Why do you give blood? The free shirts.

You have all probably heard the reasons why you should give blood. You know, that a unit is needed every 2 seconds, which translates to just under 40,000 units a day. The blood you donate is separated out into 3 units: red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Therefore one donation can help up to three people. Then there are all of the ways the donated blood is used. There are car accidents, shot police officers, premature babies, heart surgery patients, burn victims, and all of the other accidents and incidents in life. Most importantly, even with ongoing research, there is no artificial blood.

So, with all of those good reasons, why do you give blood. Let’s face it, this research stated that the reason why people give blood is mostly altruistic (around 3/4 of respondants). However, we really know why we give blood, and we know that only 1/4 of us was willing to not lie on the survey. We do it for the shirts and other free stuff we get.

Before we get into the stuff itself, let’s talk quickly about the types of donation setups. First there is the main offices. This is the office where the administrators are. The setup here is permanent, and they also have a snack bar. Some will even have breakfast clubs on Saturday. Then there is the blood mobiles. This is what a bus would look like if pimped out by a vampire. It makes blood drives easy by simply pulling up, and having people come in one door, draw the blood in the middle, and exit out the other door. Kinda like an assembly line. Finally, there is the on-site setups. These are the hardest to find these days, because so many places are going to the bus. This is where the haul all of the equipment somewhere, and tote it all inside, usually to a church or place of business.

On to the free stuff.The shirts are the most important things. Those campy, often silly, and never classy, shirts.You will find regional and holiday themes, along with many patriotic shirts. Now they hand out these shirts like tik-taks. Go to any donation site, and you will find the shirts. Usually they will have about 2 to 3 styles a year, so if you give more than three times a year, you will definitely end up with duplicates. Since you can give every 8 weeks, then you can give 6.5 times a year, meaning a happy number of shirts.Mobile and setup donations usually have one style of shirt, unless they have have found a box of an older shirt, then they will have a little bit of each. The main office usually has the newest design, and the largest selection of older ones. LifeShare shirt for MardiGras
LifeShare shirt post 9-11
Now, let’s move on to the other stuff.Let’s start with the hats.These are you standard baseball-style caps. These are your generic caps, usually emblazoned with the local blood center logo. I have found that the beige are very common, but I have also seen a few black ones.The best bet for these are at the main office and on-site setups.However, don’t think you are going to walk in the first time and get one of these, especially if you are not at the main office. Now, this doesn’t mean that the main office will just offer you one on your second visit. Sometimes, they will have special drives for those, or they will require a certain number of donations before they will offer, hell, some won’t even mention them until your first gallon. If you have gone past two gallons (around 16 donations), then on-sites might be a good option, but the main office might work then. cap from UTMB, pulled from the Inter-Tubes
This is not my hat, just a picture I found on the tubes of the Interweb
Ah, the mugs.Now some mugs, like this one, is fairly generic, and is given out when they feel like it. Others are given out for specific reasons. Some will have gallon and multiple gallon mugs, others have mugs for multiple saturday donations. Pretty much, you are looking at the main office for a mug. Mobile and on-site donation pretty much never have mugs.
The other stuff category.This includes keychains, lanyards, carabiners, jar grippers, pens, pins, and many other promotional items. Some are reserved for special donations, or special criteria, or as other options when shirts start to run out.
Now this is a mother-load. Some places give this stuff at special donations, but most likely you will only find it at the main office. This setup came from a first donation at Lane Memorial Blood Bank.This included a mug, carabiner key chain (not for use in climbing), pen, refrigerator magnet, a coupon for a shirt/tote bag/coffee card on the next donation, and candy. Although this implies that it might be difficult to get a shirt from the main office, it is still a kick-ass set.Now, remember, stuff like this is usually only found at the main office, so it might be best to go there for your first time.

Given all of this stuff, how do you maximise your options? There are a few rules. Normally, blood drives at a mobile unit will only have shirts, and can easily run out at large volume drives, so get there early. If you want a good selection of stuff, like a hat, keyfob or other schwag, then the on-site blood drives are good for that. Those people working those drives have to tote out everything, so they like to give stuff away. However, if you are trying to get a mug, your best bet is at the main donor office.

The quickest rules of thumb are:

  1. First time donors might do better for stuff at the main office.
  2. Donations 2 through 7 can be done at a on-site or mobile blood drive.
  3. Donation 8, the one gallon mark, along with all other multiple of 8, should be done at the main office.

Eventually, you might find yourself getting burned out on some of the free stuff. Remember, those shirts can be extremely campy. So, you will need to keep in mind some of the opposites of these rules. In this case, you want to go to the mobile donations. Try to ge there with less than 2 hours left (but keep it more than one hour) and you can possibly get away with nothing but the paperwork. After 2 gallons (especially after 3) keep away from the on-site donations like the plague. If they are holding one at your work, go find a mobile donation the week before, or even go into the main donation office late one day, so you have a good excuse. Why? Because after multiple gallons, those people have made 2 conclusions: 1) you are a fairly easy mark, and they can drain you dry. 2) you are there for the stuff, so HERE YOU GO!

A final word of warning. When you go to the main office, there will always be “success stories” up on the walls. These will be people whose lives have been saved by blood transfusions. Try to avoid them, especially if little children, or (gasp) infants in the hospital are displayed. The last thing you want is to start thinking about the people who are going to be helped by your blood donation, just think about the free stuff.


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