Time and again, Montana volunteers answered disasters’ call


The rolling grasslands of Jordan, Montana, and the sandy beaches of Saint Thomas are worlds apart, but John Koch spent time navigating both during Red Cross deployments.

The Lewistown man worked three Montana wildfire operations — in the Jordan, Hays and Seeley Lake areas — before getting the call to deploy to Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands following hurricanes Irma and Maria. In all he spent about six weeks away from home, helping others.

“I’ve spent my entire adult life involved with emergency service in one form or another,” the retired Washington state trooper and firefighter said. “It gets in your blood and you can’t get it out of there.”

koch saint thomas

Koch was one of more than 35 Red Cross volunteers from Montana deployed during 2017, an unprecedented time of disaster. Besides fires and hurricanes, there was also the mass shooting in Las Vegas, where Missoula’s Toni Taylor helped victims find equipment like wheelchairs and crutches, and the wildfires of California. Montanans answered the call each time.

“I want to say thank you to the public for donating to the Red Cross,” Koch said. “They allowed these deployments to happen.”

If you would like to volunteer with Red Cross or make a donation, visit www.redcross.org/montana or call 800-272-6668.


Blood donors give sick Great Falls child a fighting chance

Troy Ross celebrated his third birthday in June as a happy football-loving youngster — “all boy,” according to his father Wes. By September, Troy was fighting for his life.

What began as what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill cold quickly grew worse. At midnight on Labor Day, Troy was airlifted to the Seattle Children’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder. Troy’s immune system was attacking his lung tissue.

Ross Family (4)

Over the course of the next month, close to three-quarters of Troy’s blood supply had to be replaced. Blood donors made all the difference.

“I’ve said countless times this is a total miracle,” Wes said. “Without that blood being available he wouldn’t even have made it out of the airport in Great Falls.

“My wife and I can’t say thank you enough.”

Troy is now back home and on the mend.

“He’s doing phenomenally better,” Wes said. “He’s here and we’re just taking it one day at a time.”

More than 11 blood drives have been held in Troy’s honor since the fall.

If you would like to donate blood and help someone like Troy, visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 800-272-9797.