Being On Call to Help Others

Lisa Keeley on the job as an ambulance driver.As a kid, I was a Girl Scout, and our motto was “Be Prepared.” That motto is one I’ve taken to heart and serves me well as a volunteer ambulance driver.

I began driving an ambulance about three years ago. My husband saw a flier asking for volunteers and he felt my caring nature, along with my ability to drive large vehicles like our friends 30’ motorhome, made me a good candidate to be an ambulance driver. You see, in small, rural communities like mine, emergency and fire services are staffed by volunteers.

The big difference between an ambulance and a motorhome is that with an ambulance, you have an injured passenger along with emergency medical technicians in the back. And, you have to get to a hospital as quickly and safely as you can, often driving in inclement weather on winding roads.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a fire, heart attack or large hazardous material spill, we’re ready to roll at a moment’s notice.

One of my more memorable calls was an accident during deer hunting season. A hunter tripped with a loaded gun and his self-inflicted injury was severe enough that it eventually cost him his leg. Because an ambulance doesn’t travel well through the woods, we walked a mile each way to carry him back to the ambulance.

Because of the wide range of emergencies we handle, we are constantly training. In addition to the required state and federal certifications, my team has monthly training meetings to keep our skills sharp.

I’ve learned a lot in three years and the learning has served me (and my co-workers) well. At our East Region Building, I’m a first responder for medical emergencies.

I’ve also shared life-saving tips with others. One simple and important tip I tell everyone is to keep a list of medications you or your family members are taking – including non-prescription ones – on or near the refrigerator. Be sure to include the dosage and frequency you take them. Because medical technicians and fire rescue teams always look at the refrigerator for this type of information, it’s there in case you’re injured and unable to speak for yourself.

As an ambulance driver, I know what can happen to people in the blink of an eye. When my pager goes off, I’m already thinking about what I may encounter as I’m racing to the Emergency Medical Services building.

No matter what time of day it is or what the weather is like, I always need to be prepared. Whether at work or at home I’m always ready to go.

Posted by Lisa Keeley on Tue, Jul 09 2013 7:14 pmLisa Keeley is a customer care center property senior representative for American Family Insurance.

Have you thanked a veteran today?

Thank a veteran this Memorial Day weekend.I never grow tired of stories from those who’ve served in our Armed Forces.

As a young newspaper reporter, I met one of the last surviving veterans of WWI. Though 90 years had shriveled his frame, he stood tall and proud as I took his photo next to an American flag.

On another occasion, I interviewed one of the few surviving crew members of the U.S.S Indianapolis, the last American ship sunk by enemy forces in WWII. He recalled with vivid detail four days floating at sea until rescuers arrived.

And as a child, I listened intently as my father and uncle relived their war experiences from the Army and Navy, respectively. Though serving in a foreign land may not have been the optimal way to spend their youth, they never regretted the role they played in defending our nation’s freedoms.

I’ve met a good share veterans from my own generation as well – men and women who’ve served in numerous capacities, for many different reasons. Some, like me, were stateside in the Reserves, fortunate to have stayed out of harm’s way. Others weren’t so lucky – separated from their families for many months and by thousands of miles to serve our nation’s call.

As part of our 30 Days of Thanks, American Family recognized veterans for their service. We were pleased to hear from numerous people who have worn the uniform. Here are just a few comments we received: 

  • “I served in the Korean War on the front lines from late Feb 1951 until Dec 31, 1951, A VERY cold place – much like Minnesota – and we had no overshoes or winter sleeping bags....Brrr.”
  • Sometimes we’re all forgotten about, and what we give up for our country. Family, health and life.”
  •  "I am a veteran – 4 years active duty, Security Forces USAF. I show my appreciation to Veterans everyday by acknowledging them when I see or meet them."
  • "Yes, I am a Veteran of WWII – one of the few still alive.  I was a medic and worked in a large Veteran's hospital as a surgical tech, so I saw the terrible results of war. I also lost some of friends I trained with."
  • "Having served 21 years myself, I thank God everyday for these young men and women who keep us safe today.  We must never forget however, all our veterans from WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and all the other victories forged by our gallant men and women in uniform."

Thank you to all those who took the time write. And thank you everyone who has served in the Armed Forces – in war, in peace, at home and overseas. We live the results of your service every day.

P.S.: Want to thank a veteran? Leave a comment, or head to our Facebook page and post a message on our Wall. 

Posted by Paul Bauman on Fri, May 24 2013 7:25 amPaul Bauman is a web experience administrator for American Family Insurance. When not developing content for the company’s websites, he enjoys sharing the running trail with his thoughts, which move at a much faster pace.

Gardening for a cause: Pledge to Plant a Row

Fight Hunger in AmericaI’m getting into the gardening game, and I’m a little nervous. I’ve signed up for a 10x10 garden plot in our American Family Insurance community garden.

It’s a little intimidating because we’ve got some very talented home gardeners around here. They’re talking about straw bale gardens and raised bed gardens. Josh Feyen on our social media team even has a blog about urban gardening – and he just planted an orchard in his small, urban front yard!

Me? I’ve had a few tomato plants around the yard. A few herbs. Some ailing blueberry bushes. But this is the first time I’m plotting out a garden.

My family loves the farm-fresh produce we can get in the summer, and we bike each summer Saturday up to the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison, Wis. So it’s natural for us to expand our own gardening effort.

Having our own garden is also going to be a way for us to give back to the community. Local food pantries want donations of fresh produce, and we’ll share some of our garden’s bounty with them.

Over the next several weeks, American Family Insurance is working to raise awareness of the opportunity to donate produce through our Pledge to Plant a Row effort on Facebook. We’re asking people to take that pledge, set aside a row of produce and donate it to a local food bank. For every pledge made between now and June 20, we’ll donate $1 to Feeding America, up to $5,000.

Pleldge to Plant a Row to fight hunger in AmericaThis is part of our ongoing effort to help fight hunger in our communities and help raise awareness of this important issue. It builds on last fall’s effort to support the National FFA Organization’s Rally to Fight Hunger, which was backed by more than 20,000 of our Facebook fans and funded 50,000 prepackaged meals.

Whether you’re a veteran gardener or just getting started, I hope you’ll join us in this pledge, and connect with us on Facebook, where we’ll be sharing information about supporting local food pantries, statistics on the impact hunger has in our communities, and ways for you to help.

Posted by Michele Wingate on Thu, May 09 2013 1:15 pm

Empowering women through sports and education

Monica Smith with some of the children of Playa Gigante, Nicaragua.In January, I had the unique opportunity of traveling to Playa Gigante, Nicaragua, to play softball and share some life-saving cancer-detection techniques.

The trip started as an invitation to play in a softball tournament and share some softball skills and knowledge with the local women. However, members of our group from Oregon have a wide range of life experiences, and we wanted to share those as well. 

Among us was a breast cancer survivor who had also lost her mother to breast cancer. She’s a firm believer that early detection and education saved her life. As a group, we made it our mission to deliver as much information about breast cancer as we were able to. Our survivor’s doctor was even able to join us!

Monica Smith with breast cancer training sessions in Playa Gigante, NicaraguaAs a group, we went through two breast cancer training sessions to prepare for our trip. We also brought training materials to leave in the village. A group of breast cancer survivors in Salem, Ore., even made hospital gowns for us to leave at a local clinic. Not to leave softball out, we also gathered bats, balls, mitts, helmets, visors, shirts and bat bags to leave as well.

We flew into the capital city of Managua and drove two-and-a-half hours to Playa Gigante. When we got there, the women were happy to see us, and we were excited to learn from each other. We even held a breast cancer training session that afternoon! 

When our breast cancer survivor told her story, many of the women in the village were very touched. Not only was she sharing her story, but she was healthy and strong. In that area, it is uncommon for people with cancer to survive. The doctor who joined us also shared information about early detection and treatments and later helped train staff at the local clinic.  

That weekend we held a softball skills clinic for the local women and girls. On our last full day in the village, we held a tournament among four teams. The local school children cleaned up the field and the entire village came out to watch.

I’ve never experienced anything like Playa Gigante before. 

They don’t have many of the things we take for granted like electricity or running water. Many homes have dirt floors and people sleep in hammocks. Cooking is done over an open fire and animals and livestock are free range. 

I couldn’t help but notice that life is more stress-free and relaxing compared to the U.S. We have so much yet are so unappreciative as a society.

I realized our trip made a difference for the women of Playa Gigante. I don’t ever doubt the impact one person can have.

Looking back, I’m not sure if we made more of an impression on the women of Playa Gigante or the other way around. 

Posted by Monica Smith on Fri, Apr 12 2013 6:15 am

Saying thanks by paying it forward

Lisa Simmons and her nephew, Adam.I have been an American Family employee for 25 years, and it’s always been a great place to work. One reason is all the wonderful co-workers and friends who surround me every day.

Another is knowing how much American Family cares and gives back to our communities, including the support of the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis.

I am originally from Madison, and my family still lives there. The summer of 2008, my 10-year-old nephew, Adam, was in the American Family Children’s Hospital, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The next two years he was a regular at the hospital for treatments and checkups and we know he received the best care possible. He also felt loved by every doctor and nurse who had contact with him.

Adam’s greatest wish was to meet former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre. In January 2010, Adam had his dream come true through Make-A-Wish – Wisconsin. This is a memory our entire family will cherish forever.

Sadly, Adam passed away six months later, on Aug. 15, 2010. His doctor even spoke at his funeral on behalf of all the staff at the hospital who had come to know and love him.

My daughter was very close to Adam and is always looking for ways to honor and remember him. Last year she decided we should start a team and walk in Adam’s memory for Make-A-Wish – Arizona and “pay it forward” for all the support Adam received in Wisconsin from the American Family Children’s Hospital and those who take such good care of the patients and families who come there. We were able to raise $2,700 as a team and help make other children’s wishes come true.

This year will be our second year as Team “Amazing Adam.” The walk is scheduled for Sunday, March 10, 2013. We are hoping to exceed last year's amount. If you’d like to learn more about our team, here’s our team page.

It’s important to “pay it forward” because we believe every sick child’s wish should come true.​

Posted by LisaSimmons on Fri, Mar 08 2013 2:33 pmLisa Simmons is a field administrative assistant at American Family Insurance's Phoenix office.
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