Blood donations typically decline during the winter months due to a variety of reasons, including bad weather, holiday activities, cold/flu season, and, more recently, COVID-19. That’s why four of Arizona’s largest professional sports teams signed up to make a lifesaving assist for hospital patients with a statewide virtual blood drive Jan. 2 – Feb. 28. The Arizona Coyotes (NHL), Phoenix Suns (NBA), Phoenix Mercury (WNBA) and Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) all teamed up to host the Professional Sports Team Blood Donation Challenge, bringing in 516 donations for patients during one of the most important times of the year to increase blood supplies.
COVID-19 continues to impact blood supply
The pandemic has forced the cancellation of more than 18,000 Vitalant blood drives across the U.S., with more than 2,600 of those in Arizona alone. This has resulted in a total of nearly 467,000 uncollected blood donations. Virtual blood drives have become an important tool to help make up this shortfall. In the four months since Vitalant launched the virtual blood drive program, nearly 5,000 blood donations have been collected through virtual drives.
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Sports teams have also felt the punch of COVID, with the uncertain future of their seasons and the limited ability to invite fans to their games. Vitalant’s virtual blood drive program provided an opportunity to engage Arizona sports fans everywhere by inviting them to pledge their blood donation in the name of their favorite team. After pledging online, donors were automatically redirected to Vitalant’s scheduling site where they could easily make an appointment in the name of their team at any Arizona blood drive or donation center across the state.
Professional teams step up to help
Several teams stepped up their support by hosting community blood drives at their sports arenas, which provided the crucial larger space to safely accommodate hundreds of blood donors. In appreciation for coming to donate, the teams offered raffle items for donors. With thousands of fans on their email lists and social media platforms, it was easy to educate the public about the need for lifesaving blood donations to support patient transfusions.
Virtual blood drives have become a great way to bring together and engage various groups with a common theme, such as sports, first responders, businesses or schools. And this “new way” of hosting a blood drive during the pandemic serves as a testament of our collective perseverance, ingenuity and strong desire to support patients who depend on lifesaving blood.