LifeSource separates the blood and bone marrow it collects into useful components, at its state-of-the-art laboratory headquarters in Rosemont.

Blood Donors Deserve Rewards, Too

This is a time of year when many blood banks run low on supply. Learn how Chicagoland blood donors are earning special rewards for offering the ultimate gift of life.

LifeSource separates the blood and bone marrow it collects into useful components, at its state-of-the-art laboratory headquarters in Rosemont.

These days, customers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty to merchants of every kind. They receive points for using particular credit cards or shopping at certain stores. They receive special access privileges that make their interactions more convenient.

So why shouldn’t people receive the same thing for donating the ultimate gift of life – their own blood? That’s the thinking behind the Brighten Life (BL) Rewards program at LifeSource, Chicagoland’s Blood Center, which operates 18 donor centers in six counties and serves patients at 60 local hospitals.

“BL Rewards was designed with the idea that we wanted to do something for our valued donors,” says Tammy Basile, marketing communications project manager. “The new program was launched earlier this year. We’ve tried some things in the past, but we’ve reworked and revised the program based on donor input.”

The program provides many rewards and benefits to donors, from store and restaurant gift cards to free cholesterol testing, online scheduling and automated reminders.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about this aspect of the program,” says Basile. “For example, if you donated in April and want to donate again in July, you have a confidential link that has your personal information.”

Donors receive an online personal account to track wellness information, like pulse, temperature and blood pressure, and hemoglobin, iron and cholesterol levels.

After donating three times within the year, donors are eligible for an Advanced Wellness Check, a lipid profile test that provides comprehensive cholesterol information.

BL members can cash in their points for gift cards to Darden Restaurants, Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Target, Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Mobil, Nordstrom, Kohl’s or iTunes. There are additional items such as iPods available, too.

Many people donate blood simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do, and don’t want to reap a material reward for it. There’s an option for them, too.

“Many of our donors are so generous that a lot of them donate their points back to the charitable organizations that we feature on our Web site,” says Basile. These include the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Be The Match national marrow registry.

“We try to have something for everyone in our online store,” says Basile. “Our donors really enjoy it.”

For those who’ve considered donating but haven’t gotten around to it, Basile has this message: Now is a great time to start. Summer is an especially important time to donate blood, because there’s generally a shortage.

“In part, this is due to schools being out of session and more donors traveling out of town,” Basile explains. During the academic year, high schools often host mobile blood drives, so donations from the younger generation drop significantly when school’s out.

“During the summer, there’s also an increase in levels of activity and travel, which leads to an increase in the need for blood donations,” says Basile. “Unfortunately, as the donations decline, the need increases.”

She says January is another low month for donations, because people are so busy with holiday plans and the start of the new year. Designating it National Donor Month has helped. “We encourage community members to add donating blood to their list of New Year’s resolutions,” Basile adds.

In addition to collecting blood at its 18 donor centers, LifeSource conducts an average of 10 mobile blood drives each day. When it formed in 1987, through the merger of the Blood Center of Northern Illinois and the American Red Cross Blood Services-Mid-America Region, it collected 474 units of blood on its first day. Today, it provides more than 585,000 blood products to area patients. All blood stays in the local area, and eight of the 60 hospitals served by LifeSource are Level 1 Trauma Centers.

LifeSource recruits donors, collects bone marrow and separates blood into useful components that include whole blood, platelets, plasma and stem cells.

Blood is needed daily for surgeries and other medical procedures, cancer treatments and emergencies. Nationally, someone needs blood every two seconds. While donating isn’t always convenient, making it a habit is rewarding in itself.

“It’s all worth it for that wonderful feeling of knowing that you helped to save the lives of up to three people in your community,” says Basile.

Blood donors must be at least 17 years old (16 with written parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. The donation process takes about an hour and is safe and comfortable. Basile acknowledges there are still many misconceptions about the blood donation process.

Some things to consider:

  • You can’t be too old to give blood, and only a few medications make you ineligible.
  • It’s not a time-consuming process. The act of giving blood takes only about 5 to 10 minutes; the whole process takes roughly an hour. Much of this time is spent consuming snacks and refreshments after you give blood.
  • Donating blood is nearly painless. All a donor feels is a little pinch when the needle is inserted.
  • Anyone can host a mobile blood drive. Fire and police stations, houses of worship, schools, businesses and various merchants commonly serve as hosts, at no cost to them. “We supply marketing materials and we come to you,” says Basile. “It’s an easy thing to do and a great way to contribute to the community blood program.”

To learn more about donating blood, hosting a drive or enrolling in the BL Rewards program, visit ❚