While March may best be known for St. Patrick’s Day and the onset of spring, the third month also carries the charitable burden of being named Red Cross Month.
Since Clara Barton established the organization in 1881, the existence of the American Red Cross has depended upon publicity and spontaneous monetary support as individuals heard about catastrophic events. However, while this strategy did prove to be effective, the Red Cross didn’t have a stable way of earning money to prepare for a possible event.
In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the American Red Cross to host a “roll call” and challenged the country to raise $100 million to support the United States’ entry into World War I. The country shocked him by raising $115 million in a matter of a few months. From that point on, roll calls became annual events.
It wasn’t until President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s term that March became the designated roll call month. In March of 1943, he challenged the nation to raise $125 million, the largest amount ever asked for in one campaign by any American organization, to support the war effort. By June 1943, $146 million had come in, resulting in Roosevelt calling this response the “greatest single crusade of mercy in all of history.”
To show support for the cause, it is customary for the current president to issue a proclamation each year, reminding the nation that March is Red Cross Month.