SUNBURY — A Friday afternoon Red Cross blood drive co-sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held at Zion Lutheran Church, attracted area blood donors who simply wanted to give for a good cause.
Philip West, of Sunbury, said "I give blood to whoever needs it. I believe people should donate their blood to good causes like the Red Cross if they can."
A few minutes before he was called to give blood, West said he's been a donor for about 40 years.
Donor Stephanie Sterner, also of Sunbury, had a more personal reason for giving. "My daughter, was in a hospital, and needed three pints of blood back in March. I wanted to give back in some way." Sterner said she's given blood about 10 times. "The Red Cross is such a great organization and they always help people in need. I thought today I'd help them."
The blood drive was a precursor to Wear Orange weekend, which starts today, National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Lynne Ragusea and Rebecca Perez, of the local chapter of Moms Demand Action, organized the local blood drive. "Our group decided that giving blood was a tangible way to make a difference," Perez explained, “as the problems of gun violence seem so pervasive and insurmountable. This is a very concrete and tangible way for folks to get a sense of being able to contribute to what is a pandemic in our nation."
The drive got off to a good start on Friday. "We Had 46 donor slots and before we even got here today," Perez said. "Thirty-nine of those signed up for slots before we even opened. In the first 45 minutes (on Friday) we had seven people come in, walk in, as well as the scheduled donors. So we are very excited. The Red Cross is excited about the response we've gotten.
Ragusea emphasized that the drive was run entirely by the local Red Cross, “and that includes their clinical staff, and medical technicians who will actually be drawing the blood. Our group is supporting the National Gun Violence Awareness Day as a day to honor lives lost.”
All the blood collected Friday went to the Red Cross to be used as they deem fit. "This is not reserved for gunshot victims," Perez said. "The blood will go to whomever needs it, right away."
Wear Orange and National Gun Violence Awareness Day were inspired by Project Orange Tree, an awareness campaign to commemorate the life of Hadiya Pendleton and other victims of gun violence. Orange is the color that Pendleton’s friends wore in her honor after she was shot and killed in Chicago at the age of 15, just one week after performing at President Obama’s second inaugural parade in 2013.
“We wear orange to highlight the gun violence crisis in our country,” added Perez. “We chose to honor Wear Orange weekend with a blood drive because gunshot victims were more likely to need a blood transfusion than other trauma patients and require 10 times more blood when receiving a blood transfusion.”
Ragusea said that holding the blood drive in Sunbury was a way of expanding their reach beyond eastern Union County. "We have our meetings, generally outside Lewisburg, but we are supposed to be covering the whole Central Susquehanna Valley and that includes Sunbury. We are a not-for-profit, fully volunteer non-partisan organization that does support the Second Amendment. We are just looking for common sense laws to help protect innocent individuals."