By Roxanne Schorbach, Volunteer
When Todd Blecha’s name was announced as the 2015 recipient of the Clara Barton Honor Award at the September Volunteer and Employee Excellence Awards ceremony, Todd was nowhere to be found. Instead, the winner of the highest award the Red Cross bestows to volunteers for meritorious service in volunteer leadership positions was doing something he loves – volunteering.
Blecha was staffing a Red Cross first aid station at the Rose Bowl and learned the news via text from his fellow volunteers, who subsequently broadcast the news on the medical radio at the Rose Bowl game.
Todd’s Red Cross journey goes back to the time he was working for First Interstate Bank in Los Angeles.
In 1988, First Interstate Bank, a 62-story office building on Wilshire Blvd., was in flames on multiple floors. The blaze could be seen for miles and in the aftermath 30 people were injured and one died.
In 1991 Todd found himself working in that same First Interstate Bank building. It had been decided that each floor of the high rise would have a trained First Aid/ CPR person and Todd’s manager volunteered him for the task.
“I loved the training and wanted to know what else I could do to get more involved,” said Todd. A co-worker suggested he join the American Red Cross – which he did. Living in Diamond Bar at the time, he became a first aid volunteer at the Claremont chapter. He subsequently moved to Pasadena and saw a flier for Rose Parade First Aid volunteers. His first assignment was radio dispatch at the busiest station along the route – band disbandment.
The following year he took the Emergency Medical Response (EMR) class and has been active with Community First Aid, first aid stations at the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade first aid stations ever since. He has assumed several leadership positions over the years and was the Incident Commander for the 2014 Rose Parade First Aid teams.
By 1998, he was involved with Disaster Action Teams and took great pride working alongside fellow volunteers to help those affected by home fires. Todd worked DAT and canteen operations for a period of time and continued to round out his Red Cross experience by taking a number of additional classes.
In 2011 he was invited to join the Board of Directors for the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter. He has been active as a board member for the past four years and with his extensive experience as an internal auditor he started taking classes in disaster finance. He is now working with the Disaster Services Finance helping to track finances for level 2, 3, 4 disasters and reviewing debit cards that are used on DAT calls.
To complement his disaster volunteer efforts Todd is also a long time blood donor, which he started when he was a college student. Recalling that blood drives seemed to always coincide with finals, he made sure they took blood from his left arm. Since 1997, he’s been donating platelets and takes pride in the fact that he has reached the 150 unit mark – his goal being 200 units.
How does he feel about being awarded the Clara Barton Award? “I am humbled and honored to be this year’s recipient – a once in a lifetime honor.”
Speaking of first aid, check out the new First Aid Guidelines recently announced by the American Red Cross and American Heart Association. Among the most noteworthy revisions are new and updated recommendations for the treatment of bleeding; recognition of stroke; recovery position; anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction); treatment of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in diabetics; and aspirin use with heart attacks.