Earlier this month, I worked with Music Saves Lives and New Jersey Blood Services at their annual community blood drive at Freehold, New Jersey’s Raceway Mall. Music Saves Lives, like HeadCount, works through music to drive involvement in good causes. By connecting “the music and entertainment we all love to life-saving community action,” they’ve been able to reach millions. And their mission is simple: educate people about the importance of blood donation, the bone marrow registry, and other life-saving causes.
Blood donors at the annual drives are given wristbands granting VIP access to Warped Tour events. By connecting with music fans at an unexpected community location, Music Saves Lives has found a meaningful way to expand their reach beyond music events, and reach the wider Freehold community where they shop and spend time.
Curious about how blood drives work? It’s not quite as simple as registering voters, but when you consider that each person who donates blood saves up to three lives, it’s easy to imagine that, for the people who were willing to sit down with us, it had a significance well beyond that day at the mall.
Potential donors must be at least 18, but kids 16 and under can donate with a parent’s consent. All donors must be “physically able” to give blood, or risk “deferral.” Reasons for deferral include being underweight, or suffering an iron deficiency. Other, less expected reasons like having just gotten a new tattoo or recently traveled outside of the U.S. also result in deferral. Perhaps most surprisingly, men who have sex with men are also still deferred from blood donation. Unsurprisingly, this early-AIDS-era ban has long been a subject of controversy and protest.
If no reason for deferral was found, donors would then be attended to by the staff of NJ Blood Services. They could choose between regular blood donation and the Alyx machine, which safely collects twice as many red cells and provides more critically-needed blood types. Donors would finish the process by resting for ten to fifteen minutes. Food and drink were provided to help avoid fainting. The process completed, donors were given vouchers and instructed to visit the MSL tent at Warped to receive their VIP wristbands and a digital music download card.
I’ve worked with Music Saves Lives for the past four years, and we’re very proud of how many people we’ve reached through blood donors and the music community. A special thanks to everyone who donated at this year’s drive, and we’re looking forward to summer 2015!