“Tattoos!” A story and reminder about blood donation and tattoos for National Tattoo Day

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager

1947 – Grandma & Grandpa’s engagement picture – photo courtesy of Christy Peters

One of my favorite stories about my grandparents happened on one of their early dates. They both lived in Canton and had recently started dating. One night, when my grandfather was driving my grandmother home, they had car trouble. Luckily for both of them, my grandfather worked as a mechanic. He pulled the car over to the side of the road and got out to inspect under the hood.

Grandma got out with him and once the hood was open, Grandpa began rolling up his sleeves to get to work. Suddenly he heard my grandmother scream, “TATTOOS!” Apparently, in all their time together, Grandpa had always worn long sleeves and had not revealed his two very prominent arm tattoos, courtesy of his time in the Army during World War II.

Grandma was shocked but I think most of her reaction had to do with what her parents, my great grandparents, were going to say when they found out she was dating a man with tattoos. Thankfully, everyone got over the scandalous tattoos and my grandparents went on to be married for 70 years until my grandmother passed away in 2019.

You’re probably thinking, “Great story but what does it have to do with the American Red Cross?” Well, if you didn’t know, July 17 is National Tattoo Day, a day that “recognizes the history, culture, and artists dedicated to etching ink permanently on the skin.” Unfortunately, many people think the Red Cross is just as shocked by tattoos as my grandmother was that night many years ago. People often tell me they can’t donate blood because they have a tattoo, or that they recently got a tattoo and think they must wait years before giving again.

Grandpa and his tattoos in 1952 – photo courtesy of Christy Peters

I’m writing this blog to let all of you with gorgeous ink know that none of that is true! In Ohio, there isn’t a deferral if your tattoo was applied with a sterile needle and fresh ink in a state regulated facility. If you received your tattoo in a different state, you can find out if that state requires you to wait to give here. And, even if you do have to wait, the deferral period is only three months, not years.

If you’ve not been donating because of tattoos, now is the perfect time to begin. During the month of June, the Northern Ohio Region collected nearly 2,000 fewer donations than needed to help meet patient needs. Your donation now will help us avoid a summer shortage. So, just like my grandpa did on that date, roll up those sleeves proudly and show off your tattoos while you help save lives! Find a drive near you and make an appointment today!

Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer and board member

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross aims to increase African American blood donations to combat sickle cell disease and meet critical need

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross Volunteer

Recently, I was talking with visitors at a family health fair, explaining the always- urgent need for blood donations. I was especially targeting African-Americans, asking what they know about sickle cell disease.

Interestingly, their responses ranged from a blank look to, “Yes, I lost a cousin to sickle cell.”

Keith Lofton of Olmsted Falls at a recent blood drive in Rocky River

Apparently this is not unusual, which is why the American Red Cross is leading a national drive to raise awareness and recruit more blood donors who are Black. This is because their blood is uniquely suited to help patients with sickle cell disease live full and comfortable lives.

“As an organization dedicated to alleviating suffering, the Red Cross is committed to the health and well-being of all communities, and a diverse blood supply is critical to improving health outcomes for all patients – especially those with sickle cell disease,” said Gail McGovern, CEO and president of the Red Cross. “For someone facing a sickle cell crisis, a blood transfusion can make a lifesaving difference.”

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a hereditary condition that can be life threatening. It leads to anemia (a shortage of red blood cells), causing fatigue and possible damage to blood vessels and vital organs. It often causes severe pain that can last for hours or days; it can even lead to disabling strokes.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that more than 100,000 people have SCD and roughly 1,000 babies are born with the disease every year. SCD knows no national boundaries, which is why June 19 is designated World Sickle Cell Day.

Blood transfusions from individuals of the same race or similar ethnicity and blood type are the most effective way to help patients experiencing a sickle cell crisis. Since the majority of people with sickle cell are of African descent, blood donations from Black individuals are critical in helping those suffering from this disease.

Sabrina Spikes works full time for the Red Cross to rally African-American civic and faith-based organizations to recruit and educate.

“It’s vital that we get the word out as much as possible, to get more blood donors who are Black,” she said. “Here in northern Ohio, we’ve seen an increase (in donor numbers), but we still have work to do. Especially in the summer, when blood donations tend to fall off.”

In addition to recruitment, Sabrina’s other priority is education: preparing potential donors for a successful experience at a blood drive.

“Preparation is key,” she said. “Drinking plenty of water and eating iron-rich foods is important. And cutting out caffeinated beverages — coffee, tea, sodas — that slow the absorption of iron helps cut the deferral rate of donors, especially African-American women.”

Sabrina herself carries the trait for sickle cell, although she does not have the disease. It was important for her to know that: If the father of her three children had also had the trait, the children would suffer from the life-long condition. Sadly, too many babies are born with SCD.

The need for blood is not limited to patients with sickle cell disease. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion, including women or girls experiencing childbirth complications, people fighting cancer, surgery patients and accident victims.

Bridget C. Miller Harper of Cleveland at the Browns Blood Drive in July, 2021

Fifty-one percent of people who are Black have type O (positive or negative) blood, in comparison to approximately 45% of white individuals. Type O blood is most often needed by hospitals to help patients, so donors who are Black play a critical role in meeting the constant need for blood.

Blood products have a limited shelf l-life and volunteer donors are the only source of blood and platelets for patients in need of lifesaving transfusions.

“My call to action is, schedule a blood donation appointment by visiting  RedCrossBlood.org, downloading the  Blood Donor App  or calling 1-800-RED CROSS,” Sabrina said.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer and board member

Rock, Roll, and Ride with the Red Cross this World Blood Donor Day

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

June 14th is World Blood Donor Day, and the American Red Cross Can’t Help giving blood donors a chance to get All Shook Up, whether rocking and rolling with the legacy of Elvis at Graceland or on rides at Cedar Point.

The World Health Organization (WHO) created World Blood Donor Day to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion, highlight the critical contribution of volunteer blood donors to national health systems, and help support and expand blood donor organizations’ programs. The WHO states, “Becoming a regular voluntary blood donor is a simple but selfless step that everyone can take to strengthen their communities, support local health systems and save lives.”

The Red Cross, which supplies about 40% of the U.S. blood supply, typically sees a drop in blood donations during the summer, but the need for blood does not take a break. On average, someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds, including new moms, premature babies, cancer patients and accident victims. Each day, the Red Cross needs to collect about 12,500 blood donations to meet the needs of patients at about 2,500 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country.

And blood donors can now celebrate providing the gift of life with roller coasters and rock and roll!

In addition to helping save lives, through August 4th, generous blood donors at select blood drives in Northern Ohio will receive a free ticket to Cedar Point, while supplies last. To find a blood drive with this promotion, enter sponsor code “CEDARPOINT” when searching here or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

And throughout the U.S., the Red Cross is celebrating Elvis Presley–a blood donor himself who left a legacy of generosity and community service–rock and roll, and the new film, Elvis, with a chance to win a VIP trip for two to Memphis and Graceland! Through June 30th, those who come in to give blood will be automatically entered for a chance to win the trip, which includes round-trip airfare for two to Memphis, a three-night stay at The Guest House at Graceland and Elvis Entourage VIP tour, courtesy of Graceland, and $500 gift card for expenses, plus a custom-wrapped Gibson Epiphone guitar! Blood donors will also be sent a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice. More information and terms and conditions are here.

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a local blood drive. A blood donor app is also available, which makes it easy for donors to schedule and manage appointments, track the lifetime impact of donations, view health history information, and earn rewards. It is available at the above website, texting BLOODAPP to 90999, or searching “American Red Cross” in app stores.

Please help celebrate the gift of life, summer fun, the spirit of rock and roll, Elvis, and World Blood Donor Day by scheduling a donation. And thank you, thank you very much.

Student organizes blood drive and wins Red Cross scholarship

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

Did you know that American Red Cross provides about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply? These critical blood donations come from individuals in our community who donate their blood during blood drives.

Andrew Lazowski

Andrew Lazowski, a high school student at Bay Village, decided he would coordinate a drive to help support the critical need for donors through the Red Cross’s Leaders Save Lives Program. He knew about the critical need for blood donations and how necessary they are for patients in an emergency. Several of his family members have held drives in the past and one of his family members also lost a battle with acute leukemia. Blood donations can help cancer patients, trauma patients and individuals with certain disorders, just to name a few.

With the help of Melissa Weiss, a Red Cross account manager, Andrew planned a blood drive at the local police station. Andrew found the help invaluable, saying, “she explained the technology and business aspects for the drive and was always encouraging and willing to answer any questions. She helped me with the recruitment process and provided items for me to include in a first-time donor basket.”

Through the blood drive, Andrew was able to recruit several of his friends as first-time donors and teach them about the blood donation process. “For my blood drive, I focused on recruiting my high school friends and classmates, none of whom had ever donated before,” said Andrew. “They are all signed up again to donate at my second blood drive and I am thrilled to know that I am making a positive difference for those in need.“

Individuals are eligible to donate blood at age 17, and in some states, people can donate starting at 16 with parental consent. The drive resulted in a total of 30 pints donated, which ultimately helped members in their community. Additionally, Andrew was chosen as one of the winners of the Leaders Save Lives Program scholarship drawings. He plans to use the $1,000 scholarship towards furthering his education in biology and pre-med.

Why should you or a student you know consider hosting a blood drive? “I would tell others that hosting a blood drive is fun and a unique way to give back to the community,” Andrew said. “Students will learn about what goes on behind the scenes in a nonprofit organization and the importance of supporting local blood drives.”

Holding regular blood drives in our communities helps to ensure a strong blood supply throughout the year. If you or someone you know is a student looking to give back to their community, the summer program is open from now until Aug. 31, 2022. The Red Cross also will be holding drives throughout Northeast Ohio for individuals to stop in and donate blood. You can find an upcoming drive near you by visiting redcross.org/give-blood.

The Leaders Save Lives Program encourages community-minded high school and college students to host blood drives during their school breaks. It provides students an opportunity to gain valuable leadership skills and community service by recruiting classmates, friends and family to donate blood. The student who plans and hosts the blood drive is then eligible for a gift card valued up to $200 and is eligible to be entered to win a Red Cross scholarship if at least 25 pints of blood are donated.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross Volunteer

Blood donor hits goal set 18 years ago

By Tim Poe, Red Cross volunteer

Erin Muzechuk – Photo credit: CynthiaElaine

In April, Erin Muzechuk arrived at an American Red Cross blood drive set up in New Philadelphia’s New Town Mall and accomplished a goal she set 18 years ago, donating 10 gallons of blood.

This journey began when Erin was just 17 and saw a blood drive poster at Buckeye Career Center. She felt it could be a way to help others. Later, she watched a news story about a man donating his 10th gallon, thought she could do that, too, and hoped to inspire others to donate as well.

At age 35, Erin has reached that goal while inspiring many and saving hundreds of lives.

I asked Erin how she felt upon reaching her goal. “I’m happy that I was able to help so many people,” she said. “When I first started donating, I learned that each pint has the potential to help three people! Ten gallons means I helped up to as many of 240 people! I didn’t realize that until recently.”

Erin plans to continue donating blood but does not have another goal in mind.

Erin spoke of her fantastic experiences donating blood and helping people over the last 18 years. She speaks especially fondly of getting to know Jane Jarvis at Union Hospital, part of the Cleveland Clinic, in Dover, Ohio. “She’s a special lady,” Erin recalled of the hospital’s blood drive program leader.

Erin’s First Gallon Award

Erin also spoke highly of her experience with the Red Cross. Her favorite memory is the shock she felt upon being recognized for donating her first gallon when she was 19. She added, “I’m surprised and honored again to hear from the American Red Cross now that I’m 35!”

“We are so thankful for Erin and her commitment to regularly give the gift of life,” said Kim Kroh, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes. “Without donors like her, we could not meet the needs of patients across northern Ohio.”

In addition to donating blood, Erin enjoys working at Litty’s Cakes & Cookies in New Philadelphia and spending time with her family and friends, whom she says she loves very much.

For those considering donating blood for the first time, Erin advised, “It’s just a little pinch in the arm, and it doesn’t hurt or take a lot of your time to donate. And you will help save a life!”

If you, too, are inspired by Erin and would like to donate blood, please visit redcrossblood.org.

A Times-Reporter article on Erin’s achievement is here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

More than 260 donations made at the Give from the Heart at annual blood drive

For 23 years, the Give from the Heart blood drive has been a lifesaving tradition in Northern Ohio. This year’s event was held last Tuesday, Feb. 8 at the Cleveland Marriott East in Warrensville Heights.

This blood drive came at a vital time, as the Red Cross continues to struggle with a national blood crisis. The current nationwide shortage has been further impacted by winter weather across the country, with about 600 blood drives cancelled forcing 20,000 donations to go uncollected.


Across the Northern Ohio Region, 21 blood drives were cancelled Thursday, February 3 leaving more than 730 donations uncollected.

The more than 260 donations made at the Give from the Heart blood drive will potentially help up to 800 patients.

We encourage donors to make an appointment for future blood drives by visiting redcrossblood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App.

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.

If you are not able to give blood, the Red Cross also needs blood drive volunteers and blood transportation specialists to support critical blood collections. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals our local communities. To learn more and sign-up, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Red Cross: National blood crisis may put patients at risk

Dire situation facing blood supply, those in need of blood transfusions
Donors have the chance to help save lives, win trip to Super Bowl LVI

The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Dangerously low blood supply levels are posing a concerning risk to patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.

Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, and donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead.

In recent weeks, the Red Cross had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals. At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.

Pandemic challenges
The Red Cross continues to confront relentless challenges due to COVID-19, including a out a 10% overall decline in the number of people donating blood as well as ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations. Additionally, the pandemic has contributed to a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges.

“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”

Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800- 733 2767).

Get in the game; help save lives
The Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals to give blood or platelets and help tackle the national blood shortage. Those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma in January will automatically be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. Visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.

Who donations help
Dylan Fink of Stow, Ohio was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in September 2019 at just 14 years old. Because of his chemotherapy treatment, Dylan’s blood counts were drastically low. Over the course of his 100 days in the hospital Dylan needed nine blood transfusions and 11 platelet transfusions. In May 2020, Dylan was able to “ring the bell” at Akron Children’s Hospital, marking his remission.

“In the cancer world, I don’t think people understand how much blood product is needed andjust how important it is,” said Krista Fink, Dylan’s mom.  Read more about Dylan’s story here.

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. 

Volunteers needed
In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists – another volunteer opportunity − provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in communities across the country. To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Donate blood or platelets now to help patients avoid delays in care

As we welcome 2022, the American Red Cross blood supply has now dipped to the lowest level in more than a decade and could force hospitals to hold off on essential blood and platelet transfusions for patients in Northern Ohio and across the country.  

The troubling decline of the Red Cross blood supply, which supports about 40% of the nation’s blood needs, comes at a time of year when donations typically fall. Holiday get togethers, school breaks and winter weather often lead to lower donor turnout, potentially further compounding the situation. The critical role of blood and platelet donors has been celebrated each January for nearly 50 years during National Blood Donor Month. If you’ve never given blood before or if it’s been a while now is the perfect time to start helping save lives!

The need for healthy blood donors is also important as Northern Ohio, like many communities across the country saw a significant rise in COVID-19 cases during the month of December. If you are feeling healthy and well, please consider sharing your good health by giving blood. If you received the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine or booster there is no deferral time to give blood. Additionally, there is also no deferral after a flu vaccine, as long as you are symptom-free and feeling well the day of donation.

Once again, the Red Cross is partnering with the NFL to thank donors during the month of January. Come to give blood or platelets Jan. 1-31 and you’ll automatically get a chance to score an exciting Super Bowl LVI getaway in LA for you and a guest! Plus, the Red Cross will give you a shot at a home theater package and $500 e-gift card in January. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information. 

Potential donors are urged to schedule an appointment now by using the Red Cross
Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733- 2767). If there is not an immediate opportunity to donate, please make an appointment in the days and weeks ahead to ensure the Red Cross can replenish and then maintain a sufficient blood supply.

Community members come together to give back this holiday season

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

The American Red Cross of Northern Ohio held holiday blood drives across the region, providing an opportunity for donors to give the gift of life for people in need during this holiday season.

Hailee Horstman, Blood Donor

The drives were held between December 14th and December 23rd at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, the Sheraton Suites Akron/Cuyahoga Falls, the Hilton Garden Inn in Perrysburg and Stambaugh Auditorium and Packard Music Hall in Youngstown.

Daniel Salmons, Blood Donor

The Red Cross put the call out to the public, encouraging them to donate at our holiday drives, and our community members answered. Across all of the holiday blood drives, 1,240 pints of blood were donated to provide critical help for patients across the region.

Each donation can help up to three patients awaiting a blood product – red blood cells, platelets, or plasma. That means more than 3,700 people will possibly benefit by the donations made at this year’s holiday blood drives.

Lee Holmes-Blood Donor

Blood donations help patients in our community of all ages, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer, among others. In fact, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

The need this year is high, as pandemic challenges and concerns, along with the typical winter lulls, have resulted in historically low levels of blood supply. If you haven’t had a chance to donate—don’t delay. We are calling all eligible donors this January as part of National Blood Donor Month to roll up their sleeves and donate. To find an upcoming blood donation drive near you, click here.

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