Blood drive a universal win

Three months after the Bulldogs’ victory on the football field, Yalies also triumphed in a more charitable pursuit: the third annual Harvard-Yale blood drive challenge.

During the drive, which lasted from Feb. 5 to 8, the American Red Cross at Yale collected 319 pints of blood, setting a new record for Yalies’ blood drive efforts. The Harvard Blood Drive, which won the challenge last year, collected 232 pints. This year, the ARCY joined forces for the first time with Students Against Cancer, registering all blood donors for a bone marrow donor database.

Brenda Wagner, the ARCY’s liaison with the Red Cross, applauded the Yalies’ drive and determination, saying that the organization did “a phenomenal job.”

This is the third consecutive year in which Yalies collected more blood than their Harvard counterparts. Harvard collected 279 pints last year to Yale’s 294, but because the Yale contest ran five hours longer, Harvard’s final score was scaled upward to compensate.

Andrei Javier ’08, vice president of ARCY, credits this year’s success to greater publicity. The group ramped up its postering efforts to raise awareness and enthusiasm for the drive. Javier said their efforts were so successful that the organizers actually had to turn away some would-be donors — something of a bittersweet triumph.

Next year the organization plans to seek a bigger venue than the Payne Whitney Gymnasium in order to accommodate a greater number of beds and require less of a wait, she said.

Although the ARCY organizers lured students with iPod giveaways and gift certificates to shops like J. Crew, Javier said, she believes that most students who donated did so out of a sense of charity. She said students seemed to recognize that “for a moment of discomfort, you can save lives.”

Chidimma Osigwe ’09, who donated blood in this year’s contest, echoed Javier’s sentiments. Osigwe said she gave blood “because it’s the right thing to do. And I wanted to get over my fear of needles.”

Javier said she believes the fear of needles and pain what deters many students from donating. But students ought not worry, she said, as the fingertip pinprick that staffers use to test potential donors’ iron levels hurts more than the actual drawing of blood.

Donated blood is typically separated into three components — plasma, platelets and red cells — so each pint of blood donated could go on to save three lives. The 551 pints that Harvard and Yale collected in total have the potential to aid more than 1,500 people.

Wagner noted that efforts such as the Harvard-Yale blood drive are particularly important in the winter, when the bad weather and illness tend to deter other potential donors.

Harvard junior Allen Pope, co-director of the Harvard Blood Drive, said bad weather played a part in Harvard’s loss. Harvard’s drive, held the week after Yale’s, saw fewer walk-ins than anticipated because of an icy Wednesday and Thursday, he said.

Despite the focus on Harvard-Yale competition, Javier and Pope agree the rivalry plays only a small role in why students choose to donate. Victory might be sweet — and seeing the Harvard dean decked out in Yale gear, the contest’s traditional reward, might be fun — but both the ARCY and their Harvard counterparts look past the short-term contest to their long-range ideals.

“Obviously, we were disappointed with the outcome of the drive,” Pope said. “But, at the end of the day, we are all just happy that we were able to get people to donate blood, regardless of their university affiliation, and come together to try to help save some lives.”

Blood donated at Yale could be distributed to any of 31 area hospitals, Wagner said.

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