Hundreds of people streamed in and out of the Michigan Stadium on Sunday as part of the fifth annual “Be a Hero at the Big House” blood drive, an event that kicked off the 34th annual Wolverine vs. Buckeye Challenge for Life.
The blood drive competition will run until Thanksgiving and encourages people to donate blood and register as organ donors in competition with Ohio State University. Last year, the University beat OSU in registered organ donors by 43,857 people, but collected only 2,298 pints of blood to Ohio State’s 2,414.
Sunday’s event was co-sponsored by Wolverines for Life, the American Red Cross, Be The Match/National Marrow Donor Program, Gift of Life Michigan and Eversight Michigan.
This year, Sunday’s “Be a Hero” event collected more than 400 units of blood, breaking last year’s all-time record of 340 units. All donated blood will be included in the University’s Blood Battle total.
Throughout the next three weeks, Blood Drives United, the student-run organization that co-sponsors the Blood Battle competition, will host about 46 blood drives at various locations around campus.
Ward and Lydia Kimball, residents of West Branch, Mich., attended the event to promote organ donor registration. Their 18-year-old son, Evan, died in a car accident last month, and his organs were donated to five different recipients. They have since started working to educate and raise awareness about organ donation with Gift of Life Michigan, an organization that works to maximize organ and tissue donation by registering donors and raising awareness.
“I promised him that his name would never ever be forgotten, and I think with his gifts and the spurring of the donor registry, that’s how we do that,” Lydia Kimball said.
Marge Del Greco, a two-time liver donation recipient, also works with Gift of Life Michigan and helped people register as donors at the event.
“This is my way of giving back,” Del Greco said. “I promote wherever I can, however I can, to get the word out, and to get people to register.”
She said when she received her first liver transplant in 2004, people did not understand the necessity of organ donation. When she first began to volunteer she struggled to register donors. However, she said events like Blood Battle have helped raise awareness and encourage people to donate.
“Our numbers have tripled,” she said. “We’re up to 52 percent of Michigan are registered organ donors, and that’s huge from where we started. We were below the national average, below 30 percent of the state.”
LSA junior Laurel Fricker, a member of Blood Drives United, emphasized the importance of donating blood and said events like the Blood Battle make donating more fun.
“Each donor can save potentially three lives with their donation,” she said.