A chance to give back: One family’s first blood drive 

By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross Volunteer

“In the cancer world, I don’t think people understand how much blood product is needed and just how important it is.” 

Ed Fink, Krista Fink, Dylan Fink, Grady Fink

Those are the words of Krista Fink, mother of now 15-year-old Dylan Fink, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma back in September 2019 at just 14 years old. That moment will forever be cemented in time as one of the most profound moments of Krista’s and her husband Ed’s lives. 

Will our son be OK? Will he play sports again? What now? All of those questions and so many more raced through their minds as they first had to consider how to tell Dylan, whose biggest concern to that point was trying out for the high school basketball team. 

They did tell Dylan and then the Fink family began their treatment plan, attacking the cancer as aggressively as they could, all while holding onto the hope that Dylan would be OK.

Chemotherapy was the first order of business, and it started almost immediately after Dylan’s official diagnosis. This continued over the course of nearly seven months, and as it does, chemo took its toll on Dylan and his young body, leaving him weak and his blood counts drastically low.

“It was after his fourth round of chemo that he needed his first blood transfusion,” Ed said. And over the course of his more than 100 days in the hospital between September 2019 and March 2020, Dylan would undergo nine blood transfusions and 11 platelet transfusions in addition to his cancer treatments.

Then came May 4, 2020, eight months to the day from when he was diagnosed with cancer. Dylan was able to “ring the bell” at Akron Children’s hospital, marking his remission.

“For Dylan, that was the goal… We talked about ‘the bell’ so much, and when it did happen it was truly a miracle,” Krista said.

From the moment Dylan’s treatments began, Ed and Krista Fink had decided that when they could, they would find a way to give back to all of the people who helped them, and helped Dylan, along the way. Between moral and emotional support and, of course, blood donations family and friends had made in Dylan’s honor, the Finks had a lot to be grateful for, and in turn, according to Ed, a lot to give back. 

That’s where the Fearless Fighters Foundation started. It’s the nonprofit started by Ed and Krista Fink, in honor of Dylan, with the mission of “crushing all pediatric cancers by funding research for new and improved treatments as well as helping families who are currently going through treatment,” according to the group’s Facebook page. As the Finks were launching the foundation, trying to decide what type of event would really get their charitable efforts off the ground, the answer came to them quickly: a blood drive! What better way to support pediatric cancer patients than helping to provide the lifesaving blood that Dylan was so dependent on during his treatment. 

On Wednesday, December 15, 2021, the Finks and the Fearless Fighters Foundation are hosting their very first blood drive at the SYB hall in Stow, located at 4157 Hudson Drive. For details, see the Facebook event page. There are several appointments still available for donors. Ed and Krista are urging all who can to sign up as soon as they can to secure their spot. 

December’s blood drive, the Finks said, is the first of many opportunities for their family to give back. For cancer patients needing blood products over the course of their treatments, there was one message Krista wanted to convey: “They would not be able to survive without it.” 

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

30-gallon blood donor says YOU can save a life

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Marie Lecurgo doesn’t remember the first time she donated blood, which is understandable, because she started more than 40 years ago.

But she knows why she’s still donating blood: “The feeling that you’re helping so many people, it’s overwhelming.”

Marie chokes up as she thinks of how many people have benefitted from the 30 gallons she has given. That’s 240 pints, each of which can be separated into three critical components. So that’s as many as 720 recipients: accident victims, surgery patients, people undergoing treatment for everything from cancer to sickle cell disease.

Marie Lecurgo (center), with Red Cross staff, shows off her badge of honor after a recent donation at UAW Local 12 in Toledo

The 71-year-old Toledo resident, a not-yet-retired licensed practical nurse, is out front with her support for the American Red Cross. “I feel like a walking billboard for the Red Cross. I wear all their free T-shirts,” she says with a chuckle.

But she turns serious when she thinks about people who shy away from rolling up their sleeves, citing a fear of needles. Get over it!” she says firmly. There may be a time when you or someone you love needs blood.” She’d love to inspire a hundred more people to follow her selfless example.

