’ most demanding challenges.

Ken Farbstein is competing in his third Boston Marathon April 17, 2017, just as he celebrates his 60th birthday. He ran his first Boston 20 years ago, trying to prove to himself that 40 wasn’t fatal. Two decades on, Ken hopes to raise $10,000 dollars while running with Team Red Cross.

Ken is a longtime blood donor. By his count, Ken has given around 90 times, focusing now on apheresis donations. Apheresis blood collection, or ABC, is a special kind of blood donation. Instead of giving one pint of whole blood (as in a regular donation), an ABC donor gives only the components of blood needed for patients that day. ABC is made possible by a machine that separates the components of your blood, retains certain components and returns the rest to you—all with a single needle. It’s a very efficient way of directly helping patients in hospitals. By collecting the optimal number of blood components at each donation, donors help ensure that these lifesaving products are available for the community.

A long-time friend of Ken was recently diagnosed with Leukemia and that fact reminds him how important a donation can be. “I give because I want people to be healthy. When I found out Rick had Leukemia and needed blood transfusions, I knew my efforts were going to directly help people like him.”

Now with just four weeks to go before Marathon Monday, Ken looks forward to the big day’s arrival. “Access to running and training programs provided by Coach Dan has been very helpful in my own personal training.” Dan Fitzgerald, owner of Heartbreak Hill Running Company, is the coach for Team Red Cross once again and lends advice and expertise to the team of runners.

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Team Red Cross members run the historic 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston in support of the American Red Cross mission. With every mile run and every dollar raised, Team Red Cross runners help to save and transform the lives of people in their greatest time of need.

As a public health advocate, Ken has owned his own consulting firm for 20 years, promoting health and wellness. Through blood donation and raising funds for the humanitarian missions of the American Red Cross, Ken Farbstein is more than just an advocate – he’s out in his community raising awareness through his actions with the American Red Cross.

“I try to walk the talk, and I try to run the talk.”

To support Ken and his $10,000 fund raising goal, click over to https://www.crowdrise.com/americanredcrossboston2017/fundraiser/kenfarbstein

Since 2012, the American Red Cross of Massachusetts has raised 1.2 million dollars through the Boston Marathon Official Charity Program. 100 percent of the funds raised will go to the American Red Cross of Massachusetts helping those in our community and across the state.

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The Giving is Easy

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Black Friday is ended. Cyber Monday came and went, although online shopping isn’t going anywhere. And #Giving Tuesday hashtags are overwhelming our Facebook news feeds, email inboxes and snail mail.

It’s that time of year again, when organizations tap in to our even better natures and ask us to dig a little deeper into our personal gift funds. And while even the best of us can roll our eyes at the hundredth email we receive asking for a holiday donation, the truth is that organizations like the Red Cross ask because this time of year is when the giving happens. It’s fundraising High Season, folks. People really are more generous this time of year.

The holiday season can also bring anxiety to the generous at heart struggling to make ends meet, and certainly for those of our clients who have recently lost everything in a historic flood, a house fire or tornado.

We’d therefore like to offer some options for giving back that either don’t break the bank or don’t even need the bank.

No Cost Ways to Give

  1. Give Blood. The need never ends, no matter what time of year it is. And blood and platelets have a shelf life, meaning the need is constant. By giving blood and just an hour of your time, you can save up to three lives.
  2. Volunteer. The life’s blood of the American Red Cross is its volunteers. We do set the bar pretty high for our volunteer staff, but the rewards are immeasurable. Think about joining one of our fire response teams, helping local veterans, handing out groceries at our Boston or New Bedford food pantry or being an ambassador for one of our many initiatives. You could even wind up writing our blog! (To get started, click here).
  3. Shop Normally. You’re buying gifts anyway, so why not get them on Amazon? Sign on to AmazonSmile and designate the American Red Cross as your preferred charity, and then begin your virtual shopping trips at amazon.com. You’ll find the same selection and prices as on http://www.amazon.com, but when you check out, AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of each eligible item to the Red Cross. Yay.

