A blood feud is brewing between the Comox Valley's three secondary schools.
Well, maybe not quite, but Mark R. Isfeld, Highland and Vanier secondary schools are competing to see which school can generate the most blood donors by the end of May.
The challenge kicked off Tuesday during a blood donor clinic at the Florence Filberg Centre, and Vanier leadership program director Tim Krutzmann says students are enthusiastic.
"The kids are completely eager about this," he says. "They jumped on board right away, and one of the things that we really push in the leadership program at Vanier is social activism, and this was just a perfect example of how young Canadians can get involved for the betterment of their country."
Canadian Blood Services media spokesperson Chris Barron says new donors, and especially younger donors, are vitally important to generate blood donations.
"It's everything to us really," he says. "We are at a critical point in our blood donor timeframe where a lot of our core donors are aging out — becoming net users as opposed to net donors — so over the next five years we're going to have to start seeing about 100,000 new donors a year every year, 89,000 this year, so having these students come in as first-time donors is huge for Canadian Blood Services."
He adds only about 50 per cent of Canadians are able to donate blood due do various reasons such as geographical challenges around where clinics are held or medications they may be on. Further, only about four per cent of Canadians actually donate blood.
"So four per cent of Canadians are supplying blood for the entirety," he adds. "If our blood donor population is getting to a point where they're aging out, the majority of them are falling off the back end, we really need to bump up the new ones, the front end ones, so the 17- to 24-year-olds, so secondary and post-secondary students, are really a huge focus for us."
Vanier Grade 12 student April Cockerill, student organizer for the school, says some students were a bit hesitant at first but they have been encouraging each other.
"Everyone's pretty much afraid of needles but … I just told them that one pint of blood can save three lives and they're like, 'Oh, OK,' so they warmed up to it and they started signing up," she says, adding most students have been going with a friend for moral support.
Meanwhile, Isfeld work experience co-ordinator Wanda Fields says Isfeld students are really stepping up to the challenge.
"We've got a lot of kids that are donating their blood; it's really good," she says, adding almost 60 students became donors last year and 11 more have signed up so far this year. "We've got a small student body here, especially over the age of 17 (the minimum age to be a blood donor) so I'm really pleased with what's happening."
Highland work experience co-ordinator Kelley Giorgianni says students there have been a bit slower in signing up to donate, but she hopes a blood typing session in biology 12 next week will help generate student enthusiasm.
School staff and community members can make their blood donation on behalf of the school of their choice when they sign up to donate.
According to Barron, Canadian Blood Services will start tallying the number of donors from each school at the end of May, and will announce the winner in June. The school with the most participation will receive a small cash prize, but he says the most important aspect of the challenge is that students will help others who need it.
For more information on Canadian Blood Services, including blood clinic schedules in the Comox Valley, visit www.blood.ca.