The holiday season is undoubtedly one of the most special times of the year in New York City. People from all over the world come to see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, walk along the window displays on Fifth Avenue and ice skate in Central Park. Beyond the lights and beautiful decorations, this is a season of giving and that spirit echoes across the five boroughs. In that vein, I am writing to ask New Yorkers to consider giving the gift of life this holiday season.
My name is Yadira Navarro and I am the Director of Community and Stakeholder Relations for New York Blood Center. I am a relationship “bridge” builder who works to engage our local elected officials, community leaders and more to join us as advocates and partners in the lifesaving mission of keeping New York’s blood supply steady for patients in-need.
Born and raised in New York City, I was a junior in high school when I first heard of New York Blood Center and all that it does to serve our community. At 17, I was beyond excited to partake in an activity that would save lives and it was that excitement that inspired me to volunteer for the nonprofit after my college graduation. I was on the hunt for a career that would make a difference and I found exactly that after just one volunteer session for NYBC.
Throughout my time here, I have met so many amazing people who have been impacted by blood donations and those who have been able to live their lives thanks to the selflessness of others. I even had my own full circle moment a few years ago when my grandfather received blood transfusions while getting treated in the hospital. While he ultimately passed, those donations allowed us the opportunity to spend more time with him. Those moments are precious to my family and were made possible by the kindness of strangers.
In the nearly 20 years I have been with New York Blood Center, the last few have been some of our most difficult. The pandemic completely changed the way we recruit donors. We are currently down by nearly 20% in blood donations in comparison to before COVID-19 swept through NYC and caused a shutdown in the spring of 2020. Each year since, we have gotten stronger but we are still not where we need to be.
The most concerning aspect of the pandemic’s impact is the reduced number of youth donors; there has been a 50% decrease since before the pandemic. Because of remote learning, many schools did not host blood drives, and while students are back in the classroom, not all former blood drives have been restored. Without them, many students miss their first opportunity to donate blood, whether between classes or as an excuse to miss Chemistry.
Joking aside, this weighs heavily on me as someone who found their calling by attending one of these life-saving events as a teen. It will hurt the blood supply long term as our senior donors age out and young people avoid making donations a habitual practice. We especially need young and diverse donors, as there are patients who require blood donations that closely match their genetic makeup.
Corporate blood drives have also not fully returned, as many people are still working from home. We have champions who have continued to host, including the employees of the City of New York, the New York Mets and Pfizer; to name a few. We’ve also gained new corporate blood drive partners, such as Teva, SquareSpace and Yext. And yet we still need more as office blood drives continue to be down by 24%.
While at your office holiday party this year, talk to your colleagues about hosting a different kind of event: a blood drive. Sign up to donate blood, bring your teenager and make it a holiday tradition that will inspire them to become lifetime blood donors. Even better, discuss bringing back school blood drives to their teachers. And if you can’t give blood or your time, you can always make a financial donation.
Around holiday dinner tables, there will be people who would not have been able to celebrate with their families if not for the generosity of blood donors. We are so immensely grateful to the New Yorkers who show up for each other and donate blood, this holiday season we celebrate you.
This month, give a gift to your city that costs nothing but means everything to a patient in need. Make donating blood one of your New Years Resolutions. Your blood donations will likely have an impact far beyond your imagination.
Click here to search for donor centers or community blood drives near you.