February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions and legacies of African Americans. Kirsten Simpkins not only pays homage to her father’s legacy of blood donation and public service in February, but throughout the year. More specifically, Simpkins honors him every 56 days by giving blood.
Her father, Carter Anderson, was an American Red Cross volunteer CPR instructor and volunteer EMT with the Prince George’s County Fire Department in Maryland. According to Simpkins there was never a conversation between the two where he told her to donate blood; she simply learned by his example and is dedicated to keeping the tradition alive.
“Any way I can give back in his honor, I am going to figure out a way to do it,” says Simpkins. Since his passing, her family has hosted three blood drives in memory of her father.
A Legacy that Inspires New Generations
Presenting young blood donors with an opportunity to save lives is another way Simpkins continues her father’s legacy. In every school where Simpkins has worked, she’s assisted high school students in organizing school-wide blood drives and has been instrumental in conveying the power of their donations.
“When you talk about service, I think it’s just the easiest thing you can do with the greatest impact…You have the opportunity to save multiple people’s lives,” says Simpkins. This spring she will continue her advocacy for blood donation and assist The National Honor Society at Surrattsville High School with sponsoring a blood drive.
A Birthday Gives Way to a New Tradition
Over a month ago, Simpkins’ oldest son Darian celebrated his 16th birthday at the Red Cross. He was so inspired by the dedication of his grandfather and mother, that he dismissed the thought of getting his driver’s license until he made his first blood donation. He even brought his godsister along to roll up her sleeve for the first time. The snacks at the canteen were a big hit after they donated.
Following their successful December donation, the Simpkins have already scheduled their February appointments to give. Using the blood donor app, they enjoy following their donation to its final destination where it will be used to help a patient in need. “I love the fact that we get the notification about what hospital received our blood and that it’s already been shipped out and is being used,” says Simpkins.
Consider Committing to Blood Donation Today
Right now, there is a critical need for all blood types. Schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.
All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.