By Abby Heyen
American Red Cross
The influence a parent has over a child cannot be underestimated.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why Scott Riggs’ face beams with pride when 20-year-old son Connor Riggs is asked why he chose to become a Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteer at the American Red Cross.
“I was curious where Dad was going and what he was doing at 3 a.m. in all parts of the city,” Connor said.
When families suffer from home fires or other disasters in the Greater Kansas City area, Scott responds as a DAT member to provide immediate emergency assistance such as a place to stay, food and clothing along with comfort and hope.
His one regret is that it took him so long to find how much he enjoys this volunteer work. In April 2013, when a time came in Scott’s life that he thought he could start to slowly step away from his IT business, he began to think about what he would do to keep himself busy.
Growing up in the Sunshine State, Scott frequently saw wildfires on the news and how the Red Cross deployed to help, but he did not really know what that entailed. He started researching what the Red Cross does, and if he could do some of that “helping.”
Five years later, Scott is still very much involved in his business full time (so much for slowing down), and a seasoned DAT member, deploying to sometimes over 100 home fires a month.
He takes on additional regional responsibilities for the Red Cross, such as tracking and reporting disaster responses, and gets involved with other Red Cross volunteer opportunities such as Sound the Alarm, Pillowcase Projects, and being a training instructor. He looks forward to a long volunteer career with Red Cross, eventually deploying nationally and perhaps internationally.
Connor takes the same interest in the Red Cross. When he turned 18, he immediately went through training to become a DAT member.
Now attending Kansas State University in Manhattan, Connor spends much of his non-studying time doing DAT work for both the Greater Kansas City Chapter and in the Manhattan area.
To Scott’s beaming pride and adoration, and perhaps from his own example of being an all-in volunteer, Connor will sometimes be in Kansas City for the weekend, and Scott doesn’t even know it until he sees Connor’s name on a nightly report after he responded to a fire.
Connor enjoys volunteering, and especially enjoys the feeling of being able to help people start putting their lives back together after a fire destroys it all.
“That can be everything to them then,” he said.
Connor won an election last year at K-State for the Disaster Preparedness Officer of the Red Cross Club. He trains volunteers over 40 years his senior on a regular basis, and he has come know several local law enforcement officials through his work with Red Cross.
“The experience has made me think about law enforcement as a career a lot more,” Connor says.
While Connor is serving the Red Cross on his own, he explains, “It’s fun to go out with Dad.”
Scott enjoys their time serving together as well.
“I like responding with Connor, because I like to see how he interacts. I like the fact that you’re seeing all sides of the world, how people live, how the conditions they live in can be incredibly sad, but also seeing you become empathic, understanding and non-judging,” he said.
Scott is proud to know that his experience with the Red Cross has led to Connor “going to school to figure out how [he] can help people.”
“I’ve seen him grow to become a good, reliable DAT. It makes me proud,” he said.