Katrina drains blood supply but increases donation

by Emily Kaiser

To kick off the third day of Homecoming Week, the American Red Cross will be taking blood donations at Coffman Union today.

This blood drive is one of more than a dozen that occur at the University throughout the year, said Jill Applegate, American Red Cross communications specialist in St. Paul.

Despite a similar blood drive Wednesday at Coffman, appointments to donate today are almost full, Applegate said. The goal is to collect 101 units of blood.

Those who have not made an appointment are welcome to walk in, but there are not many openings, Applegate said.

“You have to be patient if you are walking in,” she said.

Appointments were made online this year to make the process more effective, said Brian Sondag, senior marketing student and homecoming coordinator.

“We really want to try and secure people beforehand because the site goes into details about who can donate,” he said. “We are trying to increase the percentage of those we get a donation from.”

Sondag said disasters like Hurricane Katrina make students more aware of donating.

“There is always a shortage of blood, and catastrophes bring it to the forefront so people start thinking about it,” he said.

The hurricane has slightly impacted the national blood supply, Applegate said.

“The facilities in the affected areas are not able to collect blood, so we support those areas nationally,” she said. “The blood supply is pretty sufficient because donors have been very generous, but in order to keep the supply steady, we need donors now, too.”

The drive is co-sponsored by the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils, which helped promote the event, said Abby Weinandt, strategic communication senior and president of the Panhellenic Council.

“Our main goal is to drive turnout and get the word out to everyone,” she said.

“Students don’t have a lot of money, and it’s a way to do something great for the community and give back,” she said. “All you have to do is show up and be patient.”

Applegate said she encourages students who have never given to make it a habit.

“We like the University, because if we don’t catch first-time donors at the high school drives, this is a good opportunity,” she said. “To get young donors is important because they will hopefully give throughout their lives as long as they are healthy.”

The year’s blood drive is different because student groups and organizations participating in the homecoming competition can earn spirit points for donating or volunteering, Weinandt said.

Teams can earn 10 to 150 points with the blood drive and the team with the most points wins a trophy, Sondag said.

“I know between the greek teams, they take a lot of pride away from it,” he said.

The competition is essentially for fun, but the winners get a lot of bragging rights, Sondag said.