Region celebrates 100 years of service, opens art exhibit by marines

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Red Cross flags flew high along Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh as General Pershing welcomed guests into the North Carolina Museum of History for the Centennial Celebration of the Red Cross of Eastern NC on June 24.

Marines played smooth jazz in the lobby as World War I reenactors mingled with nearly300 guests who were in attendance. The evening, sponsored by Wells Fargo, featured the opening of an art exhibit with pieces by wounded Marines, and the presentation of the humanitarian of the year award for the Triangle Chapter.

Guests were also able to participate in a Lenovo-sponsored virtual reality booth, created by OnecallVR in Wilmington. Virtual reality goggles and headphones transported attendees to the flooded streets of Eastern North Carolina during Hurricane Matthew, and inside an emergency shelter to help feed hungry residents.

Keynote speaker, Congressman Walter Jones, helped to lead the evening’s program. Jones discussed his family ties to World War I, his experiences while being a congressman and his appreciation of the Red Cross.

“Eastern North Carolina Red Cross, I want you to know that you are making a difference,” Jones said.

This year’s Humanitarian of the Year award was given to Eliza Kraft Olander for her compassion and involvement in her community. Olander thanked her parents and her son and recognized her grandmother who coincidentally became a member of the Red Cross in 1917, the year the Raleigh Chapter of the Red Cross began.

“Giving back is and always has been my way of expressing my gratitude, my joy, and striving to help make stories beautiful,” Olander said during her acceptance speech.

After the keynote address, the presentation of the Humanitarian of the Year award and a video clip telling the history of the Red Cross, guests were invited to view the new art exhibit, American Red Cross: Healing the Warrior’s Heart through Art.

The gallery featured more than 20 pieces, consisting of paintings, drawings and sculptures that were created by Marines who were wounded while serving. They created the artwork through a Red Cross art therapy class at Camp Lejeune, led by world-renowned artist Craig Bone.

“Art therapy does make a difference for men and women recovering from traumatic injury, from traumatic experiences,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the Red Cross in Eastern NC.

The exhibit is now open to the public at the North Carolina Museum of History and will be on display until Jan. 7, 2018. Visitors can walk through the halls of the exhibit and see what war looks like through a Marine’s eyes.

The Red Cross would like to thank everyone who attended the Centennial Celebration and everyone who has partnered with or volunteered for the Eastern Region of NC over the past 100 years.

“The Red Cross never gets really anything accomplished without partners,” Porter said.

Story by Rachel Jennings/American Red Cross

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