Donors who give a pint of blood this month at the American Red Cross will get more than a needle in the arm.
They will also receive a pound of coffee for donating.
Faced with a shortage of blood donors, the American Red Cross Blood Services New York-Penn Region has partnered with the philanthropic arm of Dunkin’ Donuts in the “Pint for a Pound” program. It’s intended to encourage people to donate blood this month, typically one of the slow months for donations due to holidays, travel and illness.
For Marc and Heidi Bonner of Rotterdam, the importance of donating blood has become painfully clear in the past couple of months.
“My boys are alive because people took time to donate,” said Marc Bonner.
The couple’s twin boys, Aidan and Cian, are in the neonatal intensive care at St. Peter’s Hospital. They were delivered in November, three months premature and each weighing less than 2 pounds. They have been getting transfusions since they were born.
“When it’s your baby who needs the blood, it hits home,” said Marc Bonner, 34, who began donating blood in high school because he is type O, a universal donor, and knew it was needed for emergencies.
He said that 18 infants are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Peter’s Hospital and all are getting blood transfusions, which shows how desperately donors are needed.
According to the Red Cross, a premature baby uses one to four units of blood while in intensive care.
Type O is the most commonly transfused blood and is used in about 60 percent of all transfusions.
In addition to his newborn sons’ needing a blood transfusion, Bonner’s father received six units of blood after he ruptured his spleen in a motorcycle accident in September.
Whether it’s a T-shirt or a pound of coffee, any incentive that bring donors in to give blood is worth it, said Bonner.
“Get out there and give. It really helps a lot. You saved my boys; you may save someone else, too,” Bonner said Friday during a blood drive at the American Red Cross chapter in Albany.
The Red Cross likes to have a 10-day supply of blood. Currently, it has a three- to four-day supply, said Aric Aery, district director of donor services recruitment for the New York-Penn Region.
The number of donors has steadily decreased since a surge around Sept. 11, 2001, and this time of year, it falls off even more because of the holidays and illnesses and because college students — who make up a big portion of donors and hold many blood drives — are on break.
Meanwhile, experts say one in four Americans will need a blood transfusion during their lifetime, yet only an estimated 12.65 percent of eligible donors in Albany County donated blood from July 2006 to June 2007.
Part of the reason people don’t donate blood is a fear of the unknown, said Steve Leary, senior account manager at the American Red Cross.
“We really need new donors,” said Leery, who said one pint of donated blood can save three lives.
Jerry Burke, a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee, said Dunkin’ Donuts recognized the critical need for blood donors, particularly when donations lag in winter.
Ralph Delima, who owns four Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in Schenectady, Rotterdam and Albany, rolled up his sleeve on Friday morning to donate blood.
“I’m excited about the program,” he said.
Regular blood donors have been notified about the “Pint for a Pound” campaign, said Aery, who reminded people Friday that it’s best not to drink coffee immediately before or after donating blood.
Locally, Dunkin’ Donuts expects to give out 8,000 pounds of coffee worth more than $60,000 in the Capital Region market.
Anyone who donates a pint of blood will be given a coupon that can be redeemed at any of the 120 Dunkin’ Donuts in the region for a pound of coffee.
The promotion runs through the end of the month.