Blood Drives a Chance to Give Back, Build Morale
It was the Orlando, Fla., nightclub mass shootings that inspired Marcy King to arrange a blood drive at Rebuilders Automotive Supply Co., in Coventry, where she is director, online buying division.
“Last June, my husband [Steven King, vice president and co-owner of the company] and I were in Florida … and the nightclub attack had happened. … I started thinking, ‘Horrible things are happening … and we’re not doing anything about it,’ ” she said.
Immediately upon returning home, King contacted the Rhode Island Blood Center to schedule a blood drive at her company. Nearly half of the Coventry-based company’s 100 employees donated – a far better response than the 10 percent she’d been told was typical at most drives – and enjoyed breakfast and lunch supplied by the company.
Blood given to individuals affected by a disaster – such as in Orlando or on 9/11 – came not from those who donated in response to the disaster, but before, said Beau Tompkins, RIBC director of hospital services.
“We don’t want [donation] spikes; after spikes come valleys,” said Tompkins, emphasizing RIBC’s need for regular, consistent donations. With school and university blood drives ceasing or dramatically declining during summer months, businesses across the state represent a key target market for blood drives then, and year-round.
RIBC Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scott J. Asadorian calls education the key to building lifelong donors. When employers allow RIBC to educate employees about the importance of donating, there is better donor turnout, especially when drives are held during business hours, he said.
Only a fraction of the 37 percent of individuals who are eligible to donate do so, both here in the Ocean State and across the country, RIBC reported. In an effort to increase participation, the nonprofit is taking the education process statewide. Its brand-new, broadbased campaign, for which PriMedia coordinated media placement, has a call to action: “Help someone else. Become a blood donor.”
The campaign, which was designed by Nail Communications, features an actor who exemplifies those donors who consistently give blood and recognize the importance of regular donations, said Kara LeBlanc, marketing communications manager. Portraying a young professional fully engaged with a career, family and community, the actor represents one important demographic cohort RIBC hopes to reach, she said.
“Once they’re out of the school environment, we have a hard time getting them back [to donate], unless they’re in an environment that sponsors drives,” Asadorian said. “That’s why it’s critical for us to grow our sponsorships.”
As the primary supplier to 10 of Rhode Island’s 12 hospitals and a secondary supplier to many more southern New England hospitals, RIBC has five account managers around the state, each of whom is responsible for coordinating between 15 and 25 blood drives each month, said Asadorian. For staffing and logistical reasons, RIBC generally schedules blood drives three months in advance.
While hospitals’ needs dictate where donations are delivered, blood donations are more complex than their type of A-, B+, etc. “Blood donation … includes red blood cells, plasma and platelets. … We take blood into our lab and separate it to get the different components to hospitalized patients,” said Asadorian. During the donation, RIBC can collect and isolate stem cells, for example, for bone marrow transplant patients.
RIBC, which needs approximately 200 units of blood every day of the year, receives 60 percent of its donations from mobile blood drives, and the balance from donations at blood centers, said LeBlanc. Blood drives align perfectly with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s position as a health care company, said Carolyn Belisle, managing director of community relations. The health insurer averages four or five drives annually, with donations from 5-10 percent of its 809 employees.
In addition to Blue Cross, frequent blood drive sponsors include Fidelity Investments, MetLife Inc., General Dynamics Electric Boat, AAA Northeast and Ocean State Job Lot, said LeBlanc. Its name notwithstanding, RIBC is more than solely a collector and distributor of blood, said Asadorian. RIBC’s special therapeutics team treats hospitalized patients with complex medical issues, including removing pathogens or toxic substances from patients’ blood through therapeutic plasma exchange, removing white blood cells, exchanging sickle cell patients’ red blood cells and reducing excessive platelets.
At Rebuilders Automotive Supply, which has committed to hosting twice yearly blood drives, King said that the management team participates in these drives and other community service initiatives. “[A blood drive] is a very small price to pay… and builds morale in the company,” she said. “We’re doing something together to help people.”