When the American Red Cross announced a national blood shortage crisis in January, Red Cross volunteer Sujai Jaipalli responded by hosting a blood drive battle between three schools in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area. Here’s how he made helping save lives during a critical time a team effort.
How the Blood Drive Battle Materialized
Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sujai saw how successful the University of Michigan (UMich) and The Ohio State University (OSU) were in incorporating friendly competition and uniting different communities for a key purpose. They held an event leading up to their annual football game at UMich, that OSU willingly supported. It was this comradery that inspired Sujai to come up with the blood drive battle. “I thought it would be a good idea to mobilize the colleges around my region to also make a difference.”
Collaborating with Red Cross Clubs and Universities to Host Blood Drives on Campus
Sujai’s main role in organizing the event was reaching out to different clubs in the region to gauge their interest. Eventually, he was able to connect with clubs from the University of Maryland, George Washington University, and John Hopkins University. However, Sujai attributes the success of the blood battle to other Red Cross clubs for their collaboration and leadership. They were the ones who organized the blood drives on their schools’ campuses. “Each of these universities have a wide range of people. Hosting a blood battle would encourage people to donate with a bit of a competitive spirit. Though it’s obviously not about winning, it was really inspiring to see how motivated we all were.”
For Sujai the process of planning was exciting because it allowed him an opportunity to connect with other clubs. He said, “A big reason why this connection was so important was because with COVID and all the isolation that came with it, many of our clubs became distant which is unfortunate. The collaborative event was a really nice way to meet new people and get not just club members, but also other people, involved.”
How COVID-19 Restrictions Played a Role in the Friendly Battle
The most difficult part of the planning process for Sujai was adhering to many restrictions and safety precautions that were in place on college campuses due to the pandemic. “With COVID and many restrictions because of it, we wanted to make sure that everything was compliant, especially with all the different universities,” he said. “At Hopkins, where I go to school, the administration did an excellent job helping us ensure that the student body would be safe.”
The Blood Drive Battle Results
Ultimately, the blood battle was a success. Between the three schools, they collected 102 pints of blood, with George Washington University (GWU) emerging as the victor.
Dana Woodruff and Katherine Chen, the GWU blood drive coordinators said, “The Blood Battle was our first time holding an event this big, and it took a lot of collaboration and hard work to make it so successful. We’re grateful for the GWU Red Cross members for helping us out and making our drives so successful, especially during a national blood crisis. We’re so happy our work has paid off and are doing all we can to help save lives!”
For Sujai, he highlights the results as the most fulfilling moment of the entire process. “It was a lot of planning, but ultimately, a lot of lives were potentially saved, so it was really impactful to see it all come to fruition.” He was also touched by the overwhelming level of support he received from the community and the school administration, especially his Red Cross mentors in the region.
Words From Sujai: What You Can Do to Make a Difference
If you’re inspired to take action for a cause you are passionate about, Sujai’s biggest advice for you is to ask for help and make it a group effort. He described, “All this would not have been possible without the amazing support of both Hopkins and the Red Cross, as well as the other schools and their club presidents—it was truly a collaborative effort that cannot be achieved by one person individually.”
Note: During the blood drive battle, the American Red Cross was experiencing a national blood crisis. At this time, the Red Cross is not currently facing a crisis; however, the blood supply remains vulnerable. As we continue to monitor the current blood supply closely, we encourage individuals who are feeling healthy and are eligible to donate blood to help ensure patients receive the care they need.