By Susan Gallagher
Kevin Hinz keeps several mementos in his Olivette, MO, home office, but the one this well-traveled, business leader seems to treasure most is a framed collection of 20 pins—one for each gallon of blood he’s donated.
He reached the 20-gallon mark on February 29 and celebrated with a call to his 87-year-old father in Buffalo, N.Y.
“In 1990, during a casual conversation about giving blood, I made the ‘mistake’ of challenging my Dad (Norm) to see who could donate the most blood donations over time,” Kevin recalled. “After a hand-shake agreement, I realized I was gallons behind and had to get serious about giving blood if I ever wanted to credibly challenge my father, so I mapped out a plan to give blood every 56 days. My Dad kept giving blood, too, but not as regularly as I did, so I began to creep up on him!”
In 2012, Norm Hinz was recovering from heart surgery and was unable to continue giving blood, but he encouraged Kevin to continue giving. “Finally, in 2017, I reached what I thought was the goal my Dad had set: 17 gallons! As my Dad and I celebrated, he casually told me that he had actually given a few gallons early in his life and those donations weren't part of the challenge total. So we estimated that he had donated three additional gallons, making the ‘new goal’: 20 gallons.”
In the end, it took 30 years to reach Dad’s total because his Dad was a champion donor thanks to two dedicated nurses who kept pushing him to give—Kevin’s mom and aunt. “My aunt would call my Dad up and insist he come to give blood any time the hospital was short of his blood type (A+).”
Kevin, also A+, had his own team cheering him on. His wife and two sons became wrapped up in the challenge and provided support over the years as Kevin, a paper industry executive moved his family from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and in 2007, Missouri. St. Louis, where his second son was born, has become home for the Hinz family, but Kevin still travels extensively for his job. While on the road, he has donated blood in centers across the United State—from Florida to Southern California.
As a regular donor, Kevin got to know and grew to deeply respect Red Cross staff at these centers. “What a dedicated team of enthusiastic, kind people!” he said. “What started out as a casual bet has turned into a lifetime commitment and passion to support an organization doing so much good in our society.”
Ever the innovator, Kevin believes a “long-term challenge” like that he had with his Dad could be used to move occasional donors into lifetime, frequent contributors. “The Red Cross could create a game or some sort of challenge with the winner getting recognition or something unique,” said Kevin. “We need to turn the many occasional donors into committed life-timers.”
Is he moving the challenge to the next generation? Will he have a blood donor challenge going on with his sons, now age 15 and 12? “I would like to believe I am as good a model as my father was for me—but then again, he had two nurses barking at his ears to give blood. That can be a real incentive!”
Whatever the motivation, giving blood remains critically important. Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood. About 38 percent of the total population can actually donate blood, but only 10 percent give blood. If everyone who could donate blood gave, thousands of lives could be saved.
Donors are needed more than ever since centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives. In addition, on April 2, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a statement that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the nation’s blood supply.