Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blood drive relies on team support

Fans of Tech and UVa are encouraged to sport their team colors and participate in a Red Cross blood drive this month.

Alex Donahue, 7, comforts his grandmother, Gloria Donahue, after she donated blood Monday afternoon at the American Red Cross donor facility in downtown Roanoke.

Jared Soares | The Roanoke Times

Alex Donahue, 7, comforts his grandmother, Gloria Donahue, after she donated blood Monday afternoon at the American Red Cross donor facility in downtown Roanoke.

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Later this month, more than 200 people are expected to donate blood in the Roanoke Valley. Many will receive a cup of orange juice or a cookie. But those attending the Virginia Tech vs. University of Virginia Fans Blood Challenge might also walk away with an autographed football or tickets to the Tech-UVa football game.

Bob Lutjen, regional manager of marketing, communications and public relations for the American Red Cross, said the fan blood challenge consists of five public blood drives at various locations. During these drives, participants are encouraged not only to donate blood, but to wear their favorite team colors.

The sites are:

  • The Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors at Tanglewood Mall: Nov. 23, 1 to 7 p.m.
  • WDBJ7: Nov. 23, 1 to 7 p.m.
  • Roanoke Athletic Club: Nov. 24, noon to 6 p.m.
  • Botetourt Athletic Club: Nov. 24, noon to 6 p.m.
  • Bonsack Baptist Church: Nov. 24, 2 to 7 p.m.

Donors will be entered into a drawing, making them eligible to win prizes including gas cards, Tech basketball tickets and even a free night at Hotel Roanoke.

Lutjen said the passion and enthusiasm between Tech and UVa has been a constant over the years, no matter what the teams' records. Because people have become so busy, Lutjen said this event has become a popular way for the American Red Cross to reach people that might not otherwise donate.

"It began as the result of staff and board members trying to increase blood donation near the holidays in a 'fun' environment as well as increase the awareness about the regular need for blood donations," said Lutjen.

The event started in 2006 with two blood drives. The first year, 101 donors came out. Lutjen's goal was 85 pints and 94 were collected, making it a success.

This year, Lutjen said his goal is to collect 285 pints of blood at these five drives. He hopes with the addition of the Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors, the goal will be met, marking this year's event successful, too.

Lutjen added that there might be room for growth next year at the Tanglewood Mall location, where space isn't as limited. Lutjen would also like this event to expand beyond the Roanoke Valley to areas in his region such as Martinsville, Lynchburg and Montgomery County someday.

"We would like to continue this as an annual event as long as the fans and sponsors in the community support the effort. It is an excellent way for the folks to show their team support, have some fun and help save a life through blood donation," explained Lutjen.

Lutjen just wants blood donations to increase in this area, all year long.

Only 5 percent of the eligible donor population gives blood, said Lutjen. And even though donations can be done six times a year, the average donations are made only 1.6 times.

Lutjen added that donating blood helps hospitals help everyone in our community.

He explained, "Blood donations are needed every day throughout the year, no matter the time or season, to best be prepared for patient needs."

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