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Going Back To School With Blood Donor Chair Melanie

OneBlood August 11, 2022

As students are getting ready to go back to school, so is the Big Red Bus! Every year thousands of students line up to donate blood, so OneBlood partners with high schools throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas to make it as easy as possible. alt text

These blood drives are organized by volunteer Donor Chairs, such as student organizations who step up to coordinate drives or teachers/faculty who take on this additional responsibility. We sat down with a selfless Donor Chair to give you a glimpse of what goes into planning a High School Blood Drive. 

Meet Melanie, the Assistant to the Director of Finance and Operations and the head of the Wellbeing Committee for the faculty and staff at Tampa Prep, a private school in Tampa for grades 6-12.

Last school year, Melanie, along with student and faculty/staff donors at Tampa Prep, helped OneBlood collect over 115 pints of blood and save hundreds of lives. 

How long have you been a Donor Chair?
I was a regular donor at the school for around 9 years before taking over as chair in 2013, when our former chair retired. Prior to this, I had never thought about being the chair, but was asked and agreed.

When did you start donating blood? 
I started donating whole blood in high school as soon as I was old enough. It was the late ‘90s and it was a badge of honor to participate. It was also super cool getting out of class! My school hosted one drive a year, usually around Valentine's Day, and I never thought to donate any other time. 

I continued to donate while in college every time the Big Red Bus was on campus. After college, I started working at Tampa Prep and was thrilled to find that our school hosted four blood drives a year. I had never donated so much before! After a few years, I realized I could go to other drives during the summer when we weren’t able to host.

Why do you donate? 
It's my way of doing good in my community. I give because I can. It makes me feel good about myself and it directly helps so many others. We are one world, one community, one blood. We have to take care of each other.alt text In 2010, my father was diagnosed with cancer and he received blood transfusions as part of his treatment, which allowed him time to fight a bit longer.

When the pandemic hit, I was compelled to donate more than ever. It was during this time I received information from OneBlood about Targeting My Blood Type, meaning there are various methods of donating and your blood type determines which method is most beneficial. 

I am B+ (and I LOVE how it sounds - be positive!) and donating platelets is how I can make the best impact. Whole blood is always awesome and crucial but platelets are used to help form clots and stop bleeding. Platelet donations are crucial for patients in cancer treatment. FULL CIRCLE MOMENT!

Although my father lost his battle with cancer, strangers donated their platelets to give him more time. That time, the gift of life, was invaluable to our family.

I signed up to donate platelets and haven't looked back. Yes, it takes about two hours to donate and I try to go every two to three weeks. I make it a priority because it is important to me to help give someone else the gift of time. I've just passed 14 gallons! 

How do you promote donating blood as a Donor Chair? 
I try to encourage and inspire others by giving as many facts as possible. I share how and who benefits from blood donations. I speak in our school assemblies and make it as easy and accessible as possible to sign up.

Our school offers four drives a year on back-to-back days for a total of eight days. We keep our drives for our students, faculty, and parents only, helping to make the experience less intimidating. This is especially important for first-time donors.

We have a strong administrator and teacher donor pool and it is fantastic for students to see their teachers, their head of school, and staff donate. This is truly leading by example.

One of our school's mission statements is to have a higher purpose than self. Donating blood is a prime example. 

My best moments come when I have new donors. They tend to be equally nervous and excited. It is heartwarming to see them come back and become repeat donors.

Over the years, I've had parents come and donate alongside their children, friends donate together, and teachers donate with their students. 

Do you have any advice for someone interested in hosting a blood drive? 
If you're thinking about it, just give it a try. Start with one drive. I recommend having the blood mobile come out instead of setting up in an indoor space. The blood mobile is comfy and provides privacy. The Big Red Bus is a huge billboard to advertise to.

Make the day fun, play music if you can. Set up a tent outside and offer snacks and incentives. The best incentives I've found are jeans day, T-shirt days, and priority parking spots.

Never pressure anyone into donating. It’s a personal choice and there are many reasons why someone shouldn't donate. Be available to answer questions and/or direct to a OneBlood representative to answer.

When someone says they wish they could donate but can't, ask them to encourage another to donate. They could also help hang up promotional materials or assist with sign-ups. 

Thank you to Melanie and all the Donor Chairs like her! Are you ready to host a blood drive in your community? The Big Red Bus can roll up to your local community center, business, school, church or other location. Here's where you can learn more about hosting a blood drive.

We wish everyone a great school year and we hope to see you on a Big Red Bus soon! To find locations near you, click here. 

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