The more things change …

…. the more they stay the same.

That’s a spot-on adage when we consider fulfilling our Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

For example, one hundred years ago Junior Red Cross volunteers in Duluth made care packages for World War I veterans overseas.

This year our Service to the Armed Forces volunteers will distribute donated socks to veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Donated socks ready for distribution to military veterans in nursing homes. Photo by Jennifer Landeros

There are more examples and yet, whatever the year of the new year, the basics of life remain the same.

People need shelter, food and clothing. People need blood and blood products. People need to reach loved ones during emergencies.

The Red Cross helps meet these and other basic needs within the context of being impartial and neutral, of empowering volunteer service, and keeping an eye on preserving and promoting human dignity in all of our work.

With those thoughts in mind, this year we encourage you to look to the stars while keeping your feet on the ground. Make a regular commitment to:

  • supporting people affected by disasters
  • providing safe lifesaving blood and blood products
  • helping military members of our armed forces and their families
  • being trained in life-saving skills for emergency response
  • giving resources that help neighbors around the world

This quiz will help you choose which action is best for you.

Story by Lynette Nyman — pictured above last year with women living in Bangladesh in camps for people who have fled violence in Myanmar.  

Be a holiday hero at the 6th annual 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive on Dec. 20

The arrival of the holiday season often means spending time and exchanging gifts with family and friends. But what if the gift you needed couldn’t be bought? For patients like Mike McMahon, the generosity of blood donations was the perfect gift and didn’t cost anything other than a bit of someone’s time.

Following a tragic tree felling accident on Nov. 10, 2016, McMahon, a Stillwater, Minnesota resident, suffered life-threatening injuries. He needed 11 units of blood during emergency surgery to keep him alive.

He spent the next six weeks in the intensive care unit and inpatient rehab, including three weeks during which he had to be intubated as he was unable to breathe on his own.

During his hospital stay, he also experienced an ulcer on a major artery in his intestines. The ulcer was so severe that he needed an additional seven units of blood and the artery was coiled to stop the hemorrhaging.

Mike McMahon

“I remember clearly as my nurse hooked me up to the first bag of blood,” said McMahon. “The thought of blood passing through another person’s heart and now into me, to keep me alive, was very emotional. From the first pint to the last, each one was equally moving.”

McMahon was told that he might not be able to do a lot of things ever again – his future was uncertain. However, just a few days before Christmas he was released from the hospital.

McMahon is thankful for blood donors and credits blood donation with helping save his life. “I’m grateful for the donors who gave me such an amazing gift – to spend Christmas and more holidays with my family. I was an occasional blood donor before the accident – today I donate as often as I can to help ensure others receive the same gift of life.”

You can give patients like McMahon more time and memories this holiday season by donating blood at the American Red Cross 6th annual 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive at Inwood Oaks in Oakdale, Minnesota. As a special thanks, all who come to give will be treated to free parking, complimentary gift wrapping, a special gift bag, a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, and holiday food and entertainment and will be automatically entered into hourly prize drawings including grand prizes – a large flat panel TV and a HP laptop computer.

To make an appointment to give blood at the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive, donors can click here or use sponsor code 12 hours on the Red Cross Blood Donor App, online at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

We hope to see you at the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive. Happy holidays from your friends at the Red Cross!

Story and photo by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross

Red Cross blood drives every day at State Fair

Come late Summer, all roads for Minnesotans lead to the State Fair.

Red Cross is continuing its decade-long blood drive tradition at the Minnesota State Fair. The goal is to collect 100 units of blood every day of the 12-day event. One unit of blood can potentially save three people’s lives.

Why the State Fair?

Many fair-goers now notice for the stand-out bloodmobile for what has now become for some an “annual State Fair family blood donation tradition,” says Sue Thesenga, Communications Manager for the American Red Cross North Central Blood Services, covering a region with all of Minnesota and parts of Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Each such blood donation is coupled with a beautiful backstory says Sue, who recounts one such story of two friends who had never donated before decided to give together when they saw the Red Cross bloodmobile outside the Agriculture and Horticulture Building. Last year they were back to have their engagement photo taken next to the bloodmobile. Turns out, he was just her type!

The couple has given blood together twice since that first State Fair date, including a donation the day after they were engaged. They say it’s a fun way to celebrate, says Sue.

There are many similar stories of like one of a mother and daughter who have made it their annual fun activity together.  There are some who have had perfect attendance, having not missed a single State Fair blood drive.

It seems donating blood at the State Fair goes hand-in-hand with cookies, cheese-curds and corn-dogs.

