San Diego Blood Bank
San Diego, CA
GATHERINGS OF GIVING
Candy Yolles has been more than a regular donor. She started in 1994 chairing drives for her work for 11 years encouraging employees to give. Then in 2008 for the past 14 years she’s been the host of her own personal drive “Candy’s Friends and Family Blood Drive” personally inviting donors and ensuring that each of them has a positive experience. And in-between her own drives, especially around holidays when there is a critical need, Candy coordinates additional group gatherings of friends and family at donation centers. When COVID-19 hit, Candy knew that patients would still be needing blood—but she also knew that donors might be hesitant. She immediately rallied a group to give, leading by example and reassuring them that they would be safe.
To date Candy has recruited more than 100 first-time donors, many of whom she has encouraged to become regular donors—including within her own family. She has inspired her 2 sisters, nephews, niece, brother n laws, husband and her two children to give frequently.
Whether reassuring a new donor, encouraging a regular one, or providing individual guidance to new advocates who want to coordinate blood drives of their own, Candy educates and empowers everyone she knows to help others.
American Red Cross
Apheresis Carolinas Region
ANOTHER WAY TO SERVE
Scott Hamilton's support of the American Red Cross Blood program began with his time in the military, in the 1980’s, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Like his father, a veteran of World War II, he believed in service. He also shared a belief with his father that donating blood was another way to serve, so he continued to give after he left the military.
In 2000, while working for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Scott began donating platelets. He gave every two weeks, on Thursday afternoons, and came to be appreciated for his reliability and “good veins”. A consistent Triple Donor, each of Scott’s donations has the potential to help multiple patients.
Scott’s extraordinary commitment has helped to save and improve countless lives. He retired from UNC in 2016, allowing him to spend more time with his family—especially his Granddaughter Sienna—but he still makes time for visits to the Platelet Center. His service to the community is truly unending.
LifeServe Blood Center
Des Moines, IA
WORK WORTH DOING
In 2001, after going through surgery for cancer, Russell Heerdt was inspired to become a blood donor. He moved to Des Moines in 2008 and, since then, has donated thirty times, giving over 6 gallons of blood. Russell understands the importance of a safe and stable community blood supply and, with his O negative blood type, is always willing to donate double red cells.
But Russell's dedication does not stop at donating blood—in 2010 Russell began volunteering his time as a driver. No matter the time of day, or night, Russell drove supplies and products to donor centers and hospital partners around the state. In addition to driving, Russell assists with odd-jobs and projects, including donor services, recruitment and even handyman! In just 11 short years, Russell has already volunteered over 4,900 hours and counting.
Russell’s impact is truly immense and he is well respected throughout the blood center and community for his commitment and work. When asked how he stays so motivated through all these years, he said, “I am enjoying my retirement volunteering here. I would rather ‘work’ like this than play golf…this gives me something to do and feel good about.”
Mississippi Blood Services
FINDING A SILVER LINING
Martha Waller became a donor because of her experience as a COVID-19 patient. She was referred as a possible COVID convalescent plasma (CCP) donor through Anderson Regional Health System in Meridian, MS. When the center team reached out and asked Martha if she would be willing to consider CCP donations, she said yes.
Antibody tests confirmed that she was the perfect candidate for CCP, except for one major drawback. Martha lives in Waynesboro, more than a two-hour drive from Flowood, where the center was set up to do CCP donations. But she didn’t let it stop her. Martha happily presented to donate plasma 12 times in 2020—despite the four-hour round-trip drive.
When her antibody titer count became too low to donate CCP, she asked if she could switch over to a different type of donation so that she could continue to help save lives in Mississippi. She knows there may come a time when she won’t be able to give anymore, so for now she says “I want to donate as often as l can.”
NOURISHING A HEALTHIER COMMUNITY
In addition to being a dedicated platelet donor himself, Nick Politis has made blood donation an integral part of his business, Mr. Green’s Produce, for over a decade. He has sponsored blood and platelet drives, each time leading the way by donating his own platelets. He encourages his staff to donate by finding fun incentives to offer them at every drive, and often sends home fresh fruits and vegetables with the center staff—as a “thank you” for the lifesaving work that they do every day.
