Kristen Dreher, co-chair of the Heroes Dinner committee for the American Red Cross chapter of northern and central Missouri, smiled widely when talking about her work coordinating the Heroes Dinner and receiving the Spirit Award in March. Dreher’s enthusiasm and dedication are a large part of the Heroes Dinner’s success.
Dreher has been a volunteer at the American Red Cross in the central Missouri area for three years and has worked as a co-chair for the Heroes Dinner committee for two. The Heroes Dinner is an annual award ceremony and dinner that recognizes heroes in the area nominated by the community. This year it was held on March 9 in Capitol Hill Plaza in Jefferson City. Fifteen heroes were recognized in nine different categories, such as the Good Samaritan Award and the Healthcare Professional Award. Over 300 people attended to show their support for the individuals recognized.
Dreher said her favorite part of her volunteerism is recognizing local citizens for their heroic actions. She recalled the most powerful story she has seen while volunteering for the Red Cross. Her friend was in a two-car accident near Jefferson City in 2013. Her friend’s car ignited into flames that blazed up to 10 feet tall, and she was pinned inside. Two officers arrived at the scene and risked their lives to save her friend. One officer even climbed into the car and held her hand.
Firefighters extracted her from the car, and the flames were extinguished. Firefighters on the scene said without the officer’s actions, it was unlikely Dreher’s friend would have survived.
The officers received the Law Enforcement Award at the Red Cross’s Heroes Dinner in 2013 for their valor. Dreher said, “They obviously deserved it more than anything.”
When Dreher reads through stories similar to that of the two police officers who saved her friend, the decision of which individuals to honor can be extremely challenging. Dreher believes the stressful decisions are always worth it in the end though.
“I do definitely have some excitement for the event,” Dreher said. “Prior to being involved with this, I was a volunteer firefighter, and so I’ve seen what people do. They risk their own lives for others and don’t expect any kind of compensation whatsoever. To be able to reward people for something that they feel they were just doing their job or they were just at the right place at the right time is extremely rewarding.”
This excitement for the event and respect for the individuals being honored is why Dreher’s fellow volunteers look up to her.
“She’s not afraid to take the lead when needed, and that’s always something we look for in volunteers,” said Brittany Buehrlen, the American Red Cross volunteer specialist for central and northern Missouri. “She’s very pleasant to work with. She has great leadership skills, and I really just admire her.”
Dreher’s enthusiasm for the Red Cross seems to be contagious. Dave Griffith, the executive director for the American Red Cross’ central and northern chapter, awarded Dreher the Spirit Award for their chapter this year. The Spirit Award is awarded to a volunteer who actively works to be a bigger part of the Red Cross’ mission and encourages other volunteers to do the same.
“Kristen went above and beyond,” said Griffith. “Anything you’d ask her, she’d just be right there.”
Griffith and Dreher have worked together on the Heroes Dinner committee for three years and have helped develop it into the most successful fundraiser of their chapter yet. “As far as fundraising goal, we did not quite meet our goal, but we did better than we did last year,” said Dreher.
The Heroes Dinner is the only fundraiser that the American Red Cross officiates themselves. Other fundraisers are coordinated by a third-party organization, and the Red Cross does not receive all of the profit. Griffith said that from a marketing standpoint, a nonprofit organization like the Red Cross should always be aware of the return on investment, and that is why the Heroes Dinner is so important to meeting the chapter’s fundraising goals.
This year, the Heroes Dinner committee made a lot of changes to the dinner. Dreher talked with excitement about the change of ambiance of this year’s dinner. The attire was business casual. There was a sit-down dinner with strawberry shortcake as dessert; Dreher said the committee mainly picked this because its bright red color reflected the Red Cross. The ticket prices were raised from $15 to $50. Griffith talked highly of Dreher and the committee’s changes to the setup of this year’s Heroes Dinner, and smiled while saying, “It’s like they say, ‘Sometimes you got to spend money to make money,’ and it was worth it.”
Although there were changes to this year’s Heroes Dinner, there were still feelings of joy, congratulations and thankfulness. “There wasn’t a dry eye there,” said Griffith. Although Dreher’s work on the Heroes Dinner committee helps the community recognize and applaud the everyday heroes around them, she says that she is “just the little co-chair for the Heroes Dinner.” With her position as co-chair of the Heroes Dinner committee, and having received the central and northern chapter’s Spirit Award, it is safe to say her fellow volunteers and Red Cross associates would beg to differ.