HOHENFELS, Germany -- Students at Hohenfels Middle-High School paid tribute to "Everyday Heroes," recently, with a locker decorating contest aimed at increasing awareness to the ongoing work performed across the world by the American Red Cross.
Since World War II, every U.S. president has designated March as Red Cross Month, a time to recognize the volunteers, donors and trainees who give selflessly to aid the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross.
"It's important that our youth know what the Red Cross can do, especially things like supporting military families," said Sandy Mama, assistant station manager for Hohenfels' American Red Cross.
What began with Red Cross founder Clara Barton recruiting nurses to support the U.S. Army continues today with Emergency Communication Services, resiliency training, and supporting wounded warriors and military hospitals. An estimated 150,000 military families and veterans benefit from Red Cross programs annually.
Locker decorations varied from a display of various books to photo collages and cartoons. There was even a bandaged teddy bear, and a disaster awareness kit, complete with instructions on surviving a natural disaster. Winners from each class level receive a free Red Cross course, a $55 value.
"The lockers were awesome!" said Mama. "Those who participated really showed their creativity, putting a lot of thought into what they did. From this project we've gotten a lot of interest from prospective youth volunteers asking about how to volunteer, and that was one of our main goals: to get youth interested in the organization."
"We've recruited about 12 new youth volunteers, recently," Mama said .
Youth volunteers can perform service projects within the community, build awareness for programs such as fire prevention, and can even go on to become instructors themselves.
"I made the commitment to be a Red Cross Youth Volunteer, and therefore I felt that it was my responsibility to take part in the contest," said HMHS junior Julian Byles. Byles said his decoration, which featured a collage concerning the International Red Cross, was inspired by how widespread the organization has become.
"I also thought that (the contest) was a great way for me to get my friends involved with the Red Cross," said Byles.
One of those friends was Brian Butler who was "dragged" to a local meeting with Byles. Already involved in creative activities such as art and music, decorating his locker sounded like fun to Butler.
"Plus, it's important to support the Red Cross because the Red Cross is important. Their goal is to help those in need and it is made up almost entirely of volunteers who dedicate their time and services to help others. To me, that is something everyone should be supporting," said Butler.
As one of the winners of the contest, Byles said he plans on taking the CPR/First Aid class offered by the Red Cross.
"Those two will always be useful, and there might not always be someone around with that training when the situation calls for it," Byles said.
Mama said that statistics show that when people begin volunteering at a young age, they continue to volunteer throughout their lives, and that's one of the reasons the Red Cross actively seeks to inspire youth volunteers.
With the many students who participated in the locker decorating contest, it seems like the lesson is already taking hold.
"I know from firsthand experience that there are people out there that don't have what we take for granted like clothes, water, food or shelter, and the Red Cross goes out of their way to provide those basic necessities to people no matter how hard it is to get the job done," said Byles.