On Monday, the Panthers community relations and Foundation team came into the office with an idea. And by the end of the week, dozens of local residents, companies and Panthers corporate partners came together for a great cause.
“I saw everybody standing in line to give blood in Orlando,” said Lauren Simone, Executive Director of the Florida Panthers Foundation. “I thought that if we got support here, we could draw a crowd and ship that blood up to refill the banks being depleted of blood.
“We felt that it was our duty and responsibility to help."
The Panthers partnered with OneBlood – an Orlando-based blood bank – and the City of Sunrise to put on a blood drive. The Florida Panthers Foundation also took donations – promising to match every dollar raised – to support the OneOrlando Fund.
Donors received free pizza and a 20% discount at Pantherland, which opened its doors for this special event. Panthers partners JetBlue and South Florida Ford set up tents flanking the OneBlood buses. Mascot Viktor E. Ratt showed up, adorned in a brand new Panthers jersey, to mingle with those waiting in line to donate.
Local radio station 560 WQAM showed up, too, as Marc Hochman and Zach Krantz did their daily broadcast from inside Pantherland. And despite some less-than-ideal weather in the early going, fans quickly lined up to support their neighbors to the north.
“If you have to wait in line,” said Hochman on the broadcast, “That’s a good thing."
Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan also stopped by – and did a quick spot on the WQAM broadcast – to show his support for the blood drive. He also wrote a generous check to support the OneOrlando fund, a check which the Foundation is matching.
"On behalf of the city of Sunrise, we stand with the entire community of Orlando,” said Ryan. “We feel what they’re going through with the heartache and loss.”
“We recognize that no community is beyond that level of hate, and unless we stand together, it can happen here, and it can happen anywhere."
The Sunrise community certainly stood together on Friday. Despite a nasty thunderstorm right before the event started, and ominous clouds overcast throughout the rest of the day, the donors stood in line, waiting to make an impact.
“Even at the beginning, when it was raining, people were standing in line,” said Simone. “It really speaks volumes that people would come out in that and donate to a good cause."
The weather forecast was concerning for Simone and her team. In fact, they nearly moved the blood drive inside of the BB&T Center. But the weather calmed down and the donors came out in droves.
“Even though the weather forecast looked grim, we said this is for a great cause,” said Simone. “If we get soaked, we get soaked. Whoever comes out, we’re going to do the best we can."
In fact, despite the bad weather and short notice, the blood donations actually far exceeded expectations. By the halfway point of the event, OneBlood and the Panthers realized that two huge donation buses simply weren’t enough for the volume of people trying to donate. So, OneBlood took another one of their buses over to the BB&T Center.
“[OneBlood] has a great reputation in the community,” said Simone, “They’ve been excellent to work with."
The end result was staggering. The blood drive collected a total of 75 pints of blood, more than nine gallons.
"In light of the recent Orlando tragedy, giving blood has taken on a more profound meaning,” said Pat Michaels of OneBlood. "It can save the lives of patients in our hospitals, and the need never stops."
The amount of blood donated at yesterday’s blood drive is enough to save up to 225 lives. Seeing the Sunrise community come together so quickly to help those in Orlando was an indelible moment for the mayor.
“To see the fans outside standing in line to give blood,” said mayor Ryan, “They’re the real heroes here today."