APO partners with Red Cross for a campus blood drive


Lauren Schroeder (‘23) donates blood during the APO blood drive on April 11. Photo by Peter Heryla (‘24)

Surgery. Childbirth. Car accidents. Anemia. Cancer treatments. Medical complications. Donated blood is needed in all of these instances, and the list goes on.

The American Red Cross estimates that every two seconds, a person in the United States needs blood or platelets. It’s one of the reasons the non-profit organization prioritizes blood donation, holding over 500 blood drives a day — adding up to more than 4.6 million units of blood collected each year. The Red Cross hosted one of these blood drives at Luther College on April 11, in partnership with the co-ed campus service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO).

In total, 49 units of blood were collected from donors, the most collected at a single Luther blood drive since 2020. 52 donors participated in the drive, including Luther students, staff and faculty; 17% of these donors were first-time donors. The all-time record for Luther is 155 units in 2014.

Luther APO Mu Theta Chapter President Allison Marasco (‘24) and the rest of APO were responsible for organizing the logistics of the drive, including the date, time and location. Marasco and APO were also charged with encouraging people to sign up to donate blood.

According to Marasco, APO has done at least one blood drive per semester on campus for the last few years. She believes blood drives are really important to APO’s mission.

“[Blood drives fall] under one of our core pillars: friendship, leadership, and service,” Marasco said. “It is a way that we can help others in our community serve those that are in need.”

Blayre Wisneski (‘24) was one of the APO volunteers at the event. Like Marasco, Wisneski highlighted how the blood drive acts as an example of community, a focal point of APO.

“It’s a really great way to tie in the Decorah community and the campus community,” Wisneski said. “There’s a lot of community members who [come to campus] to donate, and [it’s also] a good opportunity for students as well. [The blood drive] is a tradition, it happens every semester.”

The “journey” of donating blood is simple. Upon arriving for an appointment, a blood donor completes a mini-physical and reviews their health history with a Red Cross staff member. One pint of blood is collected from the donor. After collection, the blood is put on ice before it is transported to a Red Cross center, where it is scanned into a computer database. Upon being processed, the blood donation is separated into three components: red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Each component is then packaged into a standardized “unit” that doctors can use when transferring blood into a patient. Donated units are tested for infectious diseases and verified for their type; blood that is suitable for transfusion is shipped to hospitals 24/7, where it is available for use in a wide variety of medical circumstances.

Whitney Joachim is the Account Manager II for the Red Cross. She works in donor recruitment for the North Central Division, which covers nine states across the Midwest. Joachim collaborated with Marasco, Wisneski and the rest of APO to coordinate Luther’s blood drive. Joachim pointed out that donors who choose to donate blood regularly help stabilize the nationwide blood supply. Students play a larger role in this stability than they may realize, as 20% of the Red Cross’ blood products come from high school and college-aged students. 

“You can imagine, summer is the most difficult time to collect blood products because school is out of session,” Joachim said. “Blood is needed every day of the year. There is no substitute for blood.”

In an attempt to get more blood donations, the Red Cross has gained attention on social media for its recent marketing campaign featuring Snoopy from the Peanuts franchise on a Red Cross T-Shirt. The shirt, which displays Snoopy’s alter ego Joe Cool, has gone viral on social media since it was first released at the start of April. At the Luther blood drive, the shirts were available for donors after they finished donating blood.

A Polygon article recently claimed that “TikTok users love Snoopy so much they’re literally giving blood for merch”, and while this may seem like an exaggeration, it’s nothing short of the truth. The Red Cross released a statement on April 10 that attributed a 40% increase in blood donation appointments to the release of the Snoopy campaign. Joachim echoed this statement, attributing the uptick in blood donations to the campaign’s resonance with youth.

“It’s prompting more young people to donate blood,” Joachim said. “If you’re cool, you’ll donate blood. That’s the message being sent in the latest American Red Cross partnership with ‘Peanuts.’”

On a more serious note, Joachim has a deep personal connection to blood drives and blood donors. Both of Joachim’s parents survived bouts of cancer due to the generosity of blood donors; Joachim called blood donors “priceless” and had nothing but good things to say about her work at the Red Cross.

“Having a purpose is extremely important to me,” Joachim said. “Is it really considered a ‘job’ when you love what you do every day? Helping organize blood drives is personal for me.”

Marasco shared a similar appreciation for blood drives. She came away from the experience planning to recommend others participate in future drives.

“[Donating] gives instant gratification,” Marasco said. “You know that by sitting in a chair for a few minutes [and] giving blood that you will be able to help someone [who] needs it.”

Those who are interested in donating blood can go to www.redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive near them and make an appointment. APO’s next event will be “Luther Feud”, a spinoff of Family Feud. The event will be held on April 23 at 6:00 p.m. in Marty’s.