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Red Cross Trains Student-Athletes to Lead Campus Blood Drives

Cassandra Kramer, a member of the Spring Arbor University volleyball team, has “a passion for civic engagement and making a difference in the lives of others.” That’s why she has been a Red Cross volunteer since she was a junior in high school.

Randon McNeil is a varsity golfer at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. He demonstrates the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes (NAIA) core value of servant leadership by volunteering at youth baseball camps, various fundraising dinners and school blood drives.

Mentoring the Class of 2011

This month McNeil, Kramer and a dozen more students are spending two weeks at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C. where the Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program held its annual kick off. Participants are learning how to transfer the leadership skills they develop in athletics to community service off the field.

First-hand coaching, mentoring and professional leadership training are all part of the program.

Winston Davenport from Azusa Pacific University, for example, had the opportunity to work with the Red Cross vice president of Corporate and Foundation Partnerships, Michael Brown, on communication strategies to resolve challenges at his school. “His advice will certainly be put into practice,” Davenport says.

American Red Cross president and CEO Gail McGovern gave the group a lesson in career building. Genevieve Benson, a softball player from Grace College, relays McGovern’s observation “that career growth is not so much about moving up a ladder, but more of a lattice that one can maneuver.“

The chief medical officer for the American Red Cross, Dr. Richard Benjamin, offered guidance on preparations to take before, and actions to follow after, giving blood. Jan Hale, communications director for the Red Cross South Central Division, told students that good donor recruitment requires “attitude, focus, perseverance and belief.”

One after another, Red Cross and NAIA leaders gave of themselves, inspiring NAIA student-athletes by sharing personal stories of their own leadership journeys. And inspire they did. “I can’t wait to take everything I’ve learned back to my campus to help save lives and make a difference,” says Ottawa University basketball and track and field star Lauren Buckles.

A Partnership that Works

More lifesaving blood has been collected because of the Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program, and it has grown in effectiveness each year.

Since 2007, when the program began, more than 8,500 first-time blood donors have participated in Red Cross blood drives at NAIA-member schools. Units of blood collected have increased a whopping 74 percent.

The program operates as a three-way partnership: State Farm Insurance; the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes; and the American Red Cross. Each participating student-athlete receives a $2,000 scholarship—$1,000 from State Farm Insurance and $1,000 from sponsoring Red Cross Biomedical Services Blood Regions across the nation.

Brian Hamil, American Red Cross national chair of Biomedical Services, conceived, developed and launched the program. He wanted to inspire a new generation of Red Cross volunteers and leaders.

”I hope this program will motivate and engage these young adults to carry on the mission of the Red Cross on their college campuses,” said Hamil. “This year’s class contains some of the most driven student-athletes we’ve ever had here. They are articulate, intellectual and committed to achieving great results. Watching them engage as Red Cross ambassadors is going to be great fun.”

Now, following their two-week intensive Washington experience, these student-athletes return to their campuses better prepared to champion philanthropic causes of all kinds, including establishing Red Cross blood drives.