His family has been associated with the organisation for three generations.
His grandmother Kitty McDonnell was one of the founding members in the 1950s; his grand aunt Peggy was heavily involved, too. And his parents both started volunteering with the organisation at the age of 16.
“First aid was read to me every night before I went to bed. It was always in the background,” says James, who did his first training with the Irish Red Cross ten years ago at the age of 13. His brother and sister also volunteered in the local unit.
“You’ll find us anywhere there is a public event, from a football match to a car rally,” he says.
Volunteers also do a lot of work with the elderly, checking in on them and coming to their rescue during emergencies.
During the February 12 storm that ravaged the country they helped to evacuate homes — a nursing home had the roof blown off — and mopped up where needed. “We got the call at 1pm and were mobile by 2pm,” he says. “It was a very calm experience — 100% down to training.
“The Red Cross has a major emergency training plan. It’s to a very high standard, running parallel with the ambulance service.”
James is one of ten Kerry Irish Red Cross members trained to the Emergency Medical Technical level, the highest a volunteer can achieve.
Arriving at the scene of an accident can be traumatic but there are supports in place. The Irish Red Cross has an established protocol. “Within five minutes of a recent incident happening the Red Cross had set up a debriefing for volunteers.
“We go over the scene with trained people, we sit down and let out our emotions. There is also an option to go to counselling.”
By day he works as a lake supervisor with Tralee Bay Wetlands, but long term he wants to work full-time with the ambulance service.
“The Red Cross has given me massive experience. I couldn’t have got what I got in the classroom,” says James, who won second place in the Garda Youth Achievement Awards in 2007.
* The Irish Red Cross — Kerry Area — is one of nine charities to benefit from this year’s Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle on Saturday, July 5.