February 17, 2011

Spotlight On: Student Volunteerism

The following is re-printed from the Red Cross online publication, which can be found at this link.

The focus of the article is Marshall University sophomore Brian Wong, who recently developed a chapter of the American Red Cross at Marshall University. He serves as President of that club, while I am honored to serve as Advisor.

"Like many people, Brian Wong’s interest in donating blood and volunteering with the American Red Cross came as the result of seeing the need personally. His exposure to dozens of cancer patients while his mother was being treated for melanoma made him aware of the need for blood donors.

“During spring vacation in 2004, when I was in junior high, my mother was being treated for melanoma,” Brian explained. “I went with her during her treatments and saw a lot of people sitting there getting transfusions of red blood cells, plasma and platelets. Although my mother didn’t use blood, as I learned more, I realized any of those people having transfusions could have been my mom.”

Although just 14 years old at the time and under the required age to donate, Brian said he wanted to become a blood donor at that point. “If there was any way I could have donated then, I would have.” Later that same year, Brian’s mother, Kathleen Burchedean, who was a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army Band, and only 54 years old, passed away.

Brian, who is 21, is currently a sophomore and a psychology major at Marshall University, in Huntington, W.Va. A native of Washington, D.C., he has donated blood in three Blood Services Regions in the Heritage Division. His first time donating was while he was at the Perkiomen School, in Pennsburg, Pa. He donates blood during summer school vacations at the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Region, and in the Greater Alleghenies Region during the school year while he is at Marshall. Both a whole blood donor and a double red donor, Brian, who is O positive, has donated eight times. Brian, who has Asperger syndrome, which is a form of high-functioning autism, came to Marshall because of its College Program for Students with Asperger's Syndrome.

Brian has been an active volunteer at Marshall’s blood drives since January 2010. “It was right after the Haiti earthquake,” he said. “People were in a giving mood and I wanted to get involved as well.” Since that time Brian has volunteered in several capacities with the blood drives at Marshall. “I am a greeter, I sign up donors, I pass out fliers, and I’ve just starting using eDonor, which is an efficient way to sign up donors.” Other than the time he is in class, Brian spends his time prior to the blood drive and the day of the blood drive recruiting blood donors. He even uses his interest in psychology when talking to people about donating.
“I watch their reaction when I ask,” Brian continued. “Some of the reasons they give for not donating are not consistent with their body language. There is some fear there, but to overcome it, they need to find the source of the fear.”

Brian said his goal is to get people to donate blood at least once to help get over their fears of donating. “How can you make a decision this is something you don’t want to do if you have never done it?”

Christopher Jones, donor marketing specialist in the Southwest Zone, appreciates Brian’s reliability and commitment to help ensure the success of Marshall’s blood drives. “I’ve known him only a short while,” Chris said, “but in that time I have come to realize I can depend on him to be at my side to do whatever needs to be done to make sure these blood drives run smoothly. He does a great job.”

Brian plans to continue his involvement with the Red Cross during his time at Marshall and wherever he decides to go to graduate school. “The experience with my mom has made me passionate about giving blood,” he concluded. “The greatest gift anyone can give to a stranger is another chance at life, in this case, by donating blood. I hope my message will help to get more regular donors.”

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