Centennial blood drive helps address critical shortage

Vitalant officials see a 12% decline in new donors over this past year.

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After second grade teacher Katie Bolger, a 34-year-old Centennial resident, read an article about a critical need for blood donations and learned there would be a community blood drive July 1, she felt it was important to show up.

“There’s always a need,” Bolger said about blood donations. “You never know, you know, when you or a family member might be in need of blood.” 

About 10 years ago, Bolger’s sister-in-law fell asleep at the wheel and drove off the road. The seatbelt severed her arm. Thankfully, a trauma nurse was in the car behind her and was able to provide assistance until help arrived. 

“She lost a lot of blood, and she almost died,” Bolger said. “But luckily, people had donated.” 

The community blood drive was hosted by Centennial store Curate: A Local Mercantile, which helps sell the products of local artisan and boutique vendors. The shop partnered with Vitalant, a national nonprofit that hosts about 60,000 blood drives annually, to host the blood drive in a Vitalant bloodmobile parked near the shop, located at 8242 S. University Blvd. 

“We wanted to do something for the community. We’re always looking for events that draw people together,” said store owner Karli Millspaugh. “This was sort of a natural extension of just ways for people to give back, especially given the blood shortage right now.”

Vitalant announced a critical blood shortage in a June 14 news release. In April and May, Vitalant collected about 13,000 fewer blood donations compared to the year prior, the organization said. 

“Right now, we’re at half of the desired four-day supply of every blood type,” said Brooke Way, the communications manager of Vitalant. “We just need more people coming in regularly.”

Patients need blood transfusions for a variety of reasons, Way said. For example, some people with rare blood disorders need regular transfusions of red blood cells. Cancer patients may rely on platelet donations for chemotherapy treatment. Some burn victims require plasma donations.

Recently, there have been fewer blood drives, in part, due to COVID-19 limitations and people traveling during the summer, Way said. Vitalant is also facing a staffing shortage, resulting in fewer blood drives because there aren’t enough staff to work them. 

“We want to avoid a critical shortage at all costs, because we want to make sure patients get what they need when they need it,” Way said. She doesn't want doctors to have to decide whether or not they can give a patient what they need due to a limited supply of blood, she said. 

Karli Millspaugh’s husband, Brent Millspaugh, was among the 22 people who signed up to donate blood. When he posted on social media about the upcoming blood drive, one of his former high school classmates responded and said he had to have a blood transfusion at one point and thanked Brent Millspaugh for helping. 

“You don’t realize how many people actually need that,” Brent Millspaugh said. “I’m happy to do it.”

Centennial resident Sally Leibbrandt, 62, tries to donate blood every eight weeks, she said. She found out about the blood drive while searching on Vitalant’s website for nearby blood drives. 

“There’s a need for blood continually and especially during COVID,” she said. “I just feel like it’s the easiest thing I can do to help.” 

After completing their appointment, donors could grab a complimentary bag filled with products from the store. Vitalant is also offering rewards to donors, such as a $5 prepaid gift card to those who donate between July 10-20 and a chance to win one of three, $3,000 prepaid gift cards. 

The rewards aim to attract more donors, especially given that over the past year, Vitalant has seen a 12% decline in new donors, Way said, calling it a worrisome trend. 

“We’re so grateful for these coordinators, like the mercantile, that are putting on drives in their community,” Way said. “Everyone’s there for the same cause, the same reason: to save someone’s life. And it’s just a fun way to be involved in your community and feel like you’re truly doing something that will change and transform someone’s life.” 

Those interested in scheduling a blood donation appointment can find more information online at Vitalant.org or by calling (877) 258-4825.

Blood Donation, Blood Drive, Vitalant, Blood Shortage, Curate: A Local Mercantile

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