American Red Cross hosts blood drive at Murray State

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By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor 

The American Red Cross is known to frequently host blood drives at Murray State, but as blood banks reach a “dangerously low” level, the Red Cross and Murray State’s Student Government Association have decided to put incentives in place.

The Red Cross hosted its bi-monthly blood drive in the Curris Center on Thursday and Friday, but the gratification of saving three lives is sometimes not enough for students, said Robert Gomez, senate member of SGA and coordinator of the blood drive.

Gomez, senior from Cicero, Indiana, said he visited 16 restaurants on Tuesday night to ask for coupons to give to blood donors.

“Before when it was ‘save three lives’ they’re like, ‘whatever, I don’t care.’ Now, the people see that they get benefits from it,” he said. “Sadly, that helps them get to donate. I wish that when we say ‘hey, you’re saving three lives,’ that that would be good enough for people but unfortunately that’s not the case.”

Amazon also pitched in and donated a $5 gift card to every donor, and many other local businesses helped out by giving donors 10% off meals or free sides.

Gomez said despite the coupons attracting more people, college kids do understand how important it is to donate. He said last year Murray State won a competition against Austin Peay University with the highest number of blood donors. On Thursday alone, there were a total of 89 blood donors and on Friday, one hour before closing shop, approximately 60 people had donated blood. The wait for walk-ins alone was approximately 45 minutes, sometimes more.

Katherine Alexander, junior from Crofton, Kentucky, donated blood on Friday, which she said was her tenth time. Alexander worked the sign-in table for the first time and said it allowed her to see just how many people wanted to make a difference.

“Working the table was encouraging to me because so many people wanted to donate, or at least stop in and say that they wanted to donate but had studied abroad recently or had any other reason ‘x’ why they couldn’t donate,” she said. “There was an impressive number of freshman student representation, which makes me happy that our newest Racers are quick to help a great cause.”

Though the Red Cross hosts blood drives at a number of universities, churches, hospitals and businesses, Rick Thomas, mobile unit assistant, said the ratio of participation at Murray State was higher compared to other campuses. He attributed the difference to how engaged most Murray State students are.

“Sometimes at the larger universities they’re like “I’m here for what I need to get done and then get outta here,”” he said. “Here, it’s more community-minded and they tend to have a more sensitive mind for what is needed, because blood supply is needed. We can’t even not do a blood drive per day.”

Thomas said the American Red Cross hosts blood drives 365 days a year, including Christmas day and Thanksgiving. He has been working for the Red Cross for almost ten years, the same amount of time blood drives have been hosted at Murray State. He said his own daughter was in dire need of blood when she was diagnosed with cancer, and said his job means a little bit more to him because of it.

“It made a difference about how I feel about my work,” he said. “Like anybody here, they gave a pint of blood, they gave me another day with [my daughter]. They gave [my daughter] another day with her daughter. So there’s a pull in my heart.”

Thomas said although there is no apparent rise or drop in participation, the surge varies depending on which days the blood drive is held and how many people are on campus. For instance, he said the fact that the blood drive was held on a Friday may have caused less people to donate since they are leaving for home for the weekend.

The American Red Cross’ website states less than 38% of people can actually donate blood. Gomez, who said it was his 12th time donating blood, said he implores students to donate for those who want to but can’t because of whatever reason.

“In high school, I was too afraid but I came here and I just decided to conquer my fear. Talking to a lot of people outside, they said, ‘Oh I’m afraid of needles,’ or ‘I don’t want to,’” he said. “You just have to conquer your fear because it’s not that bad. You just have to think it could save someone’s life and you get a $5 gift card so just suck it up for a couple of minutes.”

The Red Cross comes to Murray State approximately every other month, and the next scheduled blood drive dates are Nov. 10 and 11.