by Sue Ann Rybak
Eleven Springside Chestnut Hill Academy students watched tentatively as Nan Parks, a volunteer services assistant at Miller-Keystone Blood Center, explained how they will be assisting phlebotomists at the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Annual Blood Drive on Saturday, Feb. 14, to be held at the academy’s Vare Field House, 8000 Cherokee St. in Chestnut Hill.
The blood drive is held in memory of the late Teresa Garofalo, a friend of CHCA board member and Chestnut Hill resident Liz Bales.
Garofalo died in August 2010 of complications from acute myeloid leukemia, a bone marrow disorder in which abnormal white blood cells accumulate in the bone marrow and prevent the production of normal blood cells.
Bales said when people donate blood they are “literally giving love and life to another person.”
“My best friend received over 400 blood transfusions,” Bales said.
She said that thanks to the blood donated by 400 people, Garofalo was able to live three years longer than her leukemia would have allowed her.
“When it became clear my friend wasn’t going to make it, I asked her what can I do now,” Bales said. “She replied, ‘Do blood drives for the next people who will need it.’ We have been doing this drive for four years and we still haven’t put back what she used.”
Bales said that in February blood donations are critical because supplies are usually down during this month due to weather and illness.
“Sadly, it’s an annual emergency because blood is a perishable product, so they can’t stockpile it for another day,” she said.
Parks told the students that every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.
According to the Miller-Keystone Blood Center website, 40 percent of the population is eligible to donate but only about five percent donate on a yearly basis.
“Donors are extraordinary people who truly are giving the gift of life,” Bales added. “It’s a very special gift. It’s hard because the donor often doesn’t see the end result, but I promise you it’s there and it’s extremely important.”
Ann Keiser, a faculty sponsor for the SCH Service Council, said she decided to encourage students to volunteer at the blood drive because it is a great way for students younger than 17 to still be involved with the blood donation.
“And, I hope that it will encourage students to donate in the future when they reach age 17,” she said.
“We are so proud that 11 members of the Service Council went through the Miller-Keystone Blood Center’s blood drive donation volunteer training, and we hope that this serves as a springboard for these students to organize their own blood drive for sometime in late April.”
Bales said that this is the first year that SCH students are volunteering at the blood drive.
“It’s very special to me,” she said. “They are so enthusiastic and willing to give it a try. It’s really hard to convince someone who is an adult to give it a try. It’s very intimidating, and nobody likes needles. You have to give up your time and you may feel a bit woozy.
“I think it’s hard for people to appreciate the importance of it – if it doesn’t touch your life,” Bales added. “I don’t want anyone to have a bad experience. But having had a loved one who required 400 blood transfusions, I would say that however bad your day is in donating blood, it’s not that bad. You get to go home and you are going to be OK. The people who are receiving the blood, however, would likely die without it.”
She said that the volunteers who come out on Saturday, are helping to create the next generation of donors and philanthropists.
“The special thing about this blood drive is that everyone involved is helping to pass down that spirit of community,” Bales said.
For more information or to donate visit www.GIVEaPINT.org to create your donor profile and schedule an appointment. Use sponsor code 6795 or contact Noreen Spota at the CHCA at 215-248-8810 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.