Patton Township Man Honored for Donor History as Red Cross Faces Shortage
Dick Straw was already a hero.
He served in the U.S. Army for two years during the Korean War.
But Tuesday afternoon the American Red Cross scheduled a blood drive in his honor as he was set to donate his 16th gallon of blood.
The blood drive started at noon Tuesday at the State College Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, 1221 W. Whitehall Road. It ends at 4 p.m.
Straw donated blood for the first time in 1952 just before basic training at Camp Breckenridge when his company commander marched him and 339 other soldiers up to the hospital. "He said, 'You will donate blood,'" Straw says.
Five months later, during leadership training, Straw's lieutenant came looking for donors. A local woman suffered severe burns in a fire and needed blood. Straw volunteered.
After serving in the Army, periodically, Straw would stop in at a blood drive and donate. In the 1970s, the local hospital called him a few times asking if he'd be an emergency donor. Over the last eight years or so, Straw has donated every eight weeks – the minimum time allowed between donations.
"Once I found out I had O negative blood and I was a universal donor I felt the leading of the Lord and the need to help people," Straw says.
Not only does Straw donate regularly, but he also volunteers at local blood drives by providing canteen services.
Straw hopes Tuesday's blood drive, which is happening at the church he attends, will draw in new donors. Straw says he understands that new donors may have some fears, but he says the process is simple and quick.
"I think there's a little fear of the unknown. There's a little discomfort at first when they put the needle in, but then you lay there for six or eight minutes and you're done," he says.
The American Red Cross is facing a looming blood shortage, leading to an urgent need for donors of all blood types, says Laura Merritt, a donor recruitment representative.
Donations are down roughly 8 percent over the last 11 weeks, resulting in about 80,000 fewer donations than expected, she says. The summer is traditionally a season with fewer donations as many people are on vacation and schools – which account for 30 percent of donations – are closed, Merritt says.
"Patients don't get a summer vacation from needing blood," says Merritt. "The Red Cross encourages donors to make an appointment now to help ensure a stable supply in the weeks ahead."
Eligible donors with types O negative, B negative and A negative blood are needed. Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone who needs blood. Types A negative and B negative can be transfused to Rh positive or negative patients.
Blood donated during the Aug. 5 blood drive will be used to support patients across the 100-county service area of the American Red Cross, Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region.
Anyone who donates during any Red Cross blood drive during August will receive a coupon for $2.50 off the purchase of a 48 oz. container of Turkey Hill All Natural Ice Cream, while supplies last.
For more information, click HERE or call 800-733-2767.