QUEENSBURY — Preventing and alleviating suffering is the new mission of several volunteers at Queensbury Middle School.
One district parent and several students officially launched the Queensbury Red Cross Club in December and have already assisted with blood drives, taken a CPR class, refurbished first-aid kits for emergency vehicles in the area and completed other activities related to the mission of the organization.
Dan Janssen, who works as a physician’s assistant, took on the role of director of the Queensbury chapter and said the work the club has done in a few short months has already made a difference.
“Our work on these programs is going to save lives,” Janssen said. “There’s no way around it.”
Janssen said he had been looking for an outlet for his daughter to volunteer and help others, and the idea for a Red Cross club was introduced to him while on a trip to Bergen, Norway, last year.
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He said his interest was sparked when he encountered several large red crates on trails in the area surrounding the city. He noticed the Red Cross logo on the crates and when he, by chance, passed by the Red Cross center on the way back to his hotel, he stopped to look around.
“I walked in on the Red Cross teaching refugees Norwegian,” Janssen said. “It was introduced to me as an after-school hangout, a place to get nutrition if you need it, a place to get help with homework; it was a one-stop youth support refuge.”
Janssen said he was inspired by what he saw there and decided to bring a Red Cross club to his own backyard. The club has a core membership of around 10 students, and on Tuesday they had a chance to speak with Janssen’s Norwegian counterpart, Siri Oldevik, leader of Red Cross Youth in Bergen, Queensbury’s sister organization.
Oldevik said she has deep roots in the Red Cross through her parents, who met each other while volunteering with the organization. She now serves as the Red Cross youth leader for the chapter in Bergen. She said her chapter also organizes events such as blood drives as well as hosting youths after school to help with homework or give students a welcoming place to hang out.
“I think we have a lot of similarities in the things that we do,” Oldevik said, “And we’ve been doing this for quite a while, so hopefully we can provide some guidance since you are still starting up.”
The students in attendance at the meeting said it was exciting to know people around the world are engaged in similar work as them and serves as a reminder about its importance. Several of the students also remarked they were excited to have the opportunity to get involved so early in the club’s development.
Chloe Gleason, an eighth grader, said she was initially drawn into the club because of a possible trip to Norway to visit the sister organization, but after she got involved, she saw there were many other aspects to stick around for.
“I hope it continues to grow,” Gleason said. “The club helps build character and teaches you to respect people.”
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Eighth grader Carter Jackson said he was initially drawn to the club because of his interest in medicine and intent to pursue a career in the medical field.
“It’s like a gateway to the medical field,” Jackson said. “I’ve already had some interest in that with psychology and helping with mental issues.”
The club is gearing up to host a health fair at the school on Saturday, May 18, that will feature more than 20 exhibitors and focus on the theme of mental health and mindfulness.