High schools play blood sports for donor trophies

Students Jake Basinger, left, and Briana Sawyer donate blood in the St. Mary’s Bloodmobile, which was parked at Fruita Monument High School. St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center travels to 29 high schools across the Western Slope, said Sherri Burns, a center spokeswoman.

Fruita Monument Wildcats drew blood Monday in the home stretch of an annual competition that pits area high schools against each other for trophies in a race to save lives.

It was the second round of blood draws for the Wildcats, who tallied 82 donors during the first round in the fall, said Vanessa Hayward, a Fruita Monument teacher who helps sponsor the drive.

Hayward said she has no trouble recruiting students old enough to donate. Students 16 years of age and older can take part so long as a parent consents, she said.

Talk about blood sports.

“They all understand lives are at stake,” Hayward said.

In all, St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center travels to 29 high schools across the Western Slope and manages to stick about 1,500 donors, said Sherri Burns, a spokeswoman for the center.

“We started the competition in 2009 with the hopes of raising awareness of the importance of blood donation while making it fun,” Burns said.  “It’s so important to educate youth about blood donation so that they continue to donate throughout their life no matter where they live.”

During the 2012-2013 academic year, Palisade High School won both trophies, the first for the largest single blood drive and the other for the most participation throughout the year, she said.

The Bulldogs hosted the largest blood drive last year, with 103 students taking part in a single event. Palisade High also saw the greatest participation of any area high school, with 41 percent of the junior and senior classes taking part, said Dave Carlo, a Palisade High teacher who helps sponsor that school’s drive.

Palisade is determined to keep both trophies while the other schools are determined to take them away, Burns said. 

Grand Junction High School hosted three blood drives this year in hopes of winning a trophy, said David Bennett, a Grand Junction High School teacher who helps sponsor that school’s blood drives.

Trey Downey, a teacher at Central High School who helps sponsor that school’s event, said 58 students turned out for the fall drive. He said he expects an even better response when the Warriors host a second round April 29.

“The students at each school really take a lot of pride in helping others by donating blood,” Burns said.

“They are learning what a superhero is and how they can contribute to their community in such a positive, life-altering way.”

With some events still to be completed, the tally so far this year looks like this, she said: 

Grand Junction High School

Fall Blood Drive, 92 students

Winter Blood Drive, 52 students

Fruita Monument High School

Fall Blood Drive, 82 students

Central High School

Fall Blood Drive, 58 students

Palisade High School

Fall Blood Drive, 104 students

Winter Blood Drive, 93 students

“People think of donating when there’s an accident or emergency, but all communities need blood donors all the time,” said Jill Breman, donor recruiter at the St. Mary’s center.

“We need a constant supply to be sure we’re ready when it’s needed.”

Only 5 percent of Americans who are able to give blood actually do give blood, Breman said.

Organ transplant recipients, accident victims and people with cancer and other diseases across the U.S. need about 39,000 units of blood every day, according to the Association of Donor Recruitment Professionals.

Because St. Mary’s Hospital is the only Level II Trauma Center on the Western Slope, patients with the most serious injuries from across the region are brought here.

Individuals with serious injuries from a major automobile accident can require 50 pints of blood or more, according to the American Red Cross.

Seriously burned patients can require 20 units or more.

To keep up with demand, St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center collects, stores and distributes about 15,000 units a year, Breman said.

Blood products are currently in good supply thanks to donors like the hundreds of area high school students who are stepping forward to do their part, she said.

Blood from St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center helps people across western Colorado and eastern Utah.

In addition to serving St. Mary’s trauma, surgical and cancer patients, the center provides the blood needed at most of the region’s rural hospitals.


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