American Red Cross Richland Donor Center
Dan Porter first started giving blood at his place of work. For years, he saw it as another way he could give back to his community — as he does with his woodworking skills, making props and other needed items for the local dance company and other service groups.
But when two of Dan’s close friends were diagnosed with cancer, his commitment to donation became all that much more personal. He learned about the importance of platelets to cancer patients — one of his friends, with whom he spent quite a bit of time, at one point was receiving platelets on a weekly basis. Both friends have since passed away, but Dan saw how their transfusions allowed these men to go home and spend additional, precious time with their families.
Knowing that there is often a shortage, Dan now donates platelets with The American Red Cross whenever he can. Since 1993, he’s given a total of 320 units. Dan says he is a lucky man, grateful for his health, and for being able to help others in this way.
MEDIC Regional Blood Center
Many years ago, when a colleague asked her to participate in a drive for his wife, JoLynn forced herself to face an extreme fear of blood and needles. Though she fainted that first time, JoLynn didn’t let it stop her. Through sheer persistence, she’s become a platelet donor who generously gives doubles and triples at each donation — although to this day she still can’t look at the needles!
JoLynn keeps to her biweekly commitment to donation, as well as organizing MEDIC drives, even though she’s an extremely busy lady. A retired professor of Child and Family Studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, she still mentors PhD students, supports the Children’s Defense Fund, and regularly serves as staff or sits on the boards of a number of community non-profits. A life-long music, nature, and animal lover, JoLynn has brought her passions to a myriad of other volunteer programs, from her church choir to the Knoxville Zoo. Yet JoLynn has selflessly scheduled all of these activities, as well as elective surgeries, trips out of the country, and day-to-day living, to maintain her platelet schedule, completing more than 400 procedures since 1999.
For everything she’s done for others, JoLynn has twice been honored as recipient of the UT National Alumni Association Public Service Award. She does truly live the spirit of Tennessee — the Volunteer State — and the Torchbearer statue that shines over the UT community, in providing leadership and service that improves the world around her.
Lauren McCrary knows first-hand how important it is for blood to be on the shelf for those in need, especially cancer patients. Ten years ago, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid Leukemia. After a tough battle, and many units of blood products along the way, Lauren received a bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor. Lauren eventually got to meet him, a firefighter from Seattle named Patrick. They’ve since become life-long friends, and Lauren has become a vocal advocate of blood and marrow donation.
In 2012, in addition to her duties as library aide and student council sponsor at Castleberry High School in Ft. Worth, Texas, Lauren took on the role of the school’s blood drive coordinator. She actively encourages all students and faculty to donate whole blood and if possible, platelets, plasma or red cells — and to sign up for the bone marrow registry. With Lauren at the helm, the school has donated more than 400 units to the community supply. For Lauren, it’s a way to pay forward the lifesaving generosity that she had been so lucky to receive
American Red Cross
Keith Olson is a newcomer to platelet donation, having started with the American Red Cross in Bend, Oregon last year, after a whole blood staff member encouraged him to try it at a blood drive out of town. Keith’s wife had received chemotherapy, and platelet donation seemed like an positive way to honor of his wife.
Despite a busy schedule — Keith has a sports equipment manufacturing company, raises steer on his ranch, announces rodeos in 10 states and 2 provinces in Canada, and always makes time for family, including his son and young granddaughter, who live with him on his ranch — he is now a regular platelet donor, coming in to the center once a month. His commitment to platelet donation is no surprise — as a member of the clergy and a volunteer for Beulah’s Place, an organization that helps get homeless girls off the street, Keith is well-known for making time to help others. But he gives the credit to being self-employed, which, “gives me the flexibility to give back that others might not have.”
Central Blood Bank
When William O’Hara started donating blood 35 years ago, he never imagined he’d be marking his 500th donation, but that’s just what he did on May 20, 2018 at Central Blood Bank’s Monroeville center. “When I started, I figured maybe I’d reach 100, 150. Every time I hit another 100 marker, I tell the team, this might be it. They assure me I’ll be around until 600. If I can, I will,” says Mr. O’Hara, 70, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired engineer.
Mr. O’Hara originally was a whole blood donor. But about 20 years ago, a coworker mentioned that he donated platelets. “He said it takes a little longer, but encouraged me to try it.” Mr. O’Hara liked the idea that his platelet donations help cancer patients, and it became a habit he’s happy to stick with. “They really go to someone who needs it.”
To this day, a personal thank-you from years ago remains a powerful inspiration. “The first Christmas after I started donating platelets, I got a Christmas card from a family whose child was receiving platelets. That really made it hit home.”
A nurse by training — first in oncology and now in home health — Valerie Alpizar has always been well aware of the importance of donating. She first became a whole blood donor when she was in college, then switched to platelets 20 years ago, for a friend who had cancer.
Valerie is now a dedicated platelet donor. She donates a triple product every other week, as many times as she can. She’s currently working towards her next milestone — 30 gallons! To the One Blood team, Valerie is more than just a donor — she’s part of the family. And her positive attitude, warm demeanor, and friendly disposition bring some extra sunshine to the Deland branch, every time she comes in.
