"It's been a long road," said an American Red Cross volunteer at Saturday's game. "Being here today… it's such a meaningful experience."
The Packers are no strangers to adversity -- neither is the Red Cross.
Each and every day, thousands of Red Cross volunteers work to assist those in need, promoting their mission of preventing and relieving suffering across the globe, including in the state of Wisconsin.
For over a century, the American Red Cross has provided aid through disaster relief, blood drives, training in lifesaving skills and support for veterans, military members and their families. This is an organization that steps up in times of crisis, lending a hand when it is most important.
This past Saturday's preseason matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks marked the third annual Packers Give Back game. Each year, a Wisconsin charity is recognized by the team before and during the game to highlight its work and amplify its message, and the American Red Cross was this year's nonprofit honoree.
When selecting a nonprofit to honor each year, the Packers aim to choose organizations with plenty of community involvement, meaningful overall impact and steady presence across the state. The American Red Cross' efforts certainly fit these criteria. The Packers also have a history of partnering with the American Red Cross in a variety of community-oriented initiatives, such as local blood drives.
Across the league, emergency preparedness and life-saving measures (such as CPR) have always been important, but a renewed focus has been placed on these procedures in recent months, both on and off the football field. The threat of injury and potential emergency is a reality -- it's important to be prepared for times of crisis. Whether it's an emergency situation during a football game or a natural disaster in another part of the world, the work done by the American Red Cross helps remind fans that life is bigger than football.
Saturday's game acknowledged this gravity and thanked the Red Cross volunteers for their presence in times of need. Lambeau Field welcomed hundreds of volunteers and their guests, with attendees receiving amenities such as a free bus ride to the game, a food and beverage gift card and tickets to a designated area in the north end zone.
"We're honored to be recognized by the Green Bay Packers organization and we're so excited to be able to share this incredible experience with our dedicated volunteers," said Jill Orton, interim regional CEO for the Red Cross of Wisconsin. "Volunteers make up 90% of our workforce and they are at the heart of the Red Cross mission. They show endless compassion and dedication as they selflessly give their time to respond to disasters both in their community and around the country. We're grateful to the Green Bay Packers for elevating the power of giving back and for helping us salute our Red Cross volunteers."
Orton excitedly shared how meaningful this day was for volunteers to attend and represent their cause (and show some Packers pride, of course). Over 800 Red Cross volunteers from across Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan were in attendance.
"It has been amazing to work with the Red Cross as they invited volunteers who were deployed and then had to rearrange guest lists as others deploy (to disaster sites)," said Packers community relations manager Amanda Wery. With wildfires in Hawaii and Washington, and tropical storm Hilary hitting California, the Red Cross has been deploying large scale operations across the country.
"I find out tomorrow if I am being deployed to Maui to help people affected by the wildfires," one volunteer remarked. "It's scary to think about all the lives that have been affected there. They are an island. Where is there to go?"
Red Cross volunteers focus on a variety of efforts, with disaster situations happening every 21 days and single-family fires happening almost daily. Volunteers, like those in attendance at Saturday afternoon's game, are the ones who get the call and go out into the community to help their neighbors. It's their selflessness and generosity that makes a difference in the lives of people who are struck by catastrophe.
Also in attendance at Saturday's game was Tim Lavin, a Milwaukee native who has volunteered for the Red Cross for the last 31 years and just returned from a two-and-a-half-month deployment in Guam. He began in the organization by teaching CPR and first aid, then ended up joining disaster services after his involvement for many years. He has been a loyal Packers fan his whole life, even attending games at County Stadium in Milwaukee. He said being able to step onto Lambeau Field on Saturday to be recognized for his work was a memorable experience.
Lavin now works in logistics, working behind the scenes at many sites. "I've been on a lot of deployments," he said. "It makes a huge difference, doing whatever we can to make someone's life a little bit better after a disaster, working to ease that burden."
Lavin has seen his fair share of calamity. From towns that have been completely wiped by devastating tornados or hurricanes that destroyed buildings and trees, he is no stranger to witnessing struggle. "It puts life in perspective. I'm fortunate that we don't have massive wildfires or huge hurricanes. Those big tragedies really show the degree to which you've been lucky."
The Red Cross is made up of volunteers like Lavin who donate their time and energy to helping others. It is a true demonstration of altruism to give back in this manner, providing aid to those most in need and expecting nothing in return.
"It's an awesome opportunity to be able to lift them up," said Orton, referring to the volunteers being recognized at this past weekend's game. The Packers were proud to recognize this exceptional organization, acknowledging the outstanding commitment each of these volunteers makes to the Wisconsin community.
"We're pleased to have American Red Cross volunteers join us for the Packers Give Back game," said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy before the game. "The Packers have partnered with the Red Cross for over 15 years on different initiatives and are excited to honor the Red Cross and their volunteers' life-saving efforts."
Along the fan walkway and at Titletown before the game, fans were able to learn more about the Red Cross' lifesaving mission. Volunteers were on site sharing information with passersby, spreading their message with game attendees. The Red Cross had their emergency response vehicle (ERV) set up to exhibit the vehicle's operation.
Fans that stopped by had the opportunity to learn hands-only CPR with the practice mannequins on site for 5-minute CPR demonstrations. They were able to talk with volunteers and learn how to help people affected by disasters through donation and involvement. They were provided with information about future opportunities to "turn compassion into action" by signing up for blood drives or certification classes (including first aid, CPR, AED, babysitting, lifeguarding and more).
A sea of red-shirted volunteers flooded Titletown before the game, gathering for a quick photo on Ariens Hill before migrating over to Lambeau for their formal recognition.
Prior to kickoff, several Red Cross volunteers took to the field to be recognized for their efforts. A short video played, highlighting the importance of hands-only CPR so individuals can be better prepared to deliver care in an emergency until professional responders arrive.
The American Red Cross does amazing and life-changing work across the state of Wisconsin, and across the globe. It shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. To get involved yourself or find out more information about all the good work this organization does for people, please visit redcross.org or on social media @redcross.
The Green Bay Packers honored the American Red Cross during the Week 3 preseason matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023.