Josh's Bloody Birthday Party

September 2, 2005

To help out the American Red Cross, the author decided to celebrate his birthday with a blood drive.

Donated blood, it seems, is always in short supply, despite the American Red Cross' best efforts. The truth is, although people say that donating blood is a good idea, most never get around to actually rolling up their sleeves. In fact, of those eligible to donate, only 5 percent do. The rest put it off. That's too bad, because each unit of donated whole blood can potentially save up to three lives.

As a regular donor myself, and a former part-time ED physician, I was thinking about this sorry state of affairs a couple of years ago, when an idea popped into my head: Why not hold my own blood drive? That way, I could get all of the well meaning but poorly motivated folks I knew to act on their good intentions.

But I needed a marketing gimmick-something that would add a note of levity to the whole event and draw people in. Why not turn the blood drive into a birthday party, my birthday party? I thought. After speaking with several supportive but somewhat unconvinced members of our local chapter of the American Red Cross, I hatched my plan for Josh's Bloody Birthday Party. It would be held on the Friday preceding my actual birthday-not in my house as I'd originally hoped, but at the local Red Cross chapter's blood center.

On the day of the event, the blood center was closed to the general public. It had been decorated by staff members the night before with colorful balloons, streamers, and an array of signs, just like a real birthday party. As the crowd built, we ordered pizzas for everyone-and one of my colleagues brought in a big birthday cake, decorated in blood-red frosting. Invited donors, guests, and families milled about, posing for pictures and clearly enjoying themselves. When it was over, we'd surpassed our goal for the number of donated units of blood.

I was pleased we'd made our goal, of course. But what was most satisfying about our party was that so many first-time donors had actually rolled up their sleeves and given blood. Some, like my office manager and receptionist, have continued to do so, at least twice since. Also pleasing to me was the fact that lapsed donors-those who at one point in their lives gave blood but then stopped-started up again after the party.

Appreciative officials of our local Red Cross wanted another blood drive, so we held Josh's Bloody Birthday II last year. There's already talk of a JBB III as soon as my next birthday rolls around.