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Blood Donations Could Benefit More Than 1,000 Patients

Contributions provided almost a full-day's blood needs for the 62 area hospitals Vitalant serves

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Approximately 500 donors gave blood Wednesday and Thursday during the Coyotes' blood drive at Gila River Arena.

The drive was held to help supply Vitalant, a nonprofit organization that collects blood from volunteer donors to provide for hospitals in need. Vitalant was founded in Phoenix in 1943.

Blood supplies are critically low. Vitalant was forced to cancel more than 17,000 scheduled blood donations over the past couple months due to school and business closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coyotes and Gila River Arena teamed up to assist.

"On behalf of Vitalant and the patients we serve, our heartfelt thanks goes out to the hundreds of blood donors who participated in the Arizona Coyotes Gila River Arena blood drive," Sue Thew, Vitalant spokesperson, said.

Donor contributions provided almost a full-day's blood needs for the 62 area hospitals served by Vitalant. Each unit of blood can benefit two to three patients; more than 1,000 patients will benefit, Thew said.

"We're very grateful," said Thew. "The Coyotes are truly making a difference for Arizona hospital patients. It's bad enough that people are dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic right now, but thanks to your organization, maybe they won't have to worry about blood shortages, too.

Brittani Willett, Executive Director of the Arizona Coyotes Foundation, used the organization's platform to spur donations. 

"This is one of those ways where we feel like we are able to help our community and give back," said Willett. "As an organization, definitely at the forefront of what we're doing, is always trying to give back. So, this was a good partnership and cause for us to be able to do that.

"This is a crucial time for blood supply, and with our state starting back up elective surgeries, they're really low. So, we're looking to restock [the supply] as we head into summer."

Coyotes President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka, along with Head Coach Rick Tocchet and players Brad Richardson and Jason Demers , kicked off the two-day drive Wednesday morning.

Said Chayka: "This is an important cause, giving blood can save a life. With everything going on in the community right now, anything we can do to help out we're willing to do. There's a lot of focus on COVID-19, as there should be, but there's certain things you can do as well to help out, and that's why we're here."

Tocchet, who praised frontline workers over the past two months, felt obligated to contribute.

"It's just a small part that I'm doing," Tocchet said. "Donating blood -- hopefully it can save somebody's life down the road. When the organization asked us to do it, it was obviously a no-brainer. The nurses and all of the people working this drive, they do a terrific job. It's gone really well, and the guys were excited about doing it."

Video: Vitalant Blood Drive at Gila River Arena

Richardson echoed Tocchet, saying giving blood was easy. 

"I know a lot of people need this right now," Richardson said. "It's a tough time, an uncertain time, and I think this is just a small gesture to help out. It's 30 minutes out of your day. So, it's not a big deal for us."

Ditto, Demers: "The community does so much to support us, so anything we can do to get out and give back is an easy decision for us."

"There's nothing better than leading by example," Thew said. "The GM, the coach and the players came out to show that donating blood is an important thing to do. People look up to their sports heroes, and it's so wonderful to see them reaching out to the community and truly making a difference.

"Thank you for giving so much at a time when blood supplies have been critically low due to the impact of COVID-19. You scored the winning goal for patients and their families."

Photo Credit [All]: Janelle Etzel - Arizona Coyotes

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