James and Peter Cole
Vitalant (formerly BloodSource)
Peter Cole was familiar with blood donation long before he was able to participate, having tagged along whenever his dad, James Cole, gave blood. James’s weekly donations were an inspiration to everyone whose path he crossed. So it was no surprise that when Peter turned 16, he was ready to lend an arm, starting a family tradition —and a friendly, but fierce, competition — that has continued for nearly two decades.
Peter and James’ good-natured ribbing spurs them on to keep blood donation at the top of their to-do lists. They have responded to the call to give, often going in together, regardless of what is needed on any given day — whole blood, red cells, platelets, and plasma both for transfusion and for plasma-based medicine. Together they have donated a staggering total of 2,375 times, with James meeting the milestone achievement of 1,000 donations and Peter of 1,300 donations early in 2018. And Peter has recently upped the game by becoming a volunteer at BloodSource centers. The willingness of this father-son team to help in any way, along with good humor and easy laughter, bring smiles to staff and donors alike.
LifeServe Blood Center
Des Moines, Iowa
Jim McCullough became a blood donor when he joined the ROTC in college, continuing through his time with the Iowa National Guard and 37 years in the Army. When he retired as a Colonel in 2001, he became a volunteer driver for LifeServe Blood Center. Along with his wife Pat, he’s put in thousands of hours picking up blood from local drives for processing and testing.
When Jim started donating blood, it was because he wanted to do something for others — patients he would likely never know. But over the years, he’s been personally connected to a few of those who have benefited from his generosity — a good friend living with leukemia and his own brother-in-law, who was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis. Jim saw first-hand how transfusions helped them come back to life and enjoy usual activities again. It’s been added incentive to keep rolling up his sleeves, giving blood and getting out on the road.
Beyond his work with LifeServe, Jim is an unsung hero for veterans, volunteering at the Iowa Veterans Hospital and for the Iowa Military Gold Star Museum.
Olivia Shorter and Family
American Red Cross
Greater Chicago and Northern Illinois Region
Olivia Shorter was diagnosed with sickle cell disease when she was just 7 days old. While her condition can be managed, it requires medical care and regular blood transfusions — Olivia receives one as often as every two weeks.
When Olivia was asked what she wanted for her seventh birthday, instead of asking for a gift, she replied, “I want to have a party for kids just like me.” And, as her mom, Danielle has said, “You can’t say no to that!” So, with the help of her parents, older brothers, and a host of family and friends, the first Sickle Cell Awareness party was held in September of 2017. Olivia recalls the day saying, “A lot of people came and donated blood, and a lot of kids had fun. And grownups too.” Danielle agrees that it was a great success, and truly inspiring that so many came to lend their support. “It was humbling. I’m so grateful. And I guess we’ll have to do it again!” The second annual party will be held in September 2018 — as September is not just Olivia’s birthday month, it’s also Sickle Cell Awareness Month.
SunCoast Blood Bank
For more than a decade at Suncoast in Sarasota, Florida, and before that, for many years at a center in New Jersey, Andy Decker has been giving the gift of platelets every two weeks, rain or shine. He’s one of those special people who make recruiters’ jobs so easy and rewarding. More often than not he calls in before they can reach out to him, and his first words on the phone are always, “When do you need me?”
Andy didn’t even let his own health issue interrupt his regular donation schedule for longer than it absolutely had to. About 18 months ago, Andy was diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, his treatments were successful. Andy waited through his one year mandatory deferral, then called the center to set up his next appointment — on the very day that he became eligible to donate. Since then, just like always, he’s been going in every two weeks, right on the dot.
Donors like Andy don’t come back again and again because they feel obligated to — they donate because they have an unconditional love for humanity. Andy brings that with him every time he walks through the center’s door.
Nebraska Community Blood Bank
Pat Yahnke was inspired sixteen years ago to donate blood because of her husband, Ken, a long-time donor. A dedicated supporter of the American Cancer Society — she often drives cancer patients to their medical appointments — Pat recognized that blood donation was another way she could help them.
Today, Pat is an avid double-red cell donor as well as an important part of the Nebraska Community Blood Bank (NCBB) volunteer team, serving in the donor center canteen and at blood drives. Pat loves working with the collections team and meeting new people, especially first time donors who might be a little nervous. With Pat greeting them right after their donation, donors can’t help but feel like heroes. Pat is humble about all that she does, saying, “I just talk to people and hopefully make their blood donation journey a little more enjoyable.” Her warmth, helpful attitude, and fun personality undoubtedly do!
Blood Bank of Hawaii
15 years ago Dustin Guillermo took a phone call for his coworker from the Blood Bank of Hawaii. His colleague — a donor on the center’s Wall of Fame — inspired Dustin’s first donation. It was then that he realized how important blood donors had been in his own life — they had ensured supply was there for his grandfather, who often needed transfusions after weekly dialysis treatments.
Today, Dustin, a universal donor, is regularly at the center. He recently donated his 88th unit of whole blood and is well on become a double-century donor. But beyond that, Dustin has become a donation champion, actively recruiting family and friends through social media (and even strangers driving behind him, as his license plates read “DN8 BLD” and “GIV BLD”). He once noticed a friend on Facebook posting about donation. Dustin thanked her and asked, “What made you donate blood?” Her response was, “You.” She explained that his posts and passion really touched and inspired her to do her part to save lives.
With a new generation of donors like Dustin, the nation’s patients are in good hands.