By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Will Echeverria '22 participated in the Men's Soccer virtual blood drive.

Will Echeverria ’22 participated in the men’s soccer virtual blood drive.

As COVID-19 swiftly made its way across the United States in early spring, Andrew Venezia ’21 and his fellow Lafayette men’s soccer team members knew they wanted to do their part in the battle against the pandemic—and do it as a team. But, given the strict social distancing guidelines, they were unsure of how they could physically go out into the community to offer help without putting themselves and others at risk. 

“There is no doubt that, as a group of healthy young people, the men’s soccer team is very lucky and in a position to help those in need at this extremely difficult time,” Venezia says. “It was important to us that the program [we chose] would have a direct impact on those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and that it was something the entire team could participate in—even though we have team members at home in various parts of the country.”

It was when U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams addressed the nation March 19, urging Americans to donate blood to help relieve the countrywide shortage, that the young men knew they found the cause they were looking for. 

With the guidance of their head coach, Dennis Bohn, and Chelsea Cefalu, assistant director of community-based learning and research at Landis Center for Community Engagement, Venezia and his teammates partnered with American Red Cross’ SleevesUp program to hold a virtual blood drive. 

Through the online campaign, the student-athletes aim to gather at least 50 blood donation pledges to be fulfilled by May 31. And they are already well on their way to reaching their goal: As of April 17, the effort garnered 17 donation pledges. 

“To quote the surgeon general, ‘Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,’” Bohn says. “Andrew is really trying to challenge younger people to step up and donate because of the need, and the motivation behind it is one that I’m very supportive of. I think it shows great courage for them as a group to come up with that idea, and it’s something I’m really proud of them for.” 

Carter Houlihan '24 participated in virtual blood drive

Incoming student Carter Houlihan ’24 participated in the men’s soccer virtual blood drive.

The virtual blood drive concept is a simple one. If you wish to pledge and make a blood donation, visit the team’s campaign site, click on “PLEDGE TO GIVE BLOOD,” and fill out a short information form. American Red Cross will then identify your nearest donation center based on your ZIP code. From there, you can schedule your appointment in just a few easy steps. Venezia and his teammates ask that you fulfill your pledge prior to the campaign’s May 31 end date, and post your photo on social media using #PardsCare.

“You can do it from anywhere in the country,” Bohn says, “whether you’re a Lafayette student, employee, or alum.”

And if you’re skeptical about the risk associated with donating blood during the coronavirus pandemic, American Red Cross assures it is following the highest standards of infection control, and encourages healthy individuals to schedule and keep blood, platelet, and AB Elite plasma donation appointments in the coming weeks in order to ensure a steady supply.

“The U.S. Surgeon General says that donating blood is safe and that blood centers are taking all the necessary precautions,” Venezia says, “including spacing beds 6 feet apart, disinfecting surfaces, and temperature-checking staff. We trust the medical professionals at this time.”

The most important thing to remember, Venezia explains, is that volunteer donors are the only source of lifesaving blood for those in need. 

“We feel lucky that we have found a cause that allows us to give to those most in need while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines,” Venezia says. “Possibly saving lives at this time is something that we are all very proud of.”

Categorized in: COVID-19 Community, COVID-19 News, Faculty and Staff, Featured News, Landis Center, News and Features, Student Profiles, Students
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