Throughout the year, members of the Penn State Student Red Cross Club at Pennsylvania State University-University Park Campus are making an impact on their community. In the process, club members are also learning that incalculable personal rewards come from volunteer service—a life lesson they cannot acquire through text books.
“The 75 or so active members of the Penn State Student Red Cross Club need to register at least 15 service hours each semester,” explains club advisor Wendi Keeler, also the field representative for donor recruitment for Penn State at the American Red Cross Greater Alleghenies Blood Region, “but we also have between 100-200 members that volunteer between 1-14 hours.
“The club is involved in the campus program all year long, membership is huge and everyone has a great time while helping people in need,” Keeler continues.
This year club members are working with their local Red Cross chapter, the Centre Communities Chapter in State College, Pennsylvania, to teach lifesaving first aid and CPR skills on campus. The club is also bringing health and safety education to area elementary school children.
Club members are also ready for a possible repeat of last year when the area had a huge, unexpected snow and Red Cross shelters were opened to provide food, shelter, comfort and hope. Volunteers from the Penn State Student Red Cross Club worked as part of the 24/7 shelter team, even though the snow fell on a football weekend.
Disaster training classes, including shelter operations, are given to club members so they can be prepared to respond in the event of a community emergency. The club also helps the Red Cross be prepared to respond to disasters by collecting items for comfort kits—such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, towels, a comb—and putting those kits together so they are ready for distribution when needed.
Out for Blood
A major emphasis of the club is volunteering at blood drives—either as donors, or in one of the several jobs Red Cross volunteers fill such as greeting donors or providing snacks and drinks at the canteen following blood collection.
During the four major campus drives each year the Penn State Student Red Cross Club makes it possible for the Red Cross to collect more than 8,000 units of blood. Every unit of blood can potentially help more than one person, so the Penn State contribution to blood availability is enormous.
In November football rivals Penn State and Michigan State University held their annual Blood Challenge. After 17 years, the Blood Challenge has become a fall tradition.
“Obviously we want to win every year,” says Rino Sato, president of the Penn State Student Red Cross Club, “but underneath it all the Blood Challenge is about collecting blood right before the holidays to help minimize the shortage hospitals have every year when people get so busy with other things that they don’t donate blood.”
During the three week Blood Challenge, the two universities attempt to collect at least 2,000 units of blood each. It is not an easy goal. Michigan State broke the goal for the first time only this year—collecting 2,008 units of blood. Penn State has exceeded the 2,000 unit goal for four years in a row—this year by 19 pints.
The winner of the 2010 Challenge was up in the air until the final day, when Penn State collected 312 units and came from behind to triumph.
Greater winners were the many patients whose lives were potentially touched by the blood so generously donated by Michigan State and Penn State students and employees.
Resources for Supporting Campus Red Cross Clubs
More than 200 Red Cross Clubs serve on campuses across the nation. Check your school’s office of student affairs to see if there is a Red Cross Club with which you can volunteer. If no club exists, you may want to start one. There are many free online School Club resources that provide all the information you need to get up and running.
Join the thousands of young adults already making a difference by serving as American Red Cross volunteers. For additional information about school clubs in your area, contact YouthInvolvement@usa.redcross.org.