The American Red Cross has a proud history of commitment to youth and their value to the organization. Today that commitment continues with programs to involve young people in elementary school through high school, college and beyond. Learn more here.
Young people represent both the future of the Red Cross as well as the present. Youth engaged in Red Cross services and programs are experiencing first-hand the humanitarian values the Red Cross exemplifies. By such involvement they will become the organization’s future leaders, service volunteers, blood donors and community supporters.
Young Red Cross volunteers are as diverse as the U.S. population. They are athletes organizing blood drives on college campuses, nursing students training to serve in community disaster shelters, high school students raising funds to vaccinate kids in third-world countries against measles.
Young professionals, college students and high school, middle school and elementary school students make a difference every day. You can find out more at http://redcrossyouth.org/.
STARTED IN 1884 It all began in Waterford, Pennsylvania in 1884 when six children put on a play that raised over $50 which they donated to the then three-year-old American Red Cross. Red Cross founder Clara Barton used the money to aid victims of severe flooding on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
By the 1890s, some individual Red Cross chapters set up their own “youth auxiliaries” which were tied to local schools. Students engaged in worthwhile programs and worked side-by-side with adults in disaster relief, fund-raising and other chapter activities. In 1898, students in some parts of the country became involved in a war effort when they assisted adult Red Cross members in providing medical support and comfort to American soldiers and their families during and after the Spanish-American War.
FORMATION OF JUNIOR RED CROSS In 1917, When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Red Cross officials planned for a nationwide partnership between schools and the Red Cross. On September 15, 1917, President Wilson officially announced the formation of the Junior Red Cross.
Junior Red Cross enrollment reached 8 million within its first year and peaked at 11 million in 1919. These young people performed vital services such as making and collecting clothing for war victims, producing hospital supplies and building furniture for medical facilities and convalescent homes. They prepared and shipped “Friendship Boxes,” containing school and personal comfort items for youth in war-torn areas overseas.
On the home front, they worked in Victory Gardens, growing vegetables to add to the nation’s food supply. They also helped local chapters with first aid training and disaster relief and participated in all Red Cross membership and war fund campaigns.
After the war ended, a “National Children’s Fund” was established to provide “relief funds for rehabilitation of child life in war-stricken Europe.” The Junior Red Cross also lent support to Red Cross efforts to fight the worldwide influenza pandemic in 1918.
WORK CONTINUED AFTER THE WAR The National Children’s Fund distributed funds to support children who were victims of a Midwestern tornado. On the international scene, the Junior Red Cross continued shipping Friendship Boxes overseas and initiated correspondence exchanges between American youth and young people in other countries.
In the early 1930s, the Depression and the “Dust Bowl” drought in the Midwest dominated Junior Red Cross activities. Members assisted in the distribution of surplus wheat and cotton, the collection of clothing and food and the canning of fruits and vegetables. In the latter half of the 1930s, the Junior Red Cross focused on relief projects for children who were victims of domestic fires and floods. Activities included the operation of recreational centers, production and distribution of toys, clothes, educational supplies and the granting of financial aid from the National Children’s Fund.
MEMBERSHIP SURGES DURING WWII As the country entered into World War II, Junior Red Cross membership surged again, from 8.5 million in 1940 to almost 20 million by 1945. College units were added in 1942 at a time when virtually every campus in the country hosted some type of Red Cross activity, from organizing student groups to offering Red Cross training courses.
Junior Red Cross activities during World War II ranged from the production of clothing, toys, furniture and art works to entertainment and recreational programs at military camps and hospitals. Junior Red Cross members worked in Victory Gardens again. As before, they assisted individual chapters as staff aides, in kitchens and hospitals, with childcare, in disaster services, with a bicycle corps as an adjunct to the Red Cross Motor Corps, on war fund campaigns, and for the first time, in the recruitment of blood donors.