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Bleeding Carolina Blue to save lives: Carolina Blood Drive returns

The annual blood drive, which will take place June 7 in the Dean E. Smith Center, has impacted thousands of lives over the course of three decades.

Rameses poses for a photo.
(Photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The annual Carolina Blood Drive returns for its 34th year on Tuesday, June 7,  from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Dean E. Smith Center. The Carolina Blood Drive planning committee, through the Employee Forum, invites faculty, staff, students and residents to sign up and donate.

For longtime blood donors like Jerel Bonner, saving lives is literally in his veins. During his eight years as a Carolina employee in the ’90s, Bonner made regular blood donations. By his count, he gave nearly 60 pints. Then he moved to China for 10 years.

Following his return from China in 2017, Bonner learned he would have to wait three years before donating again. Instead of waiting, he got back in the game by serving on the board of directors for the American Red Cross Central North Carolina Chapter for two years and by volunteering at the Carolina Blood Drive. Bonner does whatever the blood drive committee assigns him. He promotes the drives to his friends and on websites and is one of the last to leave, staying to help clean up.

When his three-year waiting period ended in 2020, Bonner continued volunteering and began donating again. To this day, he gives blood every two months and is a yearly regular at the winter and summer Carolina drives.

“It’s a totally different feeling to donate and volunteer for the UNC drives than it is at other locations,” Bonner said. “It just takes a little creativity to make someone smile and (put them) at ease during an important community activity.”

Bonner is happy to help however needed whenever that special time of the year comes around.

“I always know where I’ll be on the second Tuesday of June and December — at Carolina, saving lives as long as I live in the Triangle,” Bonner said.

Since 1989, the Carolina Blood Drive has potentially impacted more than 100,000 lives through donation as one of the largest and longest-standing blood drives in the Carolinas Region of the American Red Cross.

Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are strongly encouraged. You can sign up through American Red Cross online, by phone or via the American Red Cross Blood Donor app. Free parking will be available at the Smith Center, and Chapel Hill Transit buses will be running there as well. Those who donate will receive a commemorative T-shirt and free food, while supplies last.

This past December, the Holiday Carolina Blood Drive saw 65 volunteers and 339 donors, including 99 first-time donors, and resulted in 320 units of life-saving blood, impacting up to 960 lives.

How it works: The drive will take place in the Dean E. Smith Center on Tuesday, June 7,  from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sign up for an appointment on the American Red Cross’ website or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and using sponsor code UNC.

How to get there: Free parking will be available at the Smith Center, but Chapel Hill Transit buses will also be running.

Am I eligible to donate? If you’ve recently donated blood, you can visit the American Red Cross’ website to check when you are eligible to donate again. Donation windows differ depending on whether a whole blood, double red (power) or platelet donation was made.

Other important things to know: In alignment with CDC guidelines, the American Red Cross has updated COVID-19 safety protocols. Face masks are no longer required at the blood drive, but Red Cross employees and volunteers will accommodate mask requests when close contact occurs. Donors may choose to wear a mask, and the Red Cross will make masks available to those in attendance. Social distancing will also continue wherever possible.

For more information, visit carolinablooddrive.unc.edu.