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‘It’s an everyday constant need.’ Students give blood for Big Blue Slam drive

Kentucky freshman Natalia Barrera gives blood during the Big Blue Slam Blood Drive hosted by Kentucky Blood Center on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2024, in the Gatton Student Center Grand Ballroom in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff

The Kentucky Blood Center (KBC) is holding a blood drive on the University of Kentucky’s campus for students to donate blood as part of the 16th annual Big Blue Slam event, according to the KBC website.

The Big Blue Slam blood drive spans Jan. 22-26 in Ballroom A of the Gatton Student Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The blood drive was also held at WIlliam T. Young Library from 1-5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 22 and the Lewis Honors College from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26, according to UKNOW.

Donors received a shirt, a $5 Starbucks gift card and a possibility to win two tickets to the Kentucky men’s basketball game against Florida on Jan. 31.

Andrew Abner, a junior majoring in political science, said he heard about the blood drive through ROTC and had donated blood before.

“I think it’s a good cause, my family’s all first responders,” Abner said. “The idea that I’m helping save someone’s life is really awesome.”

According to its website, KBC is a nonprofit organization that provides Kentucky hospitals with blood products and hosts blood drives at UK four times a year. The organization has eight donor centers throughout the state and regularly holds mobile blood drives at UK and other college campuses.

“We have close ties with (UK), about 40% of our blood that we collect goes to UK HealthCare,” said Eric Lindsey, the director of media and branding at KBC. “Our big philosophy is that we want to collect blood from the places we’re supplying to.”

Big Blue Slam is an annual competition held between KBC and the LifeSouth Community Blood Center in Florida. The competition is to see who can get more donations from Jan. 22-26. KBC has won the last three competitions.

Another event, Big Blue Crush, is held annually in November, Lindsey said.

“Those events are strategically placed because of the demand for blood that time of the year,” Lindsey said. “This event is strategically placed right in the heart of winter because we know that winter weather is going to end up disrupting our operations.”

Weather conditions can lead to canceled blood drives and a lack of needed blood. Lindsey said the planned blood drive allows KBC to make up for a lack of donations during the winter months. The event also ties in athletics to encourage donations.

“Traditionally, the UK-Florida basketball game used to always take place right around this time, so it made sense. ‘Let’s find a center that’s in similar size to us and also we compete with in basketball,’” Lindsey said. “This is a way for fans to feel like they can join in the competition … and beat Florida.”

Alexandra Cooper, a freshman majoring in STEM education, saw the signs advertising the blood drive in the student center and decided to donate blood.

“I’ve given blood once, so I knew I’d be able to and not be squeamish about it, I also think it’s a good cause to donate blood,” Cooper said. “Obviously I have a lot of it, I can donate some of it.”

Lindsey said that as of Jan. 23, KBC had several blood types in critical need, meaning the organization had less than a day’s supply to give to hospitals.

“One in four people will need a blood transfusion in their lifetime,” Lindsey said. “It’s an everyday constant need.”

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