This is Part 4 in a four-part series about donating blood and Canadian Blood Services.
Jolene Baker is following in her mom’s footsteps.
At the age of 19, she has already donated blood four times. She’s grown up watching her mom, an avid blood donor, give blood more than 30 times.
“I have family members who have been sick, and they’ve needed blood. And I know others in the world also need blood,” says Baker. “I know it’s important (to donate), and it’s a way for me to help others.”
Daniel Van der Heide, 21, made his second blood donation on Oct. 28 which, according to long-time blood donor Bob Buhler, is the most important donation because “you’ve made a choice to come back.”
“My brother’s fiancée has blood transfusions on a regular basis, and my wife has come pretty close,” says Van der Heide.
He’s already made his next blood donation appointment and says he’ll continue to be a regular donor.
Van der Heide and Baker are exactly the type of people Canadian Blood Services is looking for — young and committed.
Finding young blood donors — those between the ages of 17 and 24 — is one of the top priorities for CBS.
In order to encourage more teenagers to donate, CBS rolled out a program called Young Blood For Life (YBFL) in 2004. The program runs throughout the school year (Sept. 1 to May 31) where CBS educates high school students about the different blood types, and donating blood.
“The program starts to engage people even under (the minimum donor age of) 17 so they can encourage people to donate on their behalf,” says Marcelo Dominguez, CBS communications specialist. “It helps us to recruit donors and new groups such as teachers, fellow students, and families. They get education from the program, and they end up being the people on the ground for CBS so they can educate others.”
Young blood donors count for close to 46 per cent of all new blood donors in Canada, and about one fifth of Canadians who donate on a regular basis (at least once a year) are between the ages of 17 and 24.
“I think the Young Blood For Life program is a contributing factor for sure” in recruiting new blood donors, adds Dominguez.
YBFL recruits student leaders in high schools to advocate for blood donations from other students, teachers, their families, and friends. The goal is to have them donate blood at CBS’s permanent and mobile clinics across the country.
The program has already proved successful.
Since YBFL began in Surrey in 2004 with seven schools and 60 units of donated blood, is has grown to 436 schools nation-wide with 20,534 total units of blood to date.
“Since it piloted in Surrey, it has become more and more popular, and we couldn’t be happier,” says Dominguez.
“Young blood donors play a really important role in our blood system, but we need to focus on recruiting youth as lifelong donors,” he adds.
As people age they end up becoming recipients, so they stop donating and start receiving. That is why it’s so important for CBS to find youth and to get them to be regular donors, says Dominguez.
“The real challenge is retaining donors between the ages of 24 to 40. They donate blood less often than those over 40,” says Dominguez. And the reason behind the drop in that 24-40 age group is that those are the people starting their careers, getting married, and having children, he says.
Chilliwack does not yet have any schools enrolled in the Young Blood For Life program, and CBS wants to see that that change.
“We welcome all secondary schools to join the Young Blood For Life program to encourage young donors to become regular blood donors,” says Nancy Bryan, CBS partnership specialist.
As added incentives, CBS hands out cash prizes to schools and bursaries to students for their efforts in donating blood and recruiting new donors.
Nearly $10,000 in cash prizes is given away annually to schools across the country.
CBS B.C. & Yukon gives out $7,500 in bursaries to individual students each year through its Assignment Saving Lives program, where students who recruit 20 or more blood donors are eligible to win a $500, $1,000 or $1,500 bursary.
Also, the hours that students commit to YBFL count towards their mandatory work experience hours.
With all these added bonuses and educating teenagers that they indeed can save lives, CBS is hoping a keen student at one of Chilliwack’s high schools will take on the challenge for their school.
Update:As of Oct. 16, a total of 328 units of blood had been collected as part of the ‘In Memory of Penny Lett Blood Clinic’ through CBS’s Partners For Life program. The ‘Penny’ team is at a strong 133 members. Congratulations, Chilliwack!
Read more here:
Part 1 • The time to donate blood is now
Column • Blood drive honours Penny Lett