Janine Schaefer, a volunteer on the Roosevelt Island Residents Association’s (RIRA) Social, Cultural & Events committee is the chair of this year's Blood Drive, that takes place on Roosevelt Island Day, June 8.
The Blood Drive was started by former RIRA President, Matthew Katz, in the deep winter of 2002, just after – and in response to – the 9/11 attacks. The next year the organizers tied the drive to Roosevelt Island Day, in line with that day’s theme of service to the community and there has been a blood drive on every Roosevelt Island Day ever since.
Every Saturday from now through Roosevelt Island Day, volunteers will be outside at the Farmer’s Market, in Good Shepherd Plaza, between 9:00 and 2:30pm signing up people up to donate blood. You can also make an appointment online. RISA will be hosting the drive itself which will take place on June 8 at 546 Main Street, inside the Senior Center.
Schaefer, who considers the blood drive a “life saving” event is working alongside the New York Blood Center (NYBC) to reverse a significant downward decline in blood donors over the last ten years.
New data shared by the NYBC demonstrates that the number of red blood cell donors has dropped from 270,501 in 2010 to 185,856 in 2019, marking a 31 percent decrease. Right now, blood supplies have reached critical lows, with all blood types dipping well below a seven-day reserve, including a one- to two-day supply of O- and B-. NYBC typically tries to maintain a seven-day reserve to ensure all patients and hospitals can access the blood they need.
They urge New Yorkers and residents from surrounding areas to become regular blood donors to help replenish the region’s blood supply. Andrea Cefarelli, a Senior Executive Director of Donor Recruitment & Marketing at NYBC, said, “While the number of blood donors has declined over the years, the desperate need for blood among patients and hospitals has not. We urge all New Yorkers to find a convenient blood drive or donor center to donate in the coming weeks.”
It only takes one hour to donate, and a single donation can be used to save multiple lives. Nearly 2,000 donations are needed each day in New York and New Jersey alone. About one in seven hospital admissions requires a blood transfusion, and with a limited shelf life, supplies must be continually replenished.
Those in need include: cancer patients, accident, burn, or trauma victims, newborn babies and their mothers, transplant recipients, surgery patients, chronically transfused patients suffering from sickle cell disease or thalassemia, and many more. Donors with O-negative blood type, or “universal donors,” are especially encouraged to attend, as their blood can be used in emergencies.
That first blood drive was held by RIRA and the Icla da Silva Foundation.The goal was 100 pints of blood and Island merchants gave out incentives to donors, including a milkshake from Trellis (now known as NISI) and a can of tennis balls from the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. Ultimately they collected 63 pints.
In 2017, project lead Sherie Helstien said, “Our efforts paid off big-time with a total of 50 pints donated, resulting from approximately 90 donor cards completed over four Saturdays, and with 72 actual walk-ins!
The Island has many hurdles to clear before we get a viable donor: we have many elderly, a lot of world travelers, people on various medications, and those who have conditions which prevent them from being allowed to donate – either temporarily or permanently. So, again, Bravo! Magnifico!”
Last year, 36 pints were collected. 85 people who signed up in advance with appointments and 56 potential donors actually presented themselves to donate. Out of the 56, there were 21 deferrals (those unable to donate that day). Out of those, 34 whole blood pints were collected along with one double red donation (equivalent to two pints), bringing the total blood donations to 36 pints.