Haley Jackson has a special connection to blood donation.
Her great-grandparents, Arvid and Florence Jackson, were frequent blood donors in their beloved community of North Platte. They also both had cancer, requiring them to get blood transfusions during their courses of treatment.
“Seeing that, from an outsider’s point of view, made me realize how important blood really is for others,” said Jackson, a first-year chemistry major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “I just decided that if my grandparents needed help, I’m sure that there are others in the community and across the country that need help as well. It really inspired me to give back to the community and follow in their footsteps.”
On Dec. 31, she hosted a blood drive at North Platte Bethel Church in memory of Arvid and Florence, who passed away in 2019 and 2018.
This is the second year Jackson has hosted the drive. Despite the limitations of the pandemic, she exceeded her donation goal, collecting 37 units of blood for the Red Cross.
“We’ve had a great turnout for both of my blood drives, so it’s really been a blessing to be able to give back to my community. It means so much,” she said.
Jackson began planning for the drive when she returned home to North Platte during winter break.
“I started by hanging posters around the community. The next step I took was calling people on our list who were eligible to give blood, asking them if they would like to sign up to donate,” Jackson said.
“I had less than 20 a week before the drive, so I was kind of getting nervous, and I thought I wasn’t going to reach my goal. So, I posted on the North Platte community Facebook page and got such a huge response. It helped connect me with people that knew my great-grandparents and people who wanted to donate.”
45 people donated blood during the event, five more than Jackson had planned for.
“Because of COVID, we could only accept so many people, because we had to go by appointment,” Jackson said. “We had people walking in non-stop and we couldn’t take them, because we were full already. It was awesome. Obviously it wasn’t good to turn people away, but just the fact that people were coming in and at least trying means a lot.”
The drive was a nice way to keep her great-grandparents’ memory alive, Jackson said.
“People were coming in were saying, ‘I knew your great-grandparents.’ They only passed away a few years ago, and they were a really big influence in my life, so to hear people talk about them means a lot,” Jackson said.
She hopes to continue the tradition in the future.
“I would love to come back every year and host one — at least volunteer,” Jackson said.
And, as a blood donor herself, Jackson encourages anyone interested to roll up their sleeve and give it a try.
“For as little as a sacrifice it is, the benefits are huge,” she said. “You never know when you might need it yourself.”