Story by Sohini Sarkar, American Red Cross

Centennial blood drive honors those who serve

On June 26, 2017, American Red Cross Minnesota Region board members sponsored a blood drive celebrating a century of service in Minnesota. The drive honored men and women in uniform who serve our communities. It came at a critical time: during the summer months when blood donations decline. 87 pints of blood were collected at this drive, helping the Red Cross continue supplying hospitals with blood so patients can receive treatment they need. Below, we share stories about some who helped make this lifesaving blood drive a success.

Laura Antelman is an assistant at a rehab facility. She’s pictured here with Coco, who’s being trained as a service dog at PawPADs (Pawsitive Perspectives Assistance Dogs). While service dogs aren’t therapy dogs, they have the same gentle demeanor and help calm people who are afraid of giving blood. Coco did a wonderful job helping people relax, and she got along very well with Laura.

 

Gene Olesen (pictured left) has donated more than 20 gallons of blood over the past 50 years. He’s been married to Nancy (also pictured), of 48 years. Nancy came with Gene to the drive to donate and to have a lunch date! Less than 7% of the world’s population has Type A negative blood, and Gene is one of them. He says his main reason for donating is to help cancer patients. And despite moving across the country he has continued to donate – from St. Paul to California, and from California to Wisconsin.

Sophia Sexton (far left in photo with friends) is the daughter of Red Cross board member Amy Rolando. It was Sophia’s first blood donation, and she brought 16 of her friends with her. Thank you to Sophia for all the lives she helped save.

 

Lisa Bardon, the regional accounts manager for the North Central Blood Services Region, shares a caring moment with her husband, Al Wivell (pictured left with Lisa). They both donated blood.

 

Several donors came in uniform to roll up a sleeve, including Officer Mike Harcey from the St. Louis Park Police Department (pictured left), a first-time donor. He said, “I’ve always wanted to give blood and never made the time. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do it.”

A special thanks goes out to all board members who helped recruit blood donors or helped with the centennial drive. These board members truly demonstrated the Red Cross mission with their hard work. Pictured below, left to right: Amy Rolando, Phil Hansen, Minde Frederick, Jan Hallstrom, Lani Jordan, Joan Purrington, incoming board member Ole Hovde, and Dave Adriansen.

You can help, too
The Red Cross is facing a critical blood shortage this summer and has issued an emergency call for eligible blood and platelet donors of all blood types to roll up a sleeve now to help save lives. Blood donations are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, and more donations are needed now to replenish the supply.

  • Click here to find a blood drive near you
  • Use the Blood Donor App, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to schedule your blood or platelet donation appointment
  • Encourage friends, family members and your social networks to make an appointment to donate blood or platelets this summer

Story and photos by Meha Jain, Communications & International Services Intern for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region

Hey, Red Cross bloodmobile, you’ve come a long way baby!

Story by Sue Thesenga of North Central Blood Services and
Abby Arthaud 
of Southwest Blood Services Region 

Red Cross blood truck, ca. 1940s. Image: University of Minnesota

You’ve probably seen one rolling down the road or through your town on its way to a blood drive — an American Red Cross bloodmobile. They allow blood drive organizers to host drives anywhere, making it more convenient for donors to give near home, work or school.

A self-contained bloodmobile from 1957. Among the first in the nation, it was paid for by the St. Paul Masonic Women.

Throughout the years, Red Cross bloodmobiles have changed, but their mission has stayed the same—to help fulfill the need for blood donations.

As far back as WWII and the Korean War, requests for blood for the armed forces reached St. Paul and donated blood was included in air shipments overseas. The successful efforts of collection centers throughout the war spurred calls from the nation’s hospitals and other medical facilities for an ongoing civilian blood program.

Train bloodmobile

In January 1949, the first mobile operation from the St. Paul Blood Center was deployed to North Branch, Minnesota. This was one of the first self-contained, traveling blood donation centers and transformed blood collection. Another bloodmobile was put into operation in the St. Paul region in 1950 to help serve 32 additional counties. Since then, self-contained bloodmobiles have been adopted across the nation and world.

American Red Cross bloodmobile of today

Today’s bloodmobiles are fully equipped for blood collection and short-term blood storage, featuring open floor plans, climate control, advanced technology and spacious interiors. They are designed to be more comfortable and enhance the donor experience. The newest bloodmobiles include special features for donors, such as iPads on each donor bed with all of the Red Cross apps and an LCD billboard on the exterior that tells passersby which blood types are currently most needed.

Today’s bloodmobile interior

Bloodmobiles travel all over the state every day to fulfill the constant need for blood. From planes, trains and bloodmobiles, the mission of the Red Cross is to ensure patients get the blood products they need wherever they need them, whenever they need them. Some things never change!

