LOWELL, Mass. – On Wednesday, July 20, there was not a sporting event going on at the Tsongas Center, but there were still plenty of UMass Lowell student-athletes in attendance. Despite not being on the ice or on the court, the men’s hockey and women’s basketball teams spent the day giving back to the local community as volunteers at the American Red Cross’ annual blood drive in the Tsongas Center. The event has become the organization’s third largest blood drive of the year.
For those familiar with Tsongas, walking into the building on Wednesday looked very different. The floor was filled with donating stations and medical personnel, who were making sure everything was running smoothly.
The Tsongas center proved to be a great venue.
“The Tsongas Center makes a huge difference,” said Alyson Barraza, the communications manager for the Massachusetts and Connecticut blood services region. “It is open and bright. You can see what you13618 are doing. Plus there are plenty of spots for designated areas. Being able to play music is a big bonus too. It is the perfect venue and we hope we can continue the partnership going into the future.”
The unfortunate truth is that the United States is suffering from a serious blood shortage. The country is about 39,000 units short of what is needed.
“Blood only has a shelf life of 42 days,” explained Barraza. “It is a need that constantly has to be replenished. So when communities like Lowell want to help, it is tremendous. We are able to help more people.”
In years past, UMass Lowell has done just that. The drive at the Tsongas Center typically produces donations that reach the hundreds.
The River Hawk hockey team volunteered to help during the first half of the day. They would do anything from talking to patients while they eat and recover to escorting patients after giving blood, to simply welcoming people coming in.
Rising junior Gage Hough was one of the volunteers from the team.
“It is always good to get involved and to meet these great people,” Hough stated. “Donating blood is a great way to give back to the community and I am fortunate to be a part of it.”
“We want people to take an hour of their time to donate blood and make a difference,” Barraza voiced. “One donation can save three lives. It really hits home. It shows why every donation is important.”
Later in the day, the UMass Lowell women’s basketball team took over for the hockey team.
Katherine Smith, a rising junior on the team, also advocated for the cause.
“People always need help,” she said. “It is important because we are able-bodied college kids. It is good for us to come here and be more than just a student-athlete.”
Barraza echoed how important it was that the student-athletes paid a visit.13617
“Having the teams here is great,” she mentioned. “Having their support shows how connected the community really is (to UMass Lowell). It gives these people some inspiration when they come here, as well as comfort.”
Smith feels the same way.
“I think being involved in the community is such an important thing,” she detailed. “So many people take their time to see us or help us. Whether it is the coaches, or people behind the scenes it is really good for us student athletes to give back when we have the opportunity to.”
If you choose to give blood, the actual process only takes about 15 minutes. You can also choose how much you wish to donate. The whole hour timeframe includes filling out paperwork and also making sure you get a good snack in before you head out.
“Giving back is one of the most important things you can do,” agreed Hough. “We all want to help each other.”
He went on to explain that part of what makes the experience so great is hearing people’s stories.
“UMass Lowell does a great job of finding ways to give back. There is always something to learn from the people who come to these events, and it is good to hear their stories.”
Barraza pointed out, “There is a woman here who is donating her sixth gallon of blood. It has taken many, many years to do so, but it is really quite the accomplishment.”
The American Red Cross’s mission statement reads, “The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and generosity of donors.”
All of this is possible due to people willing to volunteer their time. The Tsongas Center was the height of that unity on Wednesday.