The New York Blood Center collaborated with Stony Brook University to host a celebration commemorating the 100,002 lives saved through the University’s blood drives.
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, the celebration took place at the Zodiac Gallery in the Charles B. Wang Center and was attended by about 50 students, faculty, New York Blood Center representatives and local legislators.
The celebration began with Yadira Navarro, director of stakeholder relations from the New York Blood Center, who discussed how the collaboration with Stony Brook University aided the center through the pandemic in its “darkest hour.”
She stated how a primary purpose of the celebration was to “give a face and a voice to everyone who played a part in this campaign,” with a leading role being played by Viola Flowers, president of the Student Blood Drive Committee.
Flowers then took the stage and spoke about her efforts in incentivizing both students and organizations on campus to donate blood.
“Our volunteers are our foot soldiers,” Flowers said. She then spoke about founding the Battle of the Blood Donors, which encouraged clubs to compete for the highest amount of blood donations. The Pre-Nursing Society was the first club to be named Lifesaver of the Year.
She also discussed the personal impact that blood donation had on her own life due to two of her family members being diagnosed with leukemia.
“It gave … my family more time with them,” she said.
Kymorah Boddie, the milestone 33,334th donor, commented on the revelation she experienced after donating blood for the first time. Boddie was asked to donate alongside her friend and was nervous at first, as she did not know what donating blood entailed.
“I never realized how much of an impact donating your blood is,” she said. “It opened my eyes on how you are directly impacting people’s lives for the better.”
Later on in the ceremony, Boddie commented that it is fulfilling to be able to donate blood to someone in need. Her donation comes at a time when the Red Cross has seen a 10% decrease in blood donations since 2020.
“I’m for sure going to keep donating because this is a very important thing to do, you’re saving people’s lives at the end of the day,” Boddie said.
Jamie Singh, a blood donor and recipient, followed. She told her story of her first time donating blood 10 years ago and discovering that she was O-negative, otherwise known as the universal blood donor type.
She continued donating blood until August 2021, when after undergoing a minor surgery she started hemorrhaging and required blood donations. The third time that she hemorrhaged, she “fought to stay alive” and needed 12 units of blood to survive.
“After everything that happened to me, I wanted to find a way to give back,” Singh said. “I intend to keep donating as long as I can.”
To those who have donated blood or considered it, she finished her speech by stating, “You can make the single most humanitarian choice. Thank you for giving me another chance at life.”
Tina Kovolisky, director of donor recruitment at the New York Blood Center, praised the University for providing student leaders, such as Flowers, who have “led the charge with 1,500 donations.”
“Thank you for continuing this life-saving mission,” Kovolisky said.
Kovolisky then presented an award to Stony Brook University for its milestone achievement in lives saved, which was accepted by Vice President of Student Affairs Rick Gatteau on the University’s behalf.
In his speech, Gatteau emphasized the importance of giving blood and how it has the ability to save lives, along with how blood drives held at Stony Brook have helped build social ties within the community.
“Partnership makes Stony Brook work,” Gatteau said. “We will continue to make a difference in so many lives.”
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn celebrated Stony Brook and its contributions to the community.
“Stony Brook is the beating heart of this community,” she said.
She elaborated on how “in so many ways, Stony Brook saves lives,” and how donating blood in particular has the power to make living possible after experiencing a traumatic event or to extend the time one has with family and friends.
Councilman Jonathan Kornreich joined her to thank the University for “not just donating blood, but for sharing your knowledge, your vision … you make this community better.”
Kornreich and Hahn then presented the University proclamations to mark the celebration and student Katie Wang was commissioned to create a tapestry that commemorated the event. It will be hung up in the Wang Center.
Retired faculty Joan Dickinson and Kathleen Valerio were also presented with awards for their longstanding efforts within the community and dedication to the University. Valerio, a former advisor to the Student Blood Drive Committee, also works with the radio station WUSB located on Stony Brook’s campus.
“I was really proud to support them for 10 years or so,” Valerio said. “There were so many organizations and facilities on this campus who made this all possible, and we couldn’t have done it without the students.”
She also commented on how donating blood can be a life-changing experience for both the donor and the recipient.
“I was diagnosed very early on with something because I tried to donate blood, there are many personal, wonderful benefits to this — but there is nothing like the feeling that you have contributed to something that saved a life,” Valerio said.
Navarro described how holding these blood drives has affected Stony Brook and the University’s impact in terms of blood donations.
“The entire campus really comes alive when it comes to the blood drive,” Navarro said. “Stony Brook is really known for its excellence academically, but they’ve done just the same with the blood drive campaign.”
On the topic of students who haven’t donated, Navarro stressed how blood donations save lives.
“We barely get enough to meet needs, but we do meet the needs,” Navarro said. “So when you donate blood you’re literally saving a life, and you’re really going to feel so good knowing you made a difference.”
America’s Blood Centers reports that only 3% of eligible people in the United States donate blood each year, while approximately every two seconds someone is in need of blood. The American Red Cross says that 29,000 units of red blood cells are needed daily.
Boddie encourages people to continue to show up and donate their blood at the next blood drive hosted by the University, which will be held on Mar. 8 in the SAC Ballroom.
“Donate, donate, donate,” Boddie said. “It is not hard, it is very easy … you just sit there and they draw your blood. And you even get snacks at the end of it, what’s not to do it?”