HOPKINTON — Giving blood is a summer tradition at the Yawgoog Scout Reservation summer camp, and now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yawgoog Scouts are stepping up again with a special blood drive.
Camp Director Thomas Sisson organized the first summer blood drive in 2014 in cooperation with Renelda Maurice-Simmons, account manager at the Rhode Island Blood Center. The annual eight-week summer drives collect blood during a time when many regular donors are away on vacation. Last year, the camp collected 359 pints, and to date, the camp has collected a total of 1,727 pints.
When Sisson was contacted in March about the summer blood drive by the Scouting magazine "Boys' Life," he began thinking about starting a COVID-19 blood drive.
As people shelter at home, the need for blood is constant, rather than urgent. Rhode Island Blood Center marketing and communications manager Kara LeBlanc said, “When people hear urgent, they think ‘right now,’ and people want to help right now, but the fact is, what we need is, every slot that we have available, every appointment that we have available, filled every single time there’s one available at any of our centers.”
The Camp Yawgoog blood drive began on March 15 and will continue until May 15. All donors must book appointments in advance, which allows the six blood centers to control the numbers of people entering their facilities and keep the supply of blood stable.
“Take the appointment when you can get it,” LeBlanc said. “That’s what we really need … blood is perishable and there’s no substitute for it, so we have to keep the supply going however long this is going to last.”
Brennan Reynolds of Richmond, one of the camp’s directors, had an appointment to donate blood on Monday at the Westerly branch of the Rhode Island Blood Center.
“This is a great time to donate, and they need a lot of donations,” he said.
Daniel Friel, program and communications director of the Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which operates the camp, explained that the blood drive is a practical way for Scouts to fulfill their oath “To help other people at all times.”
“This gives an opportunity to really bring awareness, for our Yawgoog community to come together, our scouting community to come together, to be helpful in a healthy, safe manner to give back to our community,” he said.
The blood drive offers two incentives: Donors will be entered in a drawing for one of three $200 Camp Yawgoog gift certificates and they will also receive a special-edition patch.
“Scouters love patches and they love collecting them … and now, during this situation, it gives us another opportunity to look back later on and say ‘remember that, when we participated in the COVID-19 blood donations with Yawgoog?’ It gives them an opportunity to look back and reflect on their Scouting career and how they helped others,” Friel said.
With fewer people leaving their homes, trauma resulting from accidents is down and most elective surgeries have been postponed, but LeBlanc said there is still a constant need for blood.
“That doesn’t stop childbirth, which is a huge need for blood donations in terms of if the mom or the baby has complications related to that — that blood needs to be on the shelf,” she said. “All of the people that need it for their cancer treatments, which is another big utilizer of blood … people that have blood disorders and anemia and transplants. They’re not postponing liver transplants at the moment.”
Donors are asked to register on the Yawgoog website and to provide the sponsor code “3571” when they arrive at the donation center.
“As of last week, the first full week that we’ve done it, we had over 20 people register on the Yawgoog website,” Friel said. “We value our relationship with the Rhode Island Blood Center so much and now, over a five-year partnership, we continue to grow that relationship. We continue to increase awareness of blood donation and the importance, not just during the summer but year round.”
More information on the blood drive is available at: https://www.yawgoog.org/.
Information on Rhode Island Blood Center donations and COVID-19 protocols can be found at https://www.ribc.org/ways-give/donate-blood/covid-19-and-blood-donation/?edit_off=true.