“There may be a time when you or someone you love needs blood.”

Marie Lecurgo

In fact, Red Cross is seeing the worst post-summer shortage of blood and platelets in at least six years.

The blood inventory typically rebounds after summer shortages. But this fall, a surge in COVID-19 cases because of the Delta variant has contributed to the lowest donor turnout of the year. To meet hospital and patient needs, the Red Cross needs to collect 10,000 additional blood products each week this month.

With less than a day’s supply of certain blood types on hand in recent weeks, the Red Cross urges donors of all blood types — especially type O — to make an appointment to give blood or platelets.

Marie made an appointment to donate whole blood again last week and now she’s thinking about giving platelets too. Donors can give platelets every seven days because the process extracts just the platelets, returning the rest of the blood back to the donor, so there’s less recovery time.

To sign up for a blood drive or donation center near you, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Every Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows strict standards of safety and infection control, and  additional precautions  — including face masks for all donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status — are in place to protect everyone’s health. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment before arriving at a drive. 

Donors can save up to 15 minutes at their blood drive by using a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

To donate blood, bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification to check in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross faces emergency need as blood supplies drop to lowest post-summer levels since 2015  

This is serious: The national American Red Cross blood inventory is the lowest it has been at this time of year since 2015. Donors of all blood types – especially type O – and platelet donors are urged to make an appointment to give now and in the weeks ahead to overcome an emergency shortage. 

Blood donor turnout has reached the lowest levels of the year as many delayed giving amid a return to the workplace and in-person learning, as well as a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country due to the delta variant. As cases spiked in August, blood donor participation decreased about 10%, but blood product distributions to hospitals have remained strong, significantly outpacing blood donations in recent weeks. 

Patients, including those facing cancer, rely on the kindness of blood and platelet donors to help ensure they have the blood products they need for treatment. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Red Cross encourages eligible donors roll up a sleeve to provide hope and healing to cancer patients.

According to the National Cancer Institute, roughly 1.9 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. this year, and more than 281,000 of those individuals will have breast cancer. Patients with breast cancer and other cancers may need blood products on a regular basis during chemotherapy, surgery or treatment for complications. Platelet transfusions are often needed by patients to help prevent life-threatening bleeding. More than half of all platelets collected by the Red Cross are used by patients with cancer.

Here are 3 easy ways YOU can help restock the shelves:

  1. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  
  2. Let your friends and family know there is an emergency blood shortage.
  3. Invite someone to donate with you.

One act of kindness deserves another

All those who come to donate in October will receive a link by email to claim a free Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich reward or get a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice. Terms and conditions apply; see rcblood.org/zax for details.

Blood drive safety 

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. 

Don’t wait – make your appointment to donate.

Red Cross initiative aims to increase blood availability for patients with sickle cell disease

Blood transfusions from donors who are Black may provide best outcomes for patients

When patients living with sickle cell disease face a sickle cell crisis, blood transfusions can make a lifesaving difference. That’s why the American Red Cross has launched an initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease, an enduring and often invisible health disparity in the U.S.

Bridget C_Miller Harper_Photo

Over 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease, the most common inherited blood disorder, and the majority of patients are of African descent. Despite the discovery of the disease more than a century ago, there have been fewer health resources available to help those currently suffering from sickle cell crisis in comparison to similar diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with sickle cell disease experience worse health outcomes than comparable diseases.

A closer blood match leads to better outcomes

Many patients with sickle cell disease will require regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. Glinda Dames-Fincher, of Mayfield Heights, has lived with sickle cell disease for more than 60 years. She receives monthly red cell exchange transfusions as part of her treatment.

Unfortunately, these patients may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. Many individuals who are Black have distinct markers on their red blood cells that make their donations ideal for helping patients with sickle cell disease. More than half of blood donors who are Black have blood that is free of C, E and K antigens – making them the best match for those with sickle cell disease.

