Sleeves Up, Hearts Open, All In

The new Red Cross Youth Club at North Allegheny provides a unique opportunity for students to leave a larger impact.

Red Cross Youth Clubs are student-run extensions aiming to carry out the organizations mission.

Red Cross Youth Clubs are student-run extensions aiming to carry out the organization’s mission.

Sophie Lu, Staff Writer

As 2022 officially begins, nearly 141 years have passed since Clara Barton first founded the American Red Cross in 1881. Barton, who had her first brush with medical aid on the battlefields of the Civil War, was inspired by her experience volunteering with the International Committee of the Red Cross to bring the organization to the United States.

Now, more than a century later, the American Red Cross is one of the largest and most famous humanitarian organizations in the world, providing vital services—spanning from disaster relief to blood drives to international aid—for millions in need. 

Its extensive outreach is inclusive to its younger advocates as well. A Red Cross Youth Club is an extension of a local Red Cross unit specifically designed for student volunteers to have the ability to be involved in the organization, including training and leadership development opportunities, planning and implementing mission-related community projects, and supporting international campaigns. 

Recently, the initiative has come to North Allegheny through Tejal Dahake, a senior who has been working on starting the club for over a year. After overcoming the tribulations of Covid-19 and virtual learning, she finally founded the club at the beginning of this school year.

“As someone who’s really passionate about climate change and humanitarian issues, just watching so many devastating disasters unfold before me on the news, like the California wildfires and Hurricane Ida, had me looking for ways I could help right away and start making a real-life impact, hands on”, said Dahake.

As a branch of the Southwest PA Regional Headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh, the North Allegheny chapter of the Red Cross Youth Club is looking forward to executing several future service projects throughout the community. One such initiative is “Totes for Hope,” a Red Cross-sponsored donation drive that collects care items and assembles tote bags with personal thank you notes to be distributed to the veterans. 

They also have plans (Covid permitting) to potentially hold a zombie-apocalypse-themed safety training activity for elementary schoolers, a hallmark Red Cross Youth Club activity.

A charitable zombie-apocalypse themed run in partnership with the Red Cross (Happy Go Lucky Photography)

The club has started strong right out of the gate, garnering more than 50 members across grades 9-12. Dahake highlighted the diverse nature and intersectionality of the club’s activities that could contribute to its widespread membership. 

“I think there’s really something here for everyone, whether they’re interested in science, medicine, business, writing, art, or just giving back to the community in any way possible,” Dahake said.

Not only does the existence of youth branches in organizations like the Red Cross increase the ubiquity of their services and positively contribute to communities, but they also provide students with a unique blend between the accessibility of a smaller scope and the impact of a worldwide organization.

“Knowing that each event we plan here in our community can impact lives across the world is truly empowering to me,” said club secretary Angela Wu.

The Red Cross may have begun with one individual, but the legacy of the “Angel of the Battlefield” now serves as a way for thousands of students to engage in meaningful work that betters their school, community, and world—striving each day to live up to their motto: “Sleeves Up. Hearts Open. All In.”