By Jalen Coleman, American Red Cross.
Photos by Jalen Coleman
On Tuesday, June 15, Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, Connecticut, had a bustling crowd of people eager to enter the building, however the usual baseball jerseys and gloves were replaced with donor badges and band aids.
This summer, the Hartford Yard Goats teamed up with the American Red Cross, NBC Connecticut and Telemundo Connecticut to host the largest blood drive of the year. If you found yourself in the stadium anytime between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., you could feel a force of goodwill from generous blood donors and it was indeed contagious! Every donor and volunteer had a story to tell of what brought them out there. Stories of loved ones saved from blood transfusions or tragic losses that could have been prevented if the supply was there. Many people knew there was a shortage of blood and came out to help.
From first time donors to those hitting their 90 donation milestone, it was an awe-inspiring experience. I found myself moved speaking with Steve Rodgers, a 72-year-old avid baseball fan. Although Steve found himself unable to donate blood today, he still comes out when he can to try to donate and has found ways to donate other than blood every year. This encapsulates the spirit of the day as we see so many people coming out to just try and help. Steve was also especially excited for this drive because he hails from a loving baseball family, and he wanted to bring his son a Yard Goats ticket (as a thank you, the Yard Goats gave ticket vouchers to an upcoming game).
That same spirit to help was seen in the friendly nature of Mary Powers – a Red Cross volunteer, retired nurse, and current marathoner. After donating blood, people were escorted to the canteen area, where they enjoyed water, juice and snacks as the replenished. At this very station was the diligent and kindhearted Mary who kept an eye on donors. Mary is an inspiring woman who has completed a marathon in each of the 50 states, and she is just as motivated in helping others too like she did as a nurse!
Andrew Worthington started donating at age 23 during his lunch break with his eyes set on a free tuna sandwich. This unforgettable tuna sandwich led Andrew to start donating regularly to help save lives. In fact, that day Andrew celebrated his 85th donation and we’ll be sure to see him again. His message was, “You grow up; you raise a family; you realize that there’s maybe a moment in time where you may need it…there may be a point in time that myself, my family, or someone I know really needs it, and it’s easy.”
After all these amazing stories, I felt as though I couldn’t stand idle as these amazing everyday people took a little time out of their day to donate blood. Feeling inspired by all these wholehearted stories, I signed up on the spot for my first blood donation. Speaking from the perspective of a first-time donor, the process was very smooth, and the staff and volunteers were attentive and genuinely kind people. As I laid on out for about eight minutes with the needle in my arm, I thought about all the amazing people I met. I was above everything just so happy to do my part and try and save lives as they did.
I hope you will join me and sign up to become a blood donor today: www.redcrossblood.org