Life-threatening complications

Sickle cell disease distorts soft, round blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, which can cause extreme pain. When hardened, the cells can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure.

“Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, unblocking blood vessels and delivering oxygen,” said Dr. James Westra, Red Cross regional medical director. “By increasing the amount of closely matched blood products, the Red Cross is able to help ensure the right blood product is available at the right time for patients facing a sickle cell crisis – minimizing complications for those with rare blood types fighting sickle cell disease.” makenzie-nance-002

Cleveland teenager Makenzie Nance was a preschooler when she received her first blood transfusion to help overcome complications from sickle cell disease. She visits local high schools to educate students about sickle cell disease and her family hosts blood drives to encourage more Black donors to give. You can read Makenzie’s story here.

The Red Cross asks members of the Black community to join in helping to address this health disparity and meet the needs of patients with sickle cell disease. Donors can take action today by scheduling a blood donation appointment at RedCrossBlood.org, by downloading the Blood Donor App or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS. To help tackle the need for blood in September – Sickle Cell Awareness Month − all donors who come to give with the Red Cross Sept. 13-30 will receive a limited-edition football-themed T-shirt, while supplies last. 

 

 

Give blood early in August, get chance at music festival tickets, help build supply during shortage

By: Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

If you are as big of a music-lover as I am, then you likely share in my excitement for public concerts returning this summer for the first time in over a year. The music industry is bursting at the seams with music ready to be performed.

This year, the American Red Cross is partnering with Bonnaroo to give away free tickets to this sold-out music festival, which will be held in Manchester, Tennessee, the first weekend of September 2021. By donating blood at a Red Cross drive Aug. 1-15, you will be entered to win an all-expenses paid trip to Bonnaroo for two. Various genres of music can be heard at Bonnaroo over the course of the four-day festival from pop and alternative rock to jazz, country and gospel. For more information on the offer, click here.

The Red Cross is one of the primary suppliers of blood for hospitals throughout the U.S. but currently has a dire need for blood donations. Right now, the Red Cross is distributing 12% more blood to hospitals than distributed at this time last year, which is contributing to the severe blood shortage that we are currently experiencing. This shortage affects every region, including Northern Ohio.

Leaders of several major hospitals are lending their voices to the call for increased blood donations.

“Our nation is facing a critical blood shortage,” said Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic. “In this time of need, we urge the community to donate so we can ensure we have lifesaving blood products for patients.”

Dr. Mihaljevic added, “One person can help save hundreds of lives. At Cleveland Clinic, we support blood drives all year long and encourage everyone who is able to give blood and get involved.”

MetroHealth President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE, said, “An adequate blood supply is essential to perform our life-saving work at MetroHealth as the region’s most experienced Level 1 Trauma Center.” Dr. Boutros added, “Every day, blood donors help save countless lives in Cleveland and beyond – the lives of our family, friends and neighbors. It’s time for us all to step up for our community and donate this precious resource.”

“Every day, blood donors help save countless lives in Cleveland and beyond – the lives of our family friends and neighbors. It’s time for us all to step up for our community and donate this precious resource.”

Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE, MetroHealth President and CEO

Cliff Megerian, MD, CEO of University Hospitals said, “A blood donation, especially at such a critical time, can truly help save lives. As a provider of coordinated trauma care with Level 1 trauma centers for adults and children, as well as a network of regional Level III trauma centers, we at University Hospitals know how lives can change in an instant and the crucial importance of having adequate blood supplies for trauma and surgeries.  Please give if you’re able.”

Kristy Short, ProMedica blood bank manager in Toledo said, “The Red Cross is our primary source for blood. We have been working closely with them to keep our inventory levels stable so that we can continue to meet all our patients’ needs.” She added, “Our community is the key to helping end this shortage. We encourage all those who are eligible to donate and help save lives.”

And Richard L. George, MD, MSPH, FACS Chief, Division of Trauma ICU Surgical Director Summa Health System – Akron Campus, said, “Blood donations save lives. Having an adequate supply is essential to treat patients.” “As we continue to see a shortage of blood across the country, we encourage you to donate soon.”

