AFE survivor, grateful blood donor recipient and nurse shares her story and how she planned a replenishment blood drive for her son’s first birthday.
Like most of you reading this, when you live through a near death experience, you have a new perspective on life. You have been given a “second chance” and want to make the most of it. Others who have lost a loved one want to make a difference in honor and celebration of their loved ones life by pursuing any means to prevent others from experiencing such loss. Heidi Wills once quoted “we can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world.”
But, where do you start? I’ll share with you my experience and who I believe was the driving factor behind the success.
My work was having a blood drive and I was eager to participate. I attempted to donate only to be turned down after discovering you had to wait a year after a blood transfusion to safely donate. It had only been 6 months since my last transfusion, that near fatal day when my son was born. When I got home I pulled up the blood drive website to find out the full donation eligibility so I would be ready next time the opportunity arose. While on the site, I saw a link for hosting your own community blood drive. I recalled the social media post I saw of another AFE survivor who hosted a blood drive. I thought perhaps this is something I could do for my sons first birthday celebration. I prayed about it and then emailed the contact for the blood drive asking for further information as this was something I had no experience in.
With a timely response, the planning process had begun for the event, “this was really happening” I thought. The coordinator first asked if I wanted to support a blood drive in the area that was already scheduled. I declined and responded how I was confident we could get enough donors to support our own drive. She wanted a list of interested donors first before moving ahead. So, I sent out individual and personal messages to all my friends, family, and ANY other contacts I had. Within one day, I had over 50 people respond with stated interest. “I have never given blood before, but for you, Emily, I’ll give it a try” some would say. I reported back to the coordinator and she said she’s never received so many responses so quickly.
In the process, I found that others really want to support others, give back and that personal touch was key. I had a specific venue in mind for the blood drive celebration but I did not think it would be an affordable option. My coordinator approached the venue and they fully donated the space to us, mind you, this would have been hundreds of dollars to rent. I think it helped that I wanted the blood drive on a Sunday morning where it wasn’t high demand for the rental space.
As it got closer, it was apparent how expensive this was going to be to feed everyone amongst other costs. My coordinator suggested contacting local places for donations which I hadn’t thought of. My suggestion is to do this well in advance of your event. As I researched online, most sites have a link to request donations, however most didn’t consider requests within 6 weeks of your event date. I was so grateful when I received donations for the breakfast requests I had from a local Kwik Trip. I still wanted to offer lunch options as the event went until 2pm. I was hopeful to provide pizza for the event and I remembered a new Mod Pizza store had just opened in town. There wasn’t a donation request on their website so I drove myself there and asked for the general manager. By the way, I am a very timid person so this was not comfortable for me. I told the manager how I was hosting a community blood drive after my birth experience and shared the flier with him. He was eager to donate for the blood drive stating “I’ve been looking for ways to support the community” and was thanking me. Thanking me? The way people gave with open hands was so amazing.
My other goal of this celebration was to raise awareness for AFE and support the AFE foundation. I had a vision of everyone at the blood drive event wearing #endAFE shirts. I contacted a couple local screen printing companies with my request. I was able to get shirts made for about $8 and sold them for $12, with any proceeds going to the AFE foundation. I posted a video on Facebook sharing some statistics about AFE and why I wanted to support the AFE foundation. I included a link with the shirt order and began receiving orders. The video had over 3,000 views, I can’t think of a more efficient way to get the information out there. I made a goal to sell 100 shirts to make it worth my efforts, and guess how many were sold, 100. I thanked God for blessing my efforts. I included a personal card in each shirt bag thanking them for their shirt order and talking about the AFE foundation they supported.
I created a display table at the blood drive event to highlight the AFE foundation. The posters were meant to inform and influence them to support the mission of the AFE foundation. I put out a donation box and was surprised to find a generous amount in it after the event.
The blood drive was in August, which happens to be the ‘slow season’ for donors. There is a great need for blood then which I didn’t realize at the time and my coordinator suggested I apply for a grant supplied by the blood drive that is only offered at that time of year. I applied, it was quick and easy to submit, and we were granted $10 for each donor for the non-profit of my choice. It was an unexpected and easy way to support the AFE foundation even more.
I continued to reach out to everyone until all my efforts were exhausted to fill the blood drive appointments. The blood drive collected 50 units of blood products (I emotionally was able to be one of the donors) with 31 people who were first time donors. Over $1,000 was raised for the AFE foundation and there is increased awareness about AFE because of it. My friends and family continue to wear their #endAFE shirts around and share my story. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” Ephes 3:20. Leading up to the event and the day itself was far more great than I could have ever imagined. I was just in awe of the love and support that surrounded us.
“It really is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35. The word blessed sums up the feeling I had from the event. Blessed with the giving of life by blood donations, everything that was given to make the event successful, and the financial gifts towards the AFE Foundation.
Ultimately, I trusted God with the plans and prayed a lot through the process. I know that the success of the event wasn’t from my efforts alone but with His help. “My value and significance come from a humble dependence on God.” 1 Peter 5:5
May all your efforts be blessed as you seek to find ways to make a difference in this world. If you are ready to begin planning a blood drive, be sure to download the AFE Foundation Blood Drive Toolkit.
Hugs, Emily Scharrer