Miller-Keystone Blood Center launches campaign to recruit more Hispanic blood donors
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Miller-Keystone Blood Center has launched a campaign to get more Hispanic people to donate blood.
The diversity initiative comes with a $120,000 boost from the Highmark Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based private, charitable organization dedicated to public health and human service initiatives.
The funding will come with a full-time staff member responsible for actively recruiting the Lehigh Valley's Hispanic population to give blood.
- Miller-Keystone Blood Center has launched a campaign to recruit more Hispanic blood donors
- Its chief executive officer said differences in blood antigens make it medically important to have diversity in the blood supply
- The initiative is being funded by a $120,000 grant from the Highmark Foundation
Miller-Keystone Chief Executive Officer Pete Castagna said there's a scientific reason blood from Hispanic people is needed.
"This is a really important resource and investment, for us to be able to reach further into a community that we haven't done a very good job at historically."Pete Castagna, President & CEO of Miller-Keystone Blood Center
"If you've ever donated blood, you know there's certain things called blood type — you've probably heard, O Negative, or B," Castagna said. "So in addition to blood type, there are antigens in the blood, and everybody's antigens are a little bit different — they are respective to your race and your background."
Castagna said the diversity in blood antigen content could make the difference between a successful or failed blood transfusion.
"This is a really important resource and investment," Castagna said. "For us to be able to reach further into a community that we haven't done a very good job at historically."
At the news conference announcing the funding, Maria Cruz, who is Puerto Rican, was donating blood.
Situated on a medical bed to the left of the center of the podium, as news reporters gathered around her, Cruz said she was a bit surprised by all the commotion.
"It's kind of interesting being here and hearing the Hispanic community doesn't donate as much as they should," Cruz said. "Because, I mean, this is awkward, right? I'm here. I'm like, 'I didn't know this was a thing.'"
Cruz said she was donating as part of an initiative with her employer, DLP Capital, an investment firm on the next block in Allentown.
"I was not expecting this," she said with a laugh. "But I do like the mascot."
The mascot she was talking about is named Half-Pint. He's a bloodhound dog.
As nurses and donors gathered to take a selfie with Half-Pint, Castagna said, "this is why we have him. People want to take a picture with him. He actually helps our brand."