I first donated blood as a 17-year-old high school student, motivated more by my desire to skip fifth period European History than to actually make a difference in my community. A few years later I became a regular blood donor, no longer to escape class or work, but as a way to honor the lifesaving example my mother – who has worked for more than 40 years as a registered nurse – set for me and follow in her “superhero” footsteps.
People donate blood for the first time for many reasons, and many of these individuals become regular blood donors for an even wider variety of reasons. When I asked a handful of blood donors why they first walked into a blood drive and why they returned for future donations, I received answers as varied as they are as individuals.
Jamie from Iowa followed her father’s lead. He had donated in honor of his sister when she suffered from childhood leukemia many years prior, so Jamie saw firsthand and knew from a young age the importance of blood donation. When she learned she had O negative blood (the universal blood type) Jamie committed to regular blood donations.
Elizabeth from Wisconsin donated for the first time at a high school blood drive, but not as a student. National Honor Society hosted the school’s blood drives, and as the NHS faculty advisor, Elizabeth became involved because her job required her to do so. She continued donating each time NHS hosted a blood drive both to support her students and as a way to give back after blood transfusions helped keep her mother alive for a year. (Incidentally, Elizabeth worked at the same high school I attended – she and I donated blood for the first time in the exact same gymnasium!)
Cody from Texas began donating at 20 years old – and continues to donate four times a year many years later – as a way of showing support and lending a hand in the wake of the many natural disasters that have impacted our country.
As a child, Kelsey from Nebraska found a jewelry box belonging to grandma that instead of jewelry, held years of blood donor milestone pins. Kelsey’s grandma donated regularly and frequently for more than 45 years, and when Kelsey was old enough, she began donating multiple times a year in her grandma’s honor.
And last but not least, Nicole from Texas donated – for the first time and many initial times since then – because of one of the simplest but most powerful reasons around: a friend asked her to do so.
There is an emergency need for blood and platelet donors. Severe winter weather in January forced the cancellation of more than 340 blood drives in 20 states, resulting in nearly 10,000 donations uncollected, further depleting an already low winter supply. Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals as quickly as donations come in. Appointments: Blood Donor App (3cu.be/blood),redcrossblood.org or 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).