To find a blood drive near you, click here. Encourage a friend or family member to do the same and help the Red Cross continue supplying lifesaving blood to patients around the country. You never know, maybe you’ll get to spend four days at the Bonnaroo music festival to top it all off!

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross facing severe blood shortage: Donors needed now

The American Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage as the number of trauma cases, organ transplants and elective surgeries rise– and deplete the nation’s blood inventory. Donors of all blood types – especially type O and those giving platelets – are urged to make an appointment to give as soon as possible to prevent further impact to patients.

Right now, hospitals are responding to an atypically high number of traumas and emergency room visits, as well as overdoses and resulting transplants. In comparison to 2019, the Red Cross has seen demand from trauma centers climb by 10% in 2021− more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide blood transfusions.  

The Red Cross Northern Ohio Region appreciates the support of the local media, who have shared our need for blood and encouraged the community to come out now and help overcome the shortage. Read more at the links below:

WKYC – TV
WEWS-TV
WFMJ – TV
WKBN-TV
WNWO-TV
The Canton Repository
The Monroe News
Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune
WFIN Radio

In addition to trauma needs, there is a great hospital demand for blood as people who deferred care during the height of the pandemic present with more advanced disease progression, requiring increased blood transfusions. Over the last three months, the Red Cross has distributed about 75,000 more blood products than expected to meet these needs.

In most cases, those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine can donate. However, knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they received is important in determining donation eligibility.

Final weeks for COVID-19 antibody testing

As more than a third of Americans have become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Red Cross is winding down COVID-19 antibody testing for blood, platelet and plasma donations. 

Through June 25, the Red Cross is testing all donations for COVID-19 antibodies. Testing may show possible exposure to the virus or whether a donor has developed an immune response to vaccination. The conclusion of Red Cross antibody testing represents a new, hopeful phase as the nation continues to journey out of this pandemic.  

Thanks to the donors who turned out in Twinsburg at the Cleveland Clinic blood drive on June 16, 2021. Their donations will help alleviate the current blood shortage.

The Red Cross of Northern Ohio hosts around 20 blood drives each day across the 30 counties we serve. Approximately 80 local hospitals in Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and Toledo depend on us to help meet the blood transfusion needs of patients. Below are several upcoming blood drives across the region. Schedule an appointment to give blood now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. As a thank-you, those who come to give now through June 30 will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, courtesy of Amazon. (Restrictions apply. Additional information and details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/Together.)  

Cleveland
June 25, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Mentor Civic Arena, 8600 Munson Rd., Mentor
June 28, 1 – 7 p.m., Independence Community Center, 6363 Selig Drive, Independence June 29, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.: Cuyahoga Valley Church, 5055 E. Wallings Rd., Broadview Heights
June 30, Noon – 7 p.m., Avon Isle Park, 37080 Detroit Road, Avon

Akron/Canton
June 28, Noon – 6 p.m., St Paul Lutheran Church, 127 Cherry Road NE, Massillon
June 30, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., United Methodist Church, 1435 E. Main St., Kent
July 1, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium, 2345 4th St., Cuyahoga Falls

Youngstown
June 24, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Stambaugh Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Ave., Youngstown
June 28, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Boardman Public Library, 7680 Glenwood Ave., Boardman
June 30, Noon – 6 p.m., Packard Music Hall, 1703 Mahoning Ave., Warren

Toledo
June 26, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 200 East Broadway, Maumee
June 27, 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Grace Lutheran Church, 4441 Monroe St., Toledo
June 28, 1:30 p.m. – 6 p.m., Fremont VFW, 204 Birchard Ave., Fremont
June 30, 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Zoar Lutheran Church, 314 East Indiana, Perrysburg

“You’re not donating blood. You’re donating life.”

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Have you ever set a goal and reached it? How about doubling the goal and reaching that?

