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Community Conversation: Bonfils


DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders, and others were at the 17th annual Broncos Community Blood Drive Tuesday. Check out all the action here.

What does Bonfils Blood Center do? **"Bonfils Blood Center is the state of Colorado's community blood center. We have been providing the mission of making sure there is enough tested blood for the state of Colorado since 1943. We make sure we're encouraging donors to come forward and make a blood donation, make sure those donations are tested and then made available to patients throughout the Colorado community and beyond in more than 200 hospitals and healthcare facilities."

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about blood donations and needs?"It's interesting, we actually just completed some market research and one of the things we learned, one of the main reasons that people don't donate blood is just as simple as that they have not been asked. So I think one of the biggest issues we have in our community is not enough people know that it's something that is very important for the health of our community. It's a volunteer activity, people come forth out of the goodness of their heart to make a donation to a patient in need and there just are not enough people doing that.

"This last year we had about 70,000 blood donors who contributed about 140,000 units or pints of blood, which is a huge amount of blood and we are very, very grateful for that. We have many, many initiatives to help us get the word out and encourage other people to give blood donations and try for the first time, especially knowing that as a volunteer activity it's incredible impactful. One volunteer blood donation has the ability to save and enhance the lives of up three patients in need so it's a great way to make a difference in your immediate community."

How is blood donation unique from other forms of donation and volunteering?"Often times we call blood the great equalizer—if you think about it, because you never know who is going to need a blood transfusion. It could be mothers giving birth, newborn babies, actually even babies in the womb have received blood transfusions, it can be people at end stages of life, it could be trauma, a car accident, cancer patients, burn victims—so many scheduled surgeries, so many different medical treatments require blood to be on hand and available for patients. Really I think it's one of those things that we as a community almost take for granted, that if you need it, it will be there. But the reality is that you've got to have volunteers coming forward and people doing this out of the goodness of their heart. It's really a primary act of altruism in healthcare. Think about it—all of those therapies would grind to a halt if we didn't have volunteers coming forward to make that donation. I think that is very unique especially then if you think we need the whole community to come forward to make those donations and we have many people in the community who require those donations. Really we view ourselves at Bonfils Blood Center as a conduit of connecting volunteers in the community to patients in the community and make sure those life-saving donations are getting to where they need to be."

What does your donor population look like?"So we do have about 70,000 donors in a given year and they have all sorts of different donation patterns. We have some people that just come in one time a year, maybe at the Denver Broncos Drive for Life event, and we have some people that come every 56 days when they're eligible for whole blood. We also have an amazing, dedicated platelet donor base and those folks can come in every two weeks, which is amazing. So we have a group of folks who do those types of donations as well. But if you look at the average over all, if you average all of their activities it works out to be about 2.2 donations per year on average for each donor. If you think about how often people can donate, every two months or so, there's definitely room for people to increase their frequency and give more often and there's definitely room for new donors to come in to the Bonfils family and help us meet our goals."

How did Bonfils Blood Center's relationship with the Denver Broncos begin?"We are so proud of Bonfils Blood Center's relationship with the Denver Broncos. We actually just had our 17th Drive for Life this last year and are getting ready to start the planning for the 18th Drive for Life. The partnership has been an incredibly strong one since the beginning. We actually just approached the Broncos with the simple idea of how can we partner to increase the awareness of the need for more blood donors in our community. We've been so grateful and lucky to have such a strong partnership ever since. The day of the event, at this point the way the event has evolved over the years we take over the club at the stadium and really welcome anyone from the community to come out and make a blood donation and get a really rare and fun opportunity to interact with Broncos players, alumni, cheerleaders and really be a part of saving lives and get a wonderful reward in getting to spend some time with the Broncos as well. So it's something that we're very appreciative of. When we plan our year, we talk about the need for more first-time donors. Drive for Life brings in close to 30 percent of first-time donors, and it's a huge boost for us to bring new donors in as a way to introduce them to how easy blood donation can really be."

There were some changes in the format this year to enhance the donor experience. How did the brand new Fan Zone turn out?"We did, and you're exactly right when you say the focus was on the donor. We really wanted to highlight the donor experience at Drive for Life. So we mixed it up a little bit and instead of having the traditional autograph area, we instead had the 'Fan Zone.' So those people that made it to the end of the donation process and were there to donate blood got an amazing experience where they weren't just standing in lines to get autographs—that was part of the day as well, but that wasn't the full focus of the day—they were having some really interesting and unique experiences with Broncos players, whether it was having the juice and cookies handed out by them or the t-shirts or  getting to play the bean bag toss or football toss with a player. It was really cool because we also hear from the Broncos players that they wanted to be more interactive with the public and get a chance to thank them in person and spend some more quality time with them and be a part of making the event successful in terms of their volunteer activities. So we had great feedback from our donors that they felt very appreciated and it really was special for them."

You presented Sports Authority Field at Mile High/Stadium Management Company LLC with the Dr. Ben Galloway Community Partner Award. What does that mean and why were they a deserving recipient?"We were so excited this year, and interestingly enough we named the community partner award after Dr. Ben Galloway—he has served on our foundation board and our operating board for many, many years. He's truly been instrumental in helping lead our organization forward from a governance and community outreach standpoint. So very fitting that we named it in his honor. Our recipient this year was the event coordinator for Drive for Life at the stadium. An unbelievable job was done there. I think when we put on Drive for Life, it's our staff that comes in and facilitates that drive but we work hand-in-hand with the SMC employees and have done so for 17 years. This year, more than any other year, we were just so struck by the fact that the employees at SMC really owned Drive for Life the way we own Drive for Life. They wanted a good, quality event. They know that the reactionary area for the donors looks and feels a certain way; that the crowd control works a certain way; that the canteen area where the juice and cookies, if it doesn't have a certain flow it isn't going to work. We truly feel like we have a hand-in-glove partnership with that organization and we couldn't think of anyone more fitting to give that award."

What is the Give LIVE concert?"We are so well-known in the community as the place you go to give blood and we want everybody to know that, but we do struggle sometimes getting the message out that we also are a nonprofit and philanthropic. I think people are surprised to learn it takes about $1 million a week to run our operations. We do have a significant need for increased funding from the community so we created our annual benefit concert called Give LIVE. This year we are featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. So that show will be on March 27 at the Paramount Theatre. It is a really fun night that helps underscore the importance of Bonfils Blood Center, the need for philanthropic support and really it's just a fun night. We've got VIP tickets on sale for $175 which puts you in the first 11 rows and gets you a great VIP party at the Hard Rock Café, or there are tickets as cheap as $35. Really a fun night that helps get the word out about the importance of having a blood center within your community."

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