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Volunteer CPR Instructors Train Everyday Heroes


Melissa Lambert used her CPR training to save her fiancé’s life when he collapsed on an exercise treadmill.

When Kevin Laubengayer’s two-year-old son fell into a pond, Laubengayer applied CPR and had the toddler breathing again by the time the ambulance arrived.

Abdominal thrusts from Judy Farrell dislodged a piece of a sandwich from her husband’s throat, saving his life when, according to the emergency crew, that life was down to seconds.

Scenes such as these—ordinary people performing extraordinary acts—repeat day in and day out across America because someone has been trained in CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation).

Heroes Behind the Scenes

For every life saved, there are really two heroes—the person administering the CPR and the volunteer instructor who taught that person how to do it. More than 18,000 American Red Cross volunteer instructors freely give both time and talent to teach CPR.

People like Sofia Mekonnen, a volunteer instructor with the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area, who teaches CPR because that’s how she does her part “to make the world a better place for all.”

Mekonnen, a Registered Nurse who works in the Cardiac Unit, sees a lot of people saved by CPR before they get to the hospital. “It’s my passion,” she says, “to let people know they can keep a loved one alive until the emergency team arrives.”

She often goes directly from work to the Red Cross to teach evening CPR courses. In her five years of service as a Red Cross volunteer Mekonnen has trained thousands. She can’t imagine living any other way; “I love the Red Cross,” she says

Bonnie Griswold and Verallyn Cline are volunteer instructors with the Badger Chapter in Madison, Wisconsin. Both have taught First Aid/CPR/AED classes for more than 40 years.

Cline, a physical education professor, chose to volunteer for the Red Cross because it offers a quality product. “Part of the quality of Red Cross CPR training is the way the organization works with leaders in the field,” she says. “The Red Cross has been known for decades for its high quality education. As an educator myself, this has impressed me.”

Cline likes to get the message out there that CPR is a very practical skill, one that is easy to learn and effective. She also values the people she has met while working as a Red Cross volunteer. “I have many friends over the long haul that I met at the Red Cross,” she says.

“CPR empowers people to make a difference in someone’s life,” says volunteer instructor Bonnie Griswold. She has taught students from a wide array of occupations and positions—from day care workers to snow plow operators to college faculty. Griswold notes that her students have diverse backgrounds and job responsibilities, but they share the common goal of saving lives.

A college professor herself, Griswold feels fortunate to be a Red Cross volunteer. “My reward and satisfaction as a volunteer instructor comes from helping others make a difference,” she says.

Sandy An is a volunteer instructor with the Preparedness and Health and Safety Department at American Red Cross national headquarters. She is also an emergency responder, firefighter and college student majoring in emergency health services. Like Mekonnen, An has witnessed first-hand the lifesaving qualities of CPR.

“The saddest experience you could have,” she says, “is to have a family member or loved one need CPR and you not being able to give it.”

An says volunteering with the Red Cross “just felt right.” She has always been interested in humanitarian work, and finds that the Red Cross mission and Fundamental Principles are similar to the values she follows in her everyday life.

Join the Next Generation of Red Cross Training

Red Cross volunteers teach hundreds of thousands of people to be lifesavers: to give a combination of chest compressions and breaths to maintain some blood flow to the heart and brain until advanced medical care can arrive on the scene; to administer abdominal thrusts if someone is choking; to use an AED (automatic external defibrillator); and more.

Get trained so you can be ready to “buy extra time” for someone whose life depends on how quickly help arrives.

CPR classes are taking place at your local Red Cross. Sign up for a class today.