Now, how about knowing that in reaching those goals you’ve saved or improved the quality of life for hundreds of men, women and especially children?

Al Whitney knows that feeling: He’s donated platelets – the part of blood that creates clotting – in all 50 states. Twice!  Oh, and in Canada and Australia for good measure.

“When people ask me why I do this, I just tell them, ‘You go and walk through a cancer ward and then come back and ask me why I do it’,” he said. “You’re not donating blood. You’re donating life.”

The spry 84-year-old began his life-saving career in 1965, when he saw a big Red Cross sign in downtown Cleveland that said, “Donate blood.” So he did. When he walked out, he was inspired: “Al, you can do more.”

So he started organizing regular blood drives in Avon Lake, his home town, while continuing to donate blood himself, every 56 days.

Sometime in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, he switched to donating platelets, which are always in short supply because that blood component only has a shelf life of five days. Every 15 seconds, someone with cancer, chronic disease or traumatic injuries needs platelets.

In the process of platelet donation, the blood clotting portion of whole blood is “spun” out and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor; typically, the body replaces its platelets in 24-36 hours. The FDA allows platelet donors to give 24 times a year.

In the fall of 2007, Al challenged himself to donate platelets in every state. It took him five years to reach that goal. “Al, you can do more,” whispered in his ear again.  So he set out to double the feat. He hit that target in March this year, when he made a donation in Albuquerque, N.M.

“Sometimes people will tell me, ‘I don’t like needles’,” Al said. “I tell them, ‘I know how you feel. But think of that little boy in the cancer ward. Do you think he likes needles?’ ”

As of his most recent donation, on April 21, Al has given 983 units. “God willing, I’ll make it to 1,000,” he said. He looks forward to hitting that milestone this fall, at the Red Cross donation center in Cleveland.

To learn more about donating platelets through the American Red Cross, visit  https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations/platelet-donation.html

Editor’s Note: The Red Cross currently has an emergency need for platelets and type O blood, as hospital demand for these products continues to outpace donations. Over the last year, the Red Cross has collected over 1 million units of platelets, and nearly half of those have been provided to patients undergoing cancer treatment. More platelet donors are needed to continue to meet these needs. 

A summer full of life: Perfect time to give and receive

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Been cooped up since COVID-19 started? Now that mask mandates have been relaxed for your time in the outdoors, it’s the perfect time to get out and rediscover nature.

The woods are getting green again, with lots of new leaves on the trees. Creeks and rivers have lost their icy cover. Flowers are bursting out all over, and gentle breezes make it a joy to be outdoors.

In addition, fresh air is associated with all types of health improvements: from mood enhancement to clarity of focus to brain, lung, digestive and blood benefits.

Speaking of blood, did you realize that blood donations go down around the summer holidays, but accidents and hospitalizations don’t. For instance, a serious automobile accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood. And, it’s the blood products already on the shelves that help save lives in emergencies.

Type O negative is the universal blood type and is what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations. Type O positive blood is the most used blood type because it can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.

Not sure what blood type you are? Come donate and you’ll find out. Your blood will also be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Test results will be available to donors via the American Red Cross Blood Donor App or at RedCrossBlood.org within one to two weeks.

Now would be a DOUBLY beneficial time to donate.

In thanks for making it a summer full of life, those who come to give May 1-15 will receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card by email. Those who make it in to donate during the month of May will also automatically be entered for a chance to win a travel trailer camper that sleeps five, powered by Suburban Propane.*

Additional details are available at http://RedCrossBlood.org/SummerFullOfLife.

*Restrictions apply. Winner must provide tow vehicle with the appropriate tow capacity for use with the prize vehicle at all times, i.e., such as a full-sized truck or SUV, in order to take delivery of the prize (2021 Coachmen Clipper Cadet 21CBH, estimated at 5,000 pounds).

