After a two-year hiatus, Red Ball – the signature, formal, invited gala of the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Region (SEPA) – returned for its 20th anniversary on April 2. Presented by Independence Blue Cross and AmeriHealth Caritas, the sold-out gala was held at Vie by Cescaphe on Broad Street in the heart of Philadelphia between Center City and Fairmount. The evening featured rotating live bands courtesy of CTO Artists, dancing, a silent auction, an outdoor cigar bar and, of course, fabulous cuisine.
“It is so good to see everyone now that they’re not on a flat screen!” exclaimed Mary Ann Milner, Red Cross SEPA director of development, to kick off the short but impactful formal program. Attendees whole-heartedly agreed, with exclamations of “we’re not on Zoom!” and “don’t forget to mute your mic!” heard throughout the evening from the crowd
Red Ball helps fund the Red Cross disaster response throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including the Red Cross House – The Center for Disaster Recovery – in Philadelphia. Over the past two decades, the Red Cross House has provided a safe place to stay, hot meals and support services to thousands of families rebuilding their lives after a disaster.
“The Red Cross House is a special place,” said author and former CBS3 anchor Katie Fehlinger, who served as the Red Ball host and emcee. “It provides a safe and comfortable place where families can stay together after a disaster, like a home fire. In an average year, the Red Cross House serves over 60,000 meals for more than 300 families and provides over 20,000 overnight stays.”
During a video presentation, attendees met Lisa Stokes, a mother of two who stayed at the Red Cross House following a fire in her home. Lisa also attended the gala as a special guest.
“It was the first time in my life that we were homeless, that I was not able to provide for my children,” she shared. “If you’ve never watched everything leave you, and to find your way back, that affects you differently.”
Lisa didn’t just lose her home; she lost medical devices, like feeding and breathing machines, needed to care for her daughter who requires around-the-clock nursing care.
“We had to get all of that stuff back and in a hurry,” she said. The Red Cross “never dealt with a family like mine before. They really go out of their way to be a part of the process to get you back on your feet. It’s something that should be in every state and be a part of every community.”
“When a family like Lisa’s arrives at the Red Cross House, it starts a new story – one in which fear turns into hope and despair turns into determination,” said Guy Triano, regional CEO for Red Cross SEPA. “If you each help one family, think of what we could do.”
To close the formal portion of the program, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel made passionate remarks about the work of the fire department and critical role of the Red Cross in a family’s recovery.
“While this is a celebratory occasion for 2022, for the 3,000 women and men of the Philadelphia Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management, this year got off to a tragic start,” he shared. “The world saw what we already knew with the tragic death of 12 of our neighbors on Fairmount on January 5th…that our city – this great and wonderful city – has a horrible fire problem.”
Commissioner Thiel shared some startling statistics. Last year, 200 people were injured in Philadelphia home fires; 37 tragically lost their lives. More than 2000 people – about 700 families – were burned out of their homes. Thankfully, many of those families were provided by recovery support from the Red Cross.
“The Red Cross is there, two to three times every single day to provide families with shelter, resources, food and emotional support,” shared Fehlinger. “This help has been provided because of individuals in this room who help to ensure that the Red Cross will be there in the upcoming year. The Red Cross is not government funded; it’s funded by people like you.”
To support the work of the Red Cross, visit our Ways to Donate webpage. To learn about volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.