Community

Blood donor clinic 
celebrates nine years

Nancy Bryan presenting Mike Garisto with a plaque commemorating the number of donations received at the Cloverdale Blood Donor Clinic. - Grace Kennedy
Nancy Bryan presenting Mike Garisto with a plaque commemorating the number of donations received at the Cloverdale Blood Donor Clinic.
— image credit: Grace Kennedy

On March 20, 2014, beneath a picture of celtic dancers and an article on the new Hazelgrove Park, Mike Garisto made an appearance in the Cloverdale Reporