The Beat Big Blue Blood Drive visited the UA campus Feb. 28 through Mar. 3. The campaign is the first to incentivize donors with sports-related rewards alongside the motivation of saving a life.
Associated Student Government director of physical health Gary Jackson organized the drive, which resulted in the collection of 747 units of blood, including that from 563 first-time donors. The overall impact will save 2,241 potential lives, according to the UA Instagram.
“We saw a lot of other SEC schools had annual blood drives, and we thought, ‘Why don’t we do that?’ That’s definitely something we should be doing,” Jackson said.
The drive, which took place at both the Union Ballroom and Health, Physical Education and Recreation complex, occurred before the popular Kentucky-Arkansas men’s basketball game Saturday. All donors obtained a t-shirt, Chick-fil-A meal and a $10 Visa gift card. They were also able to enter their names in a raffle to win a basketball signed by head coach Eric Musselman and tickets to the game, according to the ASG Instagram.
“I think it’s a great way to get out and help people,” Shelby Stone, a freshman donor said, "It truly is a lifesaving thing, and I like that it’s a free opportunity that we’re able to do and that we even get rewarded for.”
The event also provided a service aspect of donation. All donors had the opportunity to appeal for two community service hours, and volunteers could appeal for one service hour per volunteer shift. The Red Cross utilized incentives to motivate UA donors to surpass the University of Kentucky in donation numbers, according to a press release from the Red Cross.
Power Red was also an option for donation. Power red is similar to regular donation, but uses a machine to maximize blood cell output to allow the donation of two units of blood cells, while cycling the plasma and platelets back. Senior Maria Tinajero realized she has universally accepted Type-O blood and did not hesitate to give Power Red, according to the Red Cross Arkansas Instagram.
Red Cross donor recruitment developer Cassady Watkins, 43, is a Fayetteville resident who has worked for the organization for 11 years. Watkins emphasized the importance of college students donating.
“High schools and colleges are 20% of our blood supply, so during holidays when they are out, or on winter break, there's a backup then, then it takes a couple of months to maybe catch up,” Watkins said. “Well then what happens in the couple months after comes weather, and when weather cancels a blood drive, then that’s nationwide, then thousands of donations don’t happen.”
Young adults have proven to be the best outlet for filling these holes in the blood supply, Watkins said. They have easy access and are willing to donate because they are not yet in a desk job lifestyle that prevents donation ability.
Donation does not put a large strain on donors, take too long or typically leave participants feeling terrible afterward, Stone said.
“The need for blood is constant — every two seconds someone needs blood,” Watkins said. “Always during January, February, it’s consistent. Every year we go into a critical appeal, which means that we have less than a four-day blood supply on the shelves of hospitals. Everyone has a reason (to donate), and if they don’t, they’re going to at some point.”
Not only does the Red Cross rely heavily on donors during a critical appeal, but it relies on donations, regardless of season, Watkins said.
“As for volunteers in general, we always need volunteers,” Watkins said. “The Red Cross is the largest humanitarian organization. There are seven Red Cross employees in the whole state, there are 4,700 Red Cross volunteers, the entire organization is run on volunteers. The phlebotomists, their job is different, they’re the ones who collect. Their turnover rate’s really high. It’s a hard job.”
With the success of the inaugural drive, Jackson and company are looking forward to the event becoming a yearly tradition.
“We want to make it bigger, we want to make it better, and we want to have fun,” Jackson said. “So, we can't wait to see what this next year will hold, and a thank you to everyone who could participate.”
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