Just as Nick did in previous times of national crisis, like the 9/11 tragedy and many Florida hurricanes, when the COVID pandemic began he called right away to set up a platelet donation appointment. He has continued to run regular drives throughout the pandemic at his business and he continues to find the time to donate at other location in between the drives that he hosts.
Nick recently moved his business to a new location, bringing fruits and vegetables to a community lacking access to fresh produce. Moving a business is no small task, but it didn’t stop Nick from sponsoring blood drives at his new location soon after his move. Whether building the blood supply or providing healthy food options, Nick Politis is a community business owner who makes a difference.
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION
Lourdes Cofresi is the National Honor Society Advisor at Christopher Columbus High School. For the last eight years she has also been their Blood Drive Coordinator. Twice a year she leads a committee in strategizing new ways to educate, encourage, and support potential new donors—ultimately scheduling anywhere from 60 to 120 appointments each time. Her efforts have won her OneBlood’s Coordinator of the Year.
Her commitment stems from a diagnosis in 2003 of a clotting disorder, Factor 7 deficiency, that makes her susceptible to bleeding out during surgery or trauma. Lourdes can’t donate the blood she might need someday, so she works diligently to engage those who can.
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Lourdes was contacted by a Columbus alumnus who wanted to host a blood drive. Proud of the former student’s initiative and eager to make the event a success, she got permission to be on the closed school campus and then sent out emails to get donors to sign up online. With Lourdes on the team, interest and participation soared. And of course, she was the first person on site and stayed, under a tree in the hot South Florida sun, until the last donor was done. Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, Lourdes went on to set up two more drives at the school last year. Under her gracious, caring, and watchful eye, each drive produced over 30 pints—and everyone participating stayed safe.
A CHAMPION FOR THE CAUSE
Tim Thompson has been a blood and platelet donor with Blood Assurance since 2003, personally donating over 23 gallons. During 2020, he was forced to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure to ensure the safety of the blood supply. His first time back in the chair was after a long wait of a few weeks and when he sat down he said, “It feels good to be home.”
Tim was also the Blood Drive Coordinator for Chemical Products Company, promoting the drive to the 110 employees he works with and generally getting about 25% of them to participate. Since 2009, his company has collected over 1,600 units for patients in need. Even with the pandemic going on, they managed to host five blood drives in 2020.
Tim talks about the center and blood donation everywhere he goes, wearing the Blood Assurance jacket that he earned by giving platelets 24 times in one year. He encourages his coworkers to donate platelets outside of the drives, and has recruited several of them to become regular platelet donors. He has a passion for blood donation, is a champion in his community, and his efforts as a donor and a coordinator have potentially saved thousands of lives.
Versiti Blood Center of Illinois
MAKING EVERY DONOR FEEL VALUED
Laurie learned of the importance of blood donation at a local community drive and was hooked immediately. She makes sure to arrange her schedule to capitalize on every single donation opportunity she can find. She currently has 36 donations under her belt and is a loyal 4 times a year whole blood donor—even during COVID.
Wanting to continue the rewarding feeling and help those within her community, Laurie began hosting even larger blood drives, starting at her church and ultimately bringing them to her work at a large insurance company. She takes the time to contact donors personally to educate them on the value of blood donation and schedule their appointment. She always takes care of her donors on the day of the drive with treats—whether it is coffee cakes or homemade masks. Laurie has Tobias their LLC comfort dog attend many of her drives since he is such a calming force to all that love on him. She makes every drive special giving a big thank you to each donor. In 2020 her drives brought in 265 donations.
Laurie goes out of her way with extraordinary efforts to make sure local communities can benefit from her blood drive, joining the center in its diverse donor focus in 2021. She makes sure she has materials translated into Spanish, and gets support from her church, so that all potential donors know and understand how important their donation is—especially given the special blood types that many of the diverse donors in her community have.
DOING WHAT IT TAKES
In 1999 Amy Ziegler, the PE Teacher at Dakota Ridge High School, began hosting blood drives. She promotes each drive herself, gets students and staff to fill out the sign-up sheet, comes in early to hang the blood drive signs all over the school, sets up the gym with tables and chairs, and meets the crew before the event starts.
