ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – The American Red Cross is out for blood this Halloween.
With enough on hand to impress even the most avid horror movie enthusiast, but not enough to meet local demand, everyone who gives blood during October will be entered in a contest to win a $5,000 Visa gift card, according to Steve Mavica, a Red Cross spokesman.
And between Oct. 20 and 31, each donor is eligible to win one of two Subway gift cards every day and a $25 American Express gift card each week. On Halloween, each donor center will host a fall party with punch, special food and prizes.
The nationwide promotions are part of an effort to help the Red Cross meet its goal of 15,000 pints of blood per day. Donors have given about 347,000 pints of blood to donation centers across the country as of Oct. 24, which averages out to 14,458 pints per day.
On average, the Red Cross must collect 1,000 pints of blood per day to supply hospitals in its Chesapeake region, according to Mavica. The exact number of pints it collects fluctuates daily.
“For us to collect to goal at any given drive, we will schedule roughly 1,200 donors to give blood,” Mavica said. “Because you will always have a percentage of people who don’t show up or are ineligible to give, we try to schedule about 120 percent (of what we need).”
The number of donors who have participated in the promotion in Maryland will not be known until the end of the month.
A few people who donated at the Columbia, Maryland, collection center on Oct. 21 were completely unaware of the special promotions the Red Cross is running, because they didn’t even have to sign to up to be entered. Donors are automatically entered in the $5,000 sweepstakes. A number of people donated simply because they get a treat out of helping others.
“I donate because I can, and a lot of people can’t,” said Douglas Dell, of Ellicott City, a Howard County public school substitute teacher and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. “I come almost every week.”
Dell, who was donating platelets, had no idea his name was entered in the sweepstakes.
Aimee DelVecchio, a nurse from Bethesda, Maryland, also donated blood without any knowledge of the sweepstakes.
“I’ve been donating since I was 16,” she said. “I do it just because. I try to donate three times a year.”
If the Red Cross can get enough people to donate “just because,” as well as people who are motivated by the chance to win a gift card, they will be able to break the trend of disappointing October participation.
“It’s a challenge across the country as we move into holiday times,” Mavica said. “The holidays are when people’s minds are on spending time with family and not donating blood.”
“This is the first time we’ve run this ($5,000) promotion in this region,” Mavica said. “We hope it’s something we can continue each year, but it depends on whether or not we meet our goal. Historically, we don’t make goal in October.”
Suburban Propane, a national marketer and distributor of energy products such as refined fuels, natural gas and electricity, based in Whippany, New Jersey, is sponsoring the national $5,000 sweepstakes.
Mavica said he would like to see the Chesapeake blood services region become a self-sufficient zone that supplies all of the blood for the 60 hospitals in the area, including some in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and some parts of Pennsylvania.
The region is not yet self-sufficient, which means hospitals in the area must get some of their blood supply elsewhere.
“The difference is imported from the Red Cross national inventory,” Mavica said. We have to rely on other regions to over-collect in order to make up for collection shortfall in this region.”
The American Red Cross provides 40 percent of the blood products used in the U.S., according to their website.