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Eastern answers the call for blood

Published on December 03, 2020

Eastern answers the call for blood

With his donation, Tom Valone of Willimantic reached 30 gallons (240 pints) of total blood donations.

2. Eastern student Alexandra Colbert donated for the first time.

The American Red Cross has a slogan that says “Give something that means something.” That means giving blood. The agency says blood is urgently needed now, as COVID-19 has claimed more than 290,000 lives in the United States as of this writing.

Eastern is answering the call. The University recently held two blood drives — on Nov. 18 and 30 — at St. Joseph Church on Jackson Street in Willimantic. Blood drive organizer Nancy Brennan, administrative assistant in the Campus Ministry, expressed her gratitude for the response: “We want to sincerely thank all of our wonderful donors. They helped us collect 46 pints of blood! “One area gentleman — Tom Valone — reached the 30-gallon mark by donating on Nov. 18, and Eastern student Alexandra Colbert donated her first pint!”

Brennan said blood donations are down this time of the year due to COVID-19 because the Red Cross is following the highest standards of safety and infection control during blood drives. It strictly obeys social distance guidelines, allowing only so many appointments per hour, to ensure there are not too many people in line at once.

“All beds are sanitized between each donor and hand sanitizer is also provided,” Brennan said. “Every donor was tested for COVID-19 antibodies, which is one way that the Red Cross helps with the COVID pandemic. Temperatures are taken when the donor walks in the door, and if they do their Rapid Pass online, donors do not have to touch any of the reading material. If a donor has the Red Cross app on their phone, their donor ID is there also.” 

With the Red Cross app, donors are able to track their blood donation, view donation history and health vitals, schedule and manage appointments and save time with RapidPass.

Jon DeCasanova ’16, a soccer player who made an amazing recovery from the life-threatening blood diseases of aplastic anemia and lymphatic cancer nearly a decade ago, came to the Nov. 30 blood drive with information about “Be the Match” program. The “Be the Match” database is the largest marrow registry in the world.

“Though every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer, a cure does exist for the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers,” said DeCasanova. “Only 30 percent of patients have a matching blood stem cell donor in their family, leaving most patients to rely on Be the Match to help find an unrelated donor and receive treatment. While there are currently 22 million individuals on the registry, the 1-in-430 chance of matching leads to thousands of patients a year still waiting for their life-saving match.”

DeCasanova says anyone can safely join Be The Match from home by completing a five-minute registration at and requesting a cheek swab kit be mailed to them. He hopes students will have time during winter break to register. 

Written by Dwight Bachman