‘This need is not going to be going away.’ Neither are Northeastern’s blood drives.

A Red Cross staff member prepares the vials to collect blood from donors at the second blood drive in less than a month at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Spending fifteen minutes staring up at the husky pawprints on the underside of the Matthews Arena scoreboard could save a life. On Monday, the athletic facility on Northeastern’s Boston campus hosted its second blood drive in less than a month, as part of a continuing collaboration with the American Red Cross. 

“It’s been a really positive response,” said Kelly Isenor, who is the external communications manager for the Red Cross in Boston. “When you’re in this world where there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unpleasantness. It’s nice to see people come through.”

Many of the usual places where the Red Cross holds blood drives, such as offices, schools, and conference centers, are closed because of the pandemic. But people still want to donate. When Northeastern stepped up to host the Boston Strong Blood Drive on April 15, the donor slots filled up in less than a day. 

Matthews Arena is spacious enough to host the blood drive while adhering to physical distancing guidelines to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“This is similar to any crisis—you want to do something, and no matter how small, it all counts,” said David Frasier, the senior director of Northeastern’s athletic facilities and event services. “This is a great way to be able to contribute.”

The Boston Strong drive collected 49 units of blood from 54 donors. Thirty-six of those donors were giving blood for the first time. And it was clear that many more people were interested in donating. 

This time, signups were opened to the Northeastern community first, then to the general public. 

“A number of Northeastern employees signed up to give blood,” Frasier said. “Not only are we hosting it, but some of our people who work at the university are participating. That makes it even more special.”

Matthews Arena is spacious enough to host the blood drive while adhering to recommended physical distancing protocols and other strategies to keep people safe. The university intends to continue hosting drives while other locations are closed. 

“We’ve already got our next one scheduled,” Frasier said. “If this was the middle of hockey or basketball season, it might be a little bit different, but it certainly works well right now.”

The next drive will be held on May 20. 

“We have an ongoing need in the weeks and months to come,” Isenor said. “It’s like grocery shopping—you can’t just grocery shop once and then eat for a year, you have to continuously replenish your supply of food. And it’s the same with the blood supply. This need is not going to be going away.”

Hosting blood drives is just one of the ways the university is working to support healthcare efforts during the COVID-19 crisis. The West Village E residence hall has been opened to house first responders, so they don’t have to worry about bringing the disease home to at-risk family members. And Northeastern researchers are testing alternative materials for protective gear, establishing best practices for telemedicine, and modeling the spread of the virus to help guide responses. 

“It’s really an amazing thing,” Isenor said. “I can’t put into words how lucky we are to have access to such a beautiful space and such good partners.”

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