Many high schools are hesitant to allow students to be out of class to donate blood, but Amy has been an incredible liaison with her school to allow students to give during school hours. And when autopheresis devices became available for high schools to collect double red cells and plasma, Amy championed the new technology, so that students could make the most of each donation.
Though it has been difficult during the pandemic for many schools to host blood drives, Amy advocated for the importance of donations during this time, and worked with her administration to host an event on the campus. Since she couldn’t promote the drive with her usual posters she reached out to students digitally, using social media to share information and making an online sign-up sheet with all the relevant forms, including those for parental consent. No matter what else is going on, Amy wants her students to understand the importance of donating blood and helping the community.
Palm Harbor, FL
KEEPING OTHERS SAFE
Jim Abernathy didn’t like needles, but when he learned of a blood drive in his office building that he could go to during his lunch hour he decided to give it a try. Surprised at how smoothly it went, he became a regular donor. In 2012 he moved to Florida and found a center near his new home—and between July 2012 and March 2017, he donated a total of 15 times.
The following month, his 12-year-old son Jackson was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a very rare type of cancer, the treatment for which required both whole blood and platelet transfusions on a regular basis. When Jim saw firsthand the daily need for blood, he committed to donating as often as possible. Jackson was type O-, and Jim is O+, so he knew Jackson wasn't using his blood but depended on others to keep him safe—and Jim wanted to help provide that safety for the many other patients going through similar cancer treatments. This led to him donating platelets, which he has been doing most weekends for the past four years.
Jim was a blood donor before it was personal, but now he donates in honor of his son, who passed away in April of 2020. Since Jackson was diagnosed, Jim has donated more than 76 times. Jim has donated over 20 gallons and hopes to keep going until he reaches 100.
The Ivory Family
Community Blood Center
A LEGACY OF GIVING
Mike Ivory grew up in a big Irish-Polish family, and as the youngest he was modestly gleeful on April 21, 2021 to be the fourth Ivory sibling to reach the milestone of 100 lifetime blood donations. “I’m the last of 11 children, eight boys and three girls,” said Mike. “We’re all doing it. It was something instituted by our parents, Bob and Josephine Ivory. Donating what you have—clothes, money, or blood—to those in need.” His brother Jim even remembers hurrying with his mother to the center to donate blood after the 1974 Xenia tornado, “We ended up being the first to have blood drawn.”
Jim leads the family with 304 lifetime donations, followed by Bill with 192 and Tim with 134. Eight of the surviving Ivory siblings are donors and as of August 2021 they had collectively made 887 donations. “I’m honored to be part of this family,” said Jim, who after heart surgery can no longer donate. “I always tried to get people to go.”
Mike didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic break his streak of donating, with four platelet and plasma donations in 2020 and more than double that number in 2021, including a COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma donation. It’s an uphill climb to catch up to his brothers in donations, but that’s a source of inspiration. “I really had that goal of 100, but I’m not going to stop,” he said. “My goal now is 200—and to find out where my brothers’ numbers are!”
American Red Cross
Ashville Fixed Site
A BIG SMILE AND A KIND HEART
Wes Wright grew up learning of the importance of blood donation from his father, a hospital administrator, and appreciates that in donating he is helping people he will never meet. He began donating platelets in 1983 in Winston Salem, and has been a loyal platelet donor in Asheville since 1992. A Senior Vice President at a bank in Asheville, Wes can be found at the center just about every other Friday, rolling up his sleeves with a smile to donate platelets. Recently, he celebrated his 100th platelet donation, but his impact at the center goes far beyond the blood he donates—he enjoys getting to know the staff and the other donors, and his kindness makes everyone’s day better when he comes in to give.
Wes is a devoted father of ten children, five of whom were adopted internationally and several of whom have special needs. He and his wife have had their hands full at home, but he still makes time to donate every other week. He keeps his appointments scheduled out as far as possible and plans to continue to give as long as he is allowed. The many lives he has saved are a testament to Wes’s unending generosity.