St. Joseph’s blood group organizers (white t-shirts) and donors (red shirts).

Young Blood for Life

For Bernard Howes and fellow staff and students at St. Joseph’s High School in Windsor, Ontario, the year ended on an upbeat note. For the second consecutive year, the school has claimed first place in two national categories of Canadian Blood Services’ Third Annual Young Blood for Life challenge.

“St. Joe’s” students recruited 317 blood donors for a win in the category of most units of blood donated. They also won in the category of the most first-time donors recruited, with a total of 127 new blood donors. Combined with two additional prizes – one locally and one provincially – their total reward is a cash prize of $1,400, courtesy of FedEx Express Canada, to go toward school projects.

Howes, a 75-time blood donor and the school’s guidance counsellor and teacher champion for the program says, “Our school community takes great pride in this campaign, and everyone gets into the spirit of friendly competition. Donating blood is part of the culture around here – we’ve been doing it a long time.”

When the announcement of the school’s win was made, Howes says that the student leaders of the school’s ‘blood committee’ thanked all their peers for the support. “They demonstrated the courage and the stewardship needed to achieve this national title,” he says. “And while everyone at the school is proud that we finished at the top, really, nobody actually loses in this competition, do they?”

Young Blood for Life is a national high school recruitment program that relies on student leaders, aged 17 and over, to advocate for blood donation and to challenge their peers, families and friends to donate at Canadian Blood Services’ clinics. Donors in this age group represent nine per cent of Canada’s current blood donor population.

A total of 355 schools were involved in the challenge, which took place between September 15, 2011 and May 31, 2012. Collectively, participants donated 18,339 units of blood and recruited 6,873 new blood donors to their local clinics.

“It’s exciting to see youth across the country making such a significant contribution to Canada’s blood system,” said Sue Blasutti, Executive Director of Donor and Clinic Services, “especially since this year alone, Canadian Blood Services needs to recruit over 89,000 new donors to keep pace with the growing demand for blood and blood products across Canada.”

Lisa Lisson, president of FedEx Express Canada says, “FedEx is extremely proud to support Canadian Blood Services and play a role in saving and improving the lives of Canadians. We are excited to see this program grow and are thrilled to be a part of such an important movement among young people.”

Student participation went even further than expected this year. The pairing of the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network with the Young Blood for Life program meant that in certain areas of the country, students could also help to raise awareness of the need for younger stem cell donors, and register new potential donors to help patients. The partnership was a natural fit as an ‘optimal stem cell donor’ is someone who is young – between the ages of 17 and 35 – male, and ethnically diverse.

During the period of April to June 2012, 37 high schools participated in OneMatch information and swab events (DNA sampling), that piggy-backed onto planned blood donation activities. With a target of adding 1,300 new stem cell donors to the OneMatch Network, in the end, high school swab events registered 2,261 optimal new donors to the Network.

The prizes for Young Blood for Life are made possible through an $180,000 donation by FedEx Express Canada. Over the next two years the company’s contribution will continue to help Canadian Blood Services provide promotional materials and award cash prizes to participating high schools. The team at “St. Joe’s” decided to donate their prize money to local charities instead of putting it toward school projects.

Windsor community development coordinators, Joan Hannah and Maureen MacFarlane, worked closely with students at the school to promote the program and gain participation. “We are extremely proud of ‘St. Joe’s’,” says Maureen. “They have, for the second year in a row, provided the benchmark for all other schools to reach. Their success is a model to all other schools.”