Saving Lives, Inspiring Others

15-Year-Old Receives National American Red Cross Recognition

Sydney Raley, American Red Cross Certificate of Merit recipient. Photo: American Red Cross

Sydney Raley, a 15-year-old McDonald’s employee in Eden Prairie, had been working a typical Saturday shift at the drive-thru window, when she leaned out to inform a customer that her food was on the way and noticed the customer struggling. The woman was choking on a chicken nugget.

Syndey sprang into action, informing her manager and the customer’s daughter to call 911 and then jumping out the drive-thru window to help the customer by performing an abdominal thrust. She was unsuccessful at first, but with the aid of a bystander she was finally able to dislodge the food and clear the woman’s airway.

Sydney credits the bystander and her first aid training, which she received both at the age of 11 at a Red Cross Babysitting and Child Care training class and at Red Cross CPR and AED training in high school, for the successful save. Knowing how to respond during this type of situation allowed her to stay calm and collected as she completed all the necessary checks and steps to save the customer’s life.

This past month, Syndey received the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for her heroic actions. This is one of the highest awards given by the American Red Cross to an individual who saves or sustains a life by using skill and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. It is intended to exemplify the highest degree of concern from one human being for another who is in distress.

Sydney, center, with her parents and brother. Photo: American Red Cross

At the presentation ceremony Sydney was able to reunite with the reporter who first broke her story along with others who helped spread her story and achieve international recognition for her heroism. Many in attendance were able to reflect on the inspirational nature of her actions, including Sydney’s parents who commented on the letters and messages Sydney has received from around the world detailing the hope for humanity that she has instilled in so many.

We are incredibly proud to be able to recognize Sydney with the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action and hope that Sydney’s story will continue to inspire others to receive lifesaving training and help others in times of need.

Story by Olivia Wolf, Red Cross volunteer

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