Help us celebrate 100 years of Red Cross service in Minnesota. Click here to find a blood drive near you. Click here to share your Red Cross story. 

#JoasStrong blood drive raises awareness for need

On March 8, MHC Software in Burnsville, Minn., hosted the #JoasStrong blood drive, collecting 41 pints of blood in honor of employee Bryan Joas. While riding a bicycle home from work on March 8, 2016, Bryan was hit by a car that fled the scene of the accident. The accident left him with life-threatening injuries that required 12 surgeries during his 88-day hospital stay. During this time, he received at least 35 units of blood and 11 units of platelets to help save his life. Now, Bryan and his wife Shauna are dedicated to raising awareness about the need for blood donation. You never know when you or someone you love will need blood, says Bryan. “Without lifesaving blood, my condition might be very different. I’m living proof that blood helps save lives.”

Bryan and wife Shauna were blood donors before the accident. And once they even went on a blood donation date! Although Bryan has some ongoing medical issues, he’s working full-time and looking forward to riding his bicycle again this spring and summer. Although unable to donate blood right now, hopes that he will be able to in the future. “I’m just a cheerleader right now, but I hope to be able to donate in the future,” he says. Bryan’s story is a testimony that blood on the shelves help save lives. Thanks to all people working to ensure that the Red Cross is able to support a stable blood supply for hospitals and patients we serve.

To help ensure a sufficient supply for patients, make an appointment to give now at rcblood.org/2nqkmU8. Click here to learn about hosting an American Red Cross blood drive; or contact Mary Pucel, Donor Recruitment Director, at mary.pucel@redcross.org or 651-291-3366.

Story and photo by Sue Thesenga, American Red Cross North Central Blood Services

Raising Awareness One Step at a Time – 2016 Run for Blood

2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross

Story by Jonathan Yoon

On July 23, 2016, the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, in sponsorship with Smiths Medical, held its 8th annual Run for Blood 5K at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

Considering there was a slight chance of rain throughout the duration of the race, the attendance of nearly 300 people was a great turnout this year. The 2016 Run for Blood proved to be everything but ordinary. Food carts, music, dance groups, and various stands were all a part of the event, but there was something even more important to the race.

Patrick Henry High School Step Team, 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross
Patrick Henry High School Step Team, 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross

While the Run for Blood 5K might be about getting to the end of the line with family, friends, or solo, little do people know of the impact this run and walk event has on the surrounding community. Right now, someone in the United States needs blood or platelets every two seconds. With the donation van onsite, many runners were able to give lifesaving blood and race proceeds to over 108 hospitals in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Iowa. This race was and continues to be a great way for families, friends and coworkers to rally together and raise awareness for the need for blood.

Race and walk start, 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross
Race and walk start, 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross

At 8:30 a.m., the runners and walkers began lining up at the start line, getting ready to show their physical stamina, strength, or a mix of both. In addition to the number of solo runners, the race would not have been as exciting without the various teams. Such teams included “Faster than Disaster” to “Walking Disasters.” While some groups may have been an understatement of their actual pace, everyone found one way or another to enjoy the 3.10 miles of the race around Lake Calhoun. It was encouraging to see people of all ages and size willing to come together and strive towards the Run for Blood ultimate mission: raising awareness for the never-ending need of blood.

Walkers, too, during the 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross
Walkers, too, during the 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross

A number of thank you letters go out to a number of people. First and foremost, this race would not have been as athletic or competitive without the runners who gave some of their money to donate for a better cause and run or walk the five kilometers. Second, the sponsors, including presenting sponsor Smiths Medical, and hydration station sponsor Culligan, and tech T-shirt sponsor Western National Insurance, that helped fund the raise, continue to make these events happen. And, great thanks to the event volunteers! No matter the level of importance, the American Red Cross 2016 Run for Blood could not have happened without you and we are incredibly grateful for your work.

Volunteers and staff, 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Carrie Carlson-Guest/American Red Cross
Volunteers and staff, 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Carrie Carlson-Guest/American Red Cross

While some of you were unable to attend this event, there are always different ways in how you can aid this blood shortage going on. There are four American Red Cross donation centers within the Twin Cities and all you need to do is schedule an appointment. Maybe the next time you hear the phrase, “Ready, Set, Go” you’ll think of a different phrase: Ready, Set, Donate by signing up for the 2017 Run for Blood 5K next summer!

Tech T-shirt, 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross
Tech T-shirt, 2016 Run for Blood, Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross