When the Arizona Wing began its mission to support the Red Cross during the COVID-19 pandemic by opening its squadron facilities as emergency blood donation centers on March 20, the goal was to collect 500 units of blood by Aug. 31. That goal was exceeded a month early, on July 30, when 31 units donated at the 388th Composite Squadron in Glendale brought the overall total to 519 units.
“This was the 15th blood donor center mission in 106 days. That’s unprecedented,” said Lt. Col. Bob Ditch, incident commander for the Arizona Wing’s effort. “But we still have more lives to help save,” he said, noting that six more blood drives are already scheduled for August.
Bo Schultz-Andersen of Sun City West donated the 500th unit. When he walked into the squadron building wearing a Red Cross “We’re All in This Together” T-shirt, it was clear he wasn’t a first-time donor.
“I began donating as a member of the Danish Army in the late ‘60s and have continued to donate over the years,” Schultz-Andersen said. Many of his fellow soldiers weren’t eager to donate blood, he recalled. “When we offered them a beer in return for donating, they changed their minds,” he said.
Kurt Kroemer, the Red Cross regional CEO for Arizona and New Mexico, visited the blood drive along with Donor Recruitment Manager Rita Anderson, who brought some gifts from the Red Cross for the 500th-unit donor. Schultz-Andersen also received a CAP Operation Pulse Lift challenge coin and an Arizona Wing patch.
Both Kroemer and Anderson thanked the wing for its continuing support. “Many of our partners will host a blood drive once a year,” Kroemer said. “The fact that you have sponsored 15 blood drives since mid-April is remarkable.”
Brig. Gen. Ed Phelka, CAP’s national vice commander, was impressed to hear about the wing’s blood donation efforts. “The Arizona Wing has demonstrated the powerful reach our lifesaving missions can have when Civil Air Patrol cooperates with partner organizations like the Red Cross,” he said. “Well done!”