The Gifts that Keeps on Giving

For the person who has everything, why not buy a symbolic gift in his or her name? Starting on Giving Tuesday (November 29), eBay customers can buy Gifts That Give Back to help those in need – from warm blankets for families displaced by floods to a night’s stay in a shelter for wildfire evacuees – these gifts provide hope and comfort when all is lost. Customers will receive a digital certificate with their purchase to email or print as a gift for someone special, and eBay is waiving all fees to ensure that 100% of the purchase price will support the American Red Cross. Available through December 24th, these gifts are perfect for all of your last minute holiday shopping needs!

And While We Have You…

From #GivingTuesday through the month of December, when you donate to the Red Cross through the PayPal Giving Fund, PayPal will add 1 percent to every donation made. And, PayPal passes on 100 percent of every donation made to the Red Cross.

And finally, whether you’re in the market for a car for yourself or looking to make someone else’s holiday merry and bright with super extravagant gift, Mazda and its Dealers invite you to Drive for Good this season. When you lease or purchase a new Mazda vehicle during the Mazda Drive for Good Event November 21 – January 3, Mazda will offer you the chance to direct a $150 donation to the Red Cross among other charities. And, when you test-drive a Mazda vehicle November 21 through January 3, Mazda employees will pledge an hour of volunteer time to worthy causes, including the Red Cross.

No matter what your paycheck or your ability to spare free time, this year, as in every year, we invite you to #GiveWithMeaning. It’s easier than ever.

Grateful to Serve

Welcome to our new American Red Cross of Massachusetts Regional blog…

Welcome to our new American Red Cross of Massachusetts Regional blog, where we hope to open a window into how much good we do here at the Red Cross and how, each and every day (and night), we help people on what will most likely become the worst day of their lives.

So I went to WordPress today and set up a blog. I mined my daily experiences for little anecdotes, but the overarching theme that kept popping up for me was how grateful I am to be surrounded by such a wonderful, committed and hilarious group of teammates across the Commonwealth. These are the people – both paid and volunteer, who load supplies on our vehicles, draft and redraft planning spreadsheets, and give hugs and hope to families who have lost everything in a house fire at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Then it occurred to me: the Red Cross Family is about giving of themselves.  Sometimes a shoulder to cry on is enough, and we’ve had our fair share of those who make use of ours. Other times, we give food, mental health support, a warm place to sleep. It’s the hope that things will get better that inevitably seems to do an outsized amount of good.

Here’s an interesting statistic: our region deployed a total of 27 volunteers to the Southern States date to assist with the Hurricane Matthew response.  Thirteen of them are still there, sleeping on uncomfortable cots in group shelters eating their meals ladled out of sanitized rubber tubs known in the “trade” as Cambros. That’s thirteen sleep deprived people working 12 hour shifts six days a week with limited access to greens, drowning in coffee and far away from the comforts of home. It takes about a week to detox from these deployments.

Kathleen Connors, a woman from Ontario who went to North Carolina on vacation and returned as a Red Cross volunteer, said about her experience: “it’s great to see the looks on their faces when we say we have toilet paper…”

Sounds glamorous, right?

Actually, what it is is life-changing. Yes, for the people whose lives have been shattered, but also for all of the thousands of people who regularly give whatever they can to help improve the situation of others.  For some, it’s the time it takes to pour a cup of coffee. For others, it’s manning the telephones so that members of our community in need know someone cares. We have volunteers who coordinate teams to rush to fire scenes so that families burned out of their homes have a place to sleep that night. We have volunteers helping military families get through terminal illness, death, or the more general stressors of daily life. For the majority of us, it’s what’s in our hearts that compels us to step up, get up or just show up for the simple end of making a positive difference in others’ lives. Helping feels good. If you don’t believe us, believe the people in this video montage who needed our help the most:

So on this day of thanksgiving, and as you read these forthcoming features about our people and our work, we invite you to consider what you might do to make the world a better place. If you’re looking for ideas, we can certainly help. Get a preview of how you can join our family by going to http://www.redcross.org/volunteer.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.