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Help refuel the blood supply in April and be entered to win a trip to the 2022 Indianapolis 500®

Every single day in Northern Ohio, the American Red Cross needs to collect approximately 500 pints of blood to meet the needs of patients in more than 70 local hospitals. And, in the midst of a continuing pandemic, the need for blood donors continues to be essential. Right now, the Red Cross needs donors of all types, especially those with type O blood, to race to give blood or platelets and help refuel the blood supply.

During the month of April, the Red Cross is teaming up with INDYCAR® to urge people to help keep the blood supply on track by donating blood or platelets. Those who come to give April 1-15, 2021, will automatically be entered to win a VIP trip for four to the 2022 Indianapolis 500®. The Red Cross will also automatically enter all who come to give in April for a chance to win one of five $1,000 e-gift cards to a merchant of choice. Additional details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/Indy500.

The need for blood doesn’t take a pit stop

Every day – even during a pandemic – patients like Kristen Palocko rely on lifesaving blood products. In 2017, Palocko, a critical care nurse from Broadview Heights, was feeling extremely fatigued. After a trip to the ER, she found out she had a rare bleeding disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).

“This started me on a roller coaster of a 12-day hospital stay, a central dialysis line in my neck, and multiple units of red blood cells and plasma.” Kristin received 330 units of plasma, taking four hours each for 10 of those 12 days.

“I feel blessed for everyone’s thoughts and prayers through it all—especially the blood donors. They have helped me, and numerous others, in our time of greatest need with their generous donations,” said Palocko. “Without those willing to give of their time (and blood) there would not be treatment for TTP.”

In Northern Ohio, donors can visit one of four donation centers in Toledo, Cleveland, Akron or Parma. To schedule a donation appointment, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

When seconds count in the race to save lives, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps most. Join us and give to help ensure hospitals are ready to respond to the needs of patients this month.

Solon Community Center leads the way in hosting blood drives

Other hosts needed to serve vital role during challenging times

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

One of the first things that comes to mind when someone mentions the American Red Cross is blood drives — and rightly so, as the Red Cross provides about 40% of the entire nation’s blood and blood components. However, only about 3% of age-eligible individuals donate blood on an annual basis. Unfortunately, that number has dropped even further in the last year due in part to a lack of blood drive sponsors.

You may recall having the opportunity to donate blood when you were in school. But the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many schools and businesses no longer being able to host blood drives as more and more locations close and/or restrict access to their facilities. Furthermore, finding spaces that are large enough to host Red Cross blood drives while accommodating social distancing has been a challenge. This is a major barrier for the Red Cross, as our blood drive hosts play an absolutely critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply by providing opportunities for people to give to others in their local community. More than 80% of the total blood donations are made at blood drives hosted by our volunteers. Our blood drive hosts play an absolutely vital role in helping the Red Cross ensure that blood is available for patients in over 2,500 hospitals throughout the nation.

Solon Community Center has stood out as a leader for not only continuing to host blood drives over the past year, but for even adding additional blood drives to its schedule. Solon Community Center has been a partner of the Red Cross since 2004. Even amidst the pandemic, it was able to collect 1,095 pints of blood in 2020, which has the ability to help save up to 3,285 lives. The persistent dedication of Solon Community Center staff to host blood drives, combined with the constant support of its local blood donors, have served as an exemplary model for other current and potential blood drive hosts who can also advance the Red Cross mission to provide lifesaving blood for those who need it.

Health and safety is a priority for the Red Cross. All of our blood drive hosts follow the highest standards of safety and infection control while we do our jobs. Some of these protocols include temperature checks for both staff and donors prior to entering a blood drive, mandatory face masks, easily-accessible hand sanitizer at every step of the donation process, and social distancing wherever possible. Lastly, we also urge donors to schedule appointments prior to arrival to ensure that we can manage the flow of donors at blood drives.

So what are you waiting for? Your organization or company could be our next blood drive host and help the Red Cross bring lifesaving resources to those who greatly need them. For those interested in hosting a blood drive, please visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/hosting-a-blood-drive/learn-about-hosting/why-host-a-blood-drive.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer