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Burn Survivor now Image and Career Coach and Red Cross Board Member

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

By Ed Alexander, So Az Communications Volunteer

New Southern Arizona Chapter Board Member Gayle Petrillo has very physical and emotional ties to the Red Cross.

Gayle grew up in Albany N.Y. and moved to Tucson 24 years ago with her husband Al. They have a daughter and 2 grandchildren.

In her book “The Accident”/”El accidente”* Gayle shares her story of being a burn victim and survivor. She was just under 3 years old when she was burned over 40% of her small body in a kitchen “accident.” She spent months in a hospital and received blood products to help her body heal. She tells about the physical scars she endures and the emotional fears and phobias she fought into early adulthood -fights she never gave up on. Gayle says, “If you or someone you know and love feels ‘different’ or awkward, has body image issues or lacks self-confidence” she hopes her book will be helpful. Adding, “We have all been burned…and through sharing, we heal.”

Gayle earned her master’s degree in Health Care Administration in 2002 and spent 35 years in healthcare leadership roles. She has managed hospital departments, was Human Resource Director for a large medical group, Physician Operations Director for a multi-specialty physician medical practice, and worked for The Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance and Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Along the way, she’s always remembered her struggles and the support given to her by others. She has given back- volunteering with various non-profit organizations and helping others to rise above their debilitating fears and both real and perceived limitations. Six years ago, Gayle created First Impressions Image Consulting and Career Coaching to help build her clients’ self-confidence.

In July, Gayle was invited to join the Southern Arizona Chapter board by chapter Executive Director Courtney Slanaker. Courtney says, “From her executive career experience to her incredible personal story of perseverance and courage, Gayle is a dynamic individual that brings a refreshing energy, vision and true grit to enhance the Red Cross mission impacting hundreds of lives.”

As a burn survivor, Gayle instantly agreed and quickly volunteered to also chair the Philanthropy Committee. She says, “Burns heal when treated with plasma and platelets. Blood products collected by the Red Cross directly benefit burn victims and many others including surgery patients, cancer victims, and patients with Sickle Cell and other chronic diseases.” You may have heard that every 2 seconds someone in America needs blood or platelets. Approximately 29,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U. S. Nationally, The Red Cross provides 40% of US hospital blood products and an estimated 90% in Southern Arizona!

Gayle was also drawn in by Red Cross first aid and life-saving training services, having witnessed a life-threatening event in a restaurant. She also ‘loves’ the “Prepare With Pedro” home fire safety program for K-2 students, “The Pillowcase Project” for grades 3-5 and their families, and the “Sound The Alarm” free smoke alarm installation effort.

*Find Gayle’s inspiring book “The Accident” and “El accidente” Spanish version at English & Spanish Audio versions are also available from Amazon and Audible

Find out more about The American Red Cross Blood services and how to donate at

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