Niles High School hosts blood drive

Published 8:48 am Friday, January 14, 2022

NILES — This week, community members gathered in the Niles High School parking to help save lives, one donation at a time.

The school hosted a blood drive for the South Bend Medical Foundation from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The blood drive was the first of five the district will host as part of National Blood Donation Month. Originally, six drives were scheduled for January, but the first blood drive, scheduled Monday, Jan. 10 at Eastside Elementary, was canceled due to technical difficulties.

Each blood drive will be open to the public, located at the Blood Drive Mobile Van parked at each Niles Community Schools building throughout the month.

A full schedule with blood drive dates, times and locations can be found below:

  • 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14 at Ballard Elementary School, 1601 Chicago Road
  • 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21 at Howard-Ellis Elementary School, 2788 Mannix St.
  • 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24 at Ring Lardner Middle School, 801 N. 17th St.
  • 8 a.m. to noon Friday, Jan. 28 at Niles Administration and Education Center, 2120 20th Place

Donors will receive a free hoodie from the SBMF, and donors who recruit a friend to donate blood will receive a $5 Starbucks gift card.

According to a news release from the district, the number of donors at each building will be recorded, and the school with the most donors at the end of the month will win the Champs Trophy, an award acknowledging the number of volunteers and donations received.

Donors must be at least 17 years old (or 16 years old with parental consent) and weigh at least 110 pounds to donate blood and can sign up at any building and inform the coordinators which school should receive credit for the donation.

“It has been good so far,” said SBMF Blood Donor Recruitment Specialist Mary Ankrapp. “I think the sweatshirts have been helpful in bringing in donors.”

Founded in 1912, SBMF renders pathology diagnoses and blood products to health care organizations throughout the region as an anatomic pathology reference laboratory and blood bank.

Ankrapp is happy to partner with the district for blood donation services.

“It is fantastic,” she said. “We greatly appreciate this partnership and that they have reached out to us. It is very helpful.”

Ankrapp said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made an already strenuous time of year for blood donation services even more challenging. Donors can donate up to six times per year or every 56 days. A would-be donor’s window to donate shrinks if they are forced to quarantine.

“It is a difficult time of year,” she said. “You typically see seasonal flu this time of year and now with COVID on top of that, people are being quarantined due to exposure, contracting COVID and having to wait 14 days to be symptom free or are asymptomatic and have to wait 14 days from their positive result.”

According to Ankrapp, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding donating blood and the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Some thought that if they were vaccinated or unvaccinated, they couldn’t donate,” she said. “That does not matter. If you get vaccinated, you have to wait three days before you can donate. That’s the only condition.”

The U.S. is currently experiencing what the American Red Cross is calling a “national blood crisis.” The organization reported that since March 2020, there has been a 10 percent drop in overall blood donation and a 62 percent decline in college and high school blood drives during the pandemic.

“Right now, we like to have 75 donations per day,” Ankrapp said. “We’ve had days where we might have 25. Then you’re really trying to make up for that. We recently had critical cases at the hospitals. They took a ton of one particular blood type so we had to send out a plea. People respond to them, but it takes a few days to process that blood so there is a gap when that type of blood is needed. It’s the blood stocked on the shelf already that helps save people’s lives.”

Readers interested in donating blood are asked to visit givebloodnow.com to schedule an appointment.

“Don’t wait for us to send out a plea, come in on a regular basis so that we always have a supply available,” Ankrapp said. “If we had every donor donate one extra time, our shortages would be very limited. We’re always looking for new donors. The process is easy to do, and I often have first-time donors say, ‘wow, this was easy. I should have been doing this years ago.’”