Key Club’s Biannual Blood Drive Goes Virtual


Image courtesy of State High Key Club

State High Key Club posted this statistic on their Instagram story (@sckeyclub6) on November 25th. Each day since the start of their virtual blood drive, they have been reminding their followers how many days are left to register and featuring one of their members or a blood donation fact to spread the word about their initiative.

Sophia Bills, Staff Writer

This winter, State High Key Club’s biannual tradition of hosting a blood drive continues, but with a twist. Instead of organizing their usual American Red Cross blood drive in the high school, Key Club worked with the humanitarian organization to hold a virtual one. The Red Cross’ nationwide Donor Recruitment Team came up with the idea of a virtual blood drive in response to the limitations brought on by COVID-19. It was important to them to find a way to include students in blood donation, even though it would require some outside-of-the-box thinking this year, because the need for blood remains – pandemic or not – and the local Red Cross relies greatly on high school and Penn State blood drives for their supply.

Key Club’s virtual blood drive prompts donors to go to a registration link where they can sign up for a blood donation appointment with the Red Cross that works for them. To support Key Club, donors must register with the club’s unique link, which is active from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, 2020. They can schedule their donation for any time and any location where a Red Cross blood drive is taking place, including outside of State College. Their appointment does not even have to take place during the 30-day time period (it only has to be made before Dec. 15) which allows for anyone with a busy schedule to find time to donate. This flexible blood drive opportunity because it adapts to present circumstances, allowing blood supply needs to be met so that the Red Cross can continue their life-saving work.

Laura Merritt, the Account Manager in Donor Recruitment at the local Red Cross and Key Club’s liaison with the organization, loves the virtual blood drive concept and has wanted to do something like it for a long time. 

“I think it’s really, really great that we can have the students kind of go out and recruit and then get them to go to a blood drive of their convenience […] because it’s not just one single day, it’s whenever they can make it. So I think it’s a great idea,” Merritt said. 

Merritt is also glad about the opportunities for community outreach that a virtual blood drive provides for Key Club.

“I think it’s neat that [Key Club] can sort of work on this project or this idea of, how do we now get the word out to the community? […] How can we expand the message? Because any time we can educate, and recruit, and promote, and explain to people why this is so important, is a win. So I love the idea of not only are we promoting it within the school, and getting the students to do something, [but] we’re expanding out, so any time we can do that is awesome,” Merritt stated.

Additionally, she is grateful that State High Key Club is continuing to support blood donation this year because the club’s usual blood drive collects 150 units of blood annually which the Red Cross would not otherwise receive.

“In this area, we collect about 30 % of our blood from high schools and colleges,” Merritt added, illustrating the importance of periodical school blood drives such as Key Club’s.

Knowing the value of her club’s biannual drive and wanting to be able to serve the community in a time when help was needed the most, senior Amal Inam, Key Club president, was thrilled to be able to hold a virtual blood drive. She sees it as a great way to promote blood donation in the community, even when there is no pandemic. 

“You can do so much [by donating blood], and people are in need right now, like due to COVID and everything else that’s going on. […] So [we’re] definitely trying to do as much as we can in the pandemic,” Inam said of Key Club.

Inam and Merritt both agree that donating blood, especially as a high school student, is one of the most meaningful ways one can help the community. 

Inam recalled the first time she donated blood, which was when she was a junior.

“It was just such a fulfilling moment for me that I just saved a life, and I don’t have to be a doctor for that, I don’t have to be a healthcare professional to do that. And personally, for me, I’ve, like – ever since I was a kid – I’ve wanted to do something in the medical field, but just being able to save lives right now just by donating blood is just, like, amazing to me,” she said.

Merritt also donated blood for the first time at her high school’s blood drive. She considers giving blood as a high schooler a rite of passage, and says that the Red Cross tries to make it fun and memorable.

“[The first time you donate blood is] an experience. I mean, we sort of want the students to have that, you know, that unity and experience together of doing this for the first time so then hopefully it’s something where they’re comfortable and then they go on and do it once they’re out of high school,” she said. 

Though this winter’s blood drive is virtual, Merritt added that students can schedule donation appointments with their friends so that it is still a social experience that they’ll remember.

Inam and Merritt encourage anyone who wants to serve the community in an impactful way to donate blood as long as they are eligible and healthy. Many high school students meet the Red Cross’ requirements for donating blood, which include being 16 years or older, weighing at least 110 pounds, being in good health and without COVID-19 symptoms, and having not donated in the past 56 days for whole blood donation. Some high schoolers are eligible to donate Power Red, plasma, or platelets, but these have different requirements.

No matter which donation type works best for an individual, Inam believes giving blood is an opportunity that is not to be missed. 

“Just one donation can save three lives […] Why wouldn’t you want to save a life? Like, you know, obviously if you’re healthy and you’re able to, why not donate?” she said. 

Merritt feels the same way. “Honestly, I don’t know what else you could do with 45 minutes of your time, and it doesn’t cost you a thing, to literally save lives. We have so many stories of people that are alive today because of it,” she said. 

An additional incentive for donating blood this year is the COVID antibody tests that the Red Cross is providing with every donation. These tests, which are not diagnostic, indicate whether or not a person has COVID-19 antibodies, which is valuable information to have. If it turns out that a donor has antibodies, they can opt to have their blood used for treatments for COVID patients.

Furthermore, donors can help Key Club members save for higher education by scheduling their blood donation through Key Club’s link. The Red Cross will grant Key Club $250 in scholarship money if 100 appointments are made through the link, which can be found on the Winter 2020 Virtual Blood Drive tab of Key Club’s website or in Key Club’s Instagram bio (@sckeyclub6).

Key Club and the Red Cross would like to invite anyone who is willing and able to give blood to sign up for their virtual blood drive. Appointments can be made through Key Club’s link until Dec. 15. Beyond that, interested donors can register for local blood drives year-round through the Red Cross and make donating blood a regular occasion. The need for blood never goes away, but neither does the generosity of caring donors.