Blood donor day is a big draw

DONATING — Cameron Gray of St. Clairsville prepares to donate blood at Ohio Valley Media Blood Donor Day held in WesBanco Arena Monday. She is being monitored by Buddy Kelly, team lead of automated collections for the American Red Cross. -- Linda Comins

WHEELING — Area residents demonstrated their hardiness Monday by turning out in large numbers for Ohio Valley Media Blood Donor Day despite frigid temperatures.

American Red Cross officials were pleasantly surprised by the warm response to its 33rd annual event, which was held on the main floor of WesBanco Arena.

At the blood drive’s midpoint, at least 126 people had registered, said Lauren Thomas, an account specialist for the Red Cross. Some people made appointments to give blood, but “quite a few” were walk-in participants, she added.

Phyllis Riccadonna, account manager for the Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region, had been concerned because only half as many people registered in advance, compared to last year’s event. However, she said, “Today, these donors came out. We’ve had a lot of walk-ins, thank God.”

Looking over the waiting area, Riccadonna said, “It’s been full, which we did not expect. We’re on target so far. There’s a lot of donors here today.”

After the event, Riccadonna said a total of 195 units of blood were collected.

About 17 Red Cross blood collection staff members were on hand for the event. In addition to the regular collecting equipment, special “Power Red” machines were utilized to take blood from donors with O positive, O negative or B negative blood types.

“The special machine takes plasma and platelets out of the body along with red blood cells. It returns the plasma and platelets to the body, but collects double the number of red blood cells,” Riccadonna explained.

Prior to the event, 30 “Power Red” donors registered online. “If they all come, we’ll get 60 units right there. It’s what we hope for each year,” she said.

These donors’ blood contains elements “that some other blood types do not have,” she said, adding, “O negative is the universal blood type that we like to collect at all blood drives.”

Holding the drive on Martin Luther King Jr. Day benefited regular donor Cameron Gray of St. Clairsville. A student at Belmont College, she said, “I didn’t have class today (Monday).”

Some participants also donate at drives conducted in other locations, “but there are a lot here who only donate at media day,” Riccadonna said.

Several volunteers were present to assist donors and serve refreshments.

Longtime volunteer John Kniesner of Bellaire said, “I really like the Red Cross. It’s a wonderful organization.”

Kniesner has been a Red Cross volunteer for 34 years. Initially, he spent 20 years assisting with swimming and lifeguard classes. He has helped at blood drives for the past 14 years. At media day, he and other volunteers served Timbits from Tim Horton’s, fruit from Jebbia’s Market, pizza from DeFelice Brothers, roast beef sandwiches from Arby’s and Greek salad, chips and salsa from Ye Olde Alpha. Airport Limousine drivers transported the food from the Wheeling businesses to the arena.

Sponsors for Ohio Valley Media Blood Donor Day were The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, The Times Leader, the Herald Star, Bath Fitter, Bordas & Bordas, Century Hospitality, Residence Inn by Marriott, West Texas Roadhouse and other media partners.