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Ohio Valley does its part to help alleviate shortage at Red Cross Media Day Blood Drive in Wheeling

Photo by Shelley Hanson - Kirk Contos of St. Clairsville is prepared to give blood with help from phlebotomist Taylor Anders.

WHEELING — Ohio Valley residents rolled up their sleeves during the American Red Cross Media Day Blood Drive on Monday to help put a dent in the organization’s “blood crisis.”

The Red Cross was hoping to collect at least 150 units of blood at the drive held at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack.

Spokeswoman Sharon Kesselring said 200 people had signed up ahead of time to give blood. The appointments, she said, allowed the Red Cross to keep the line moving and to also help social distance donors since COVID-19 is still around.

Kesselring said the Red Cross still is having a crisis, meaning it only has a half-day’s supply of blood. She said the organization likes to have at least three to five days worth of blood on hand in case of a large-scale emergency.

A recent example of such an emergency was the deadly tornadoes that struck portions of Kentucky last year.

“We’re facing a blood crisis,” Kesselring said. “That’s not a term we use lightly.”

Kesselring said the Media Day drive will be helpful but even blood collected during that event will take two to three days to get ready for use. She said the Red Cross could call for blood from different regions, if necessary; however, the entire nation is under a crisis.

After making several appeals during the past several weeks, Kesselring said people are starting to donate again, but the supply is still not stable.

“People heard the appeal, but we’re nowhere where we need to be at this point,” she said.

Among those donating were Shari Drahos of Wheeling. Drahos said she usually donates on a regular basis unless a drive is canceled due to bad weather.

“Everyone should come out and donate if they can,” she said.

Wheeling resident Charles Kalow said he’s been donating his blood for several years – about 80 pints to date, and has been awarded pins for his efforts.

“I like to help people out in need and who are sick. I know it’s critical right now – that’s why I’m out,” Kalow said.

St. Clairsville resident Kirk Contos also donated blood. He said he typically gives every 56 days, which is how long it takes the body to recover from a regular donation. Before Monday he said other appointments had not allowed him to get to a drive.

“There is a need,” Contos said of his reason for donating.

Red Cross volunteer worker Ron Remp of St. Clairsville was busy handing out new T-shirts to donors who were coming in. The long-sleeve black shirts, emblazoned with “36th annual Ohio Valley Media Day Blood Drive,” were given to each donor.

“It’s great, I love it,” Remp said of his volunteer work, adding it is something to do during his retirement.

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