Though Harvard might have won this year’s Game, students, staff and faculty who lined up to donate blood yesterday aimed to start a new winning tradition at Yale.

Monday marked the start of the first annual Harvard-Yale blood drive challenge. Jenny Zhang ’06, the chair of the American Red Cross at Yale, said that while 300 to 350 students usually sign up for each of the club’s biannual blood drives, 520 students have signed up so far. The drive, which will run until Thursday at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, will help alleviate the “dire” need for blood in Southern Connecticut hospitals, and leukopack donations will play a crucial role in meeting this need.

Zhang said that the idea for the Yale-Harvard blood drive came from Yale’s liaison to the Red Cross and Red Cross employee Melissa Rossi.

“When she was in college, her school competed in an annual blood drive competition that resulted in hundreds of units of blood being collected each time,” Zhang said.

Although Zhang said she believes that the competition aspect of the blood drive is “crucial” in motivating students to donate blood, she feels there is no serious animosity between the two schools.

“This is above all a friendly competition to collect blood for people in need,” Zhang said.

Bevan Dowd ’08, who was registering donors, said she noticed a swell in the number of donors this semester compared to last semester. Dowd said another possible reason for the increase is the raffling-off of two Palm PDAs at the end of the drive.

As students, faculty and staff gathered in the drive’s waiting room Monday morning, they were given reading material outlining the process of giving blood. They were then asked to provide a detailed medical history, Red Cross employee Amy Griffin said.

Not all of the students that sign up, however, are allowed to donate blood. Griffin said that travel abroad within the last year and low levels of iron in the blood are two common reasons why students are rejected. Also, some students who register for an appointment never show up to give.

Donors are asked to give a pint of blood and must wait at least 56 days before donating again. After giving blood, donors were allowed to recover and were monitored by staff in a separate waiting room called the “canteen.”

Those who were giving blood Monday said the competitive nature of the drive was not their sole motivation.

Although Jeremy Ershow ’06 said he believes that the incentives provided by the Red Cross are “nice little gimmicks,” he would donate blood anyway.

“There are two reasons why I donate blood,” Ershow said. “If I needed blood myself I would be horrified if there wasn’t any for me. Secondly, it’s a really easy way to help people and do a good thing.”

Emily Runde ’05, said that while the drive “appeals to people’s competitive spirit,” she would also give blood regardless of the competition.

Runde said she is not sure why more of her peers do not step forward and donate.

“I’m not really sure,” she said. “I think they possibly are not sure of what the process involves.”

Harvard’s blood drive will begin this Thursday and will end next week. At that time the winner will be determined. Zhang said that while there is no tangible prize, if Yale brings in more blood than Harvard, it will be able to finally dispel the notion that it is “second-best.”

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