Ivan Stoinev, assistant director of the Gamma Phi Circus, and his family found comfort after a devastating fire with the American Red Cross, one of the agencies SECA supports. The deadline for the SECA campaign has been extended to November 7.
Read Stoinev’s story:

“Don’t worry, someone from the Red Cross will come,” were the first words of comfort that welcomed Maritza Atayde and her family after they watched their new home go up in flames one frigid night in December 2013.

It had been just two months since Maritza and her husband Ivan Stoinev had moved to the United States from Mexico. While sewing up her sons’ costume, Maritza said she remembers her husband going to cut off their gas fireplace one moment, then in the next, sparks were flying and their home had already begun to go up in flames.

Without hesitation, she grabbed her youngest son, Christopher, and their three Chihuahuas and moved as quickly as she could out and away from the burning house. As soon as she and her husband escaped to safety they called 9-1-1 in a frenzy.

We didn’t have any family or friends and they were still there to help us with anything we needed.

Hours after the fire department got a handle of the flames, volunteers from American Red Cross arrived and offered Maritza more than she could ask for. Unsure of what to do or where to do go, Maritza found comfort from two women who offered her both physical and emotional support.

“In the moment when you’re feeling alone they’re there to give you a hug,” she said. “We didn’t have any family or friends and they were still there to help us with anything we needed.”

In addition to shelter and care packages, the American Red Cross volunteers offered her counseling and a helping hand with anything they could gather. Despite the fire being over, they stayed by the family’s side until they were sure they were no longer needed.

Maritza was relieved to know she and her family would be alright, even if they had not had insurance.

“My only regret was that I did not get to thank the women or even ask their names,” said Maritza.

American Red Cross is one of nearly 2,000 charities in the SECA catalog. Illinois State’s SECA campaign runs through November 7 at Illinois State. See a note from President Larry Dietz on supporting SECA.

Go to the SECA site to donate.