Story by Caroline Wagner, photos by Keith Howie

Diane Story thought she was going to a retirement party, but when she saw who was gathered at the Radisson Hotel in northeast Calgary, she realized something was up. 

“I saw my husband who’s supposed to be in Seattle,” she says, “and all of my family, and the people that I’ve worked with, which is pretty amazing.” The real reason Story was there was to receive the highest honour of the Canadian Red Cross: The Order of the Red Cross Member Level, along with fellow recipient Todd Weiss.

The Order of the Red Cross recognizes people who have provided outstanding humanitarian service, in Canada and abroad. Only 25 people receive the member level pin each year.

Story has volunteered with the Canadian Red Cross First Aid program since 1978, dedicating hours to training First Aid and Water Safety instructors, developing new programs and revised old ones, and travelled to Bulgaria and Paris to work with other Red Cross trainers. 

Honouree Todd Weiss was also surprised by the award. The Edmonton firefighter drove  to Calgary to have dinner with his parents. But when he saw his whole family gathered, he put it all together. He was grateful to be able to accept the award in front of his sons.

“My two boys have seen me leave home throughout the years,” he says, adding that he missed his youngest son’s first birthday when volunteering in New York City after the September 11 attacks. “They’ve lived their lives with me volunteering, so I hope I’ve been a good role model to them.”

As a Red Cross volunteer, Todd has taken on management roles in response to the 2004 Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Slave Lake fires, the southern Alberta floods and the Fort McMurray wildfires. In 2012, he took on the job of Deputy Director of the response operation for Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana.

But it's a small local disaster that sticks with him the most. Todd recollects two men he met while responding to a house fire in Edmonton, and how appreciative they were of the Red Cross assistance. 

“I remember, like it was yesterday, those two men sitting on that curb,” he says, “I was so grateful to help them... I get more out of this than I put in.” 

The Honourable Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, was there to present the two honourees with their pins.