‘Everyone knows someone who needs blood’
By Rebeca Ilisoi – Photo by Brad Bakke
Thirty-five years ago, while sitting in class at a religious training center, Jerry Clark got a call from the hospital.
His mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer, was in desperate need of additional blood transfusions.
On the other end of the line, a hospital official explained to Clark that a blood bank in the San Francisco Bay Area would credit a patient’s account if the patient could recruit donors.
Clark went to work.
The school he attended offered occasional “Meet a Need” opportunities, which took place at the end of assemblies. The concept was simple: A student would say that he needed a toaster for the dorm, hoping that someone with a spare toaster would step up.
On this day, Clark stood and said, “I have a need. My mother needs blood.”
Clark is still touched by what happened next.
“Nothing like this had been asked for before,” he said. “A sense of shock and compassion rose up. Hands went up all over the audience.”
Not long after the assembly, students piled into vehicles and headed to the Lane Blood Bank, an affiliate of the Bay Area blood bank that was supplying blood to Clark’s mother.
“There were so many students who responded that the blood bank center was not prepared to meet the challenge in collecting all of the units from all of the students,” he said.
“It was truly an act of love and compassion. Each of the students did not know my mother, but they knew me. … I am forever grateful to them.”
Tearing up, Clark said, “Everyone knows someone who needs blood. I say ashamedly that I didn’t get involved until it was right in front of my face.”
Clark, now 35 years older and the president of the Cru Club at Chemeketa, works with the local American Red Cross chapter, helping to organize blood drives on campus.
Cru – formerly called Campus Crusade for Christ – is a religiously affiliated club on campus that holds weekly prayer, worship, and Bible study meetings.
Cru did not become affiliated with the blood drives on campus until 2010, when a member, Christian Juanillo, wanted to re-start the program.
Blood drives had undergone a brief hiatus after the club that had previously partnered with the Red Cross, Chemeketa Health Professionals, was canceled.
Juanillo was familiar with the blood donating process because she started donating in high school.
Since Cru re-established the blood drives, the number of blood units per year taken at Chemeketa has more than doubled.
The drives previously spanned a single day and now require two days to accommodate the donors.
Instead of occurring semi-annually, the blood drives now take place around holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day.
Now that the number of drives has increased, Clark said that Cru’s goal was to “maintain that new level through blood donors and volunteers to work the blood drives.”
Fortunately, many of those who have donated keep coming back.
Regan Backer, a student at Chemeketa, said, “I have been donating blood most of my life. When I was in the hospital, I received a blood transfusion from another person to help me not die.
“I have continued donating and plan to continue because I always have a good experience. I encounter nice people, and I love giving back to the community. You save three lives with every donation.”
John Goodyear, a Chemeketa staff member, said, “I first donated in 1971 when I was 18 and attending Indiana University. … It’s the right thing to do. Someone has to do it. Everyone who can should do it.”
Goodyear said that he was forced to take a five-year break after cancer treatment but went right back to donating as soon as possible.
“Maybe a few trips to the ER and the ICU have strengthened my commitment, along with serious health issues with loved ones,” he said. “Plus, they give you cookies.”
Clark says he believes that there is more student involvement at Chemeketa these days.
“Maybe it’s their awareness or education,” he said. “It boils down to, ‘Why should I donate?’ The why comes back to why I got involved. … Everyone knows someone who needs blood.”
The next blood drive will take place May 5 and 6 in Bldg. 34.
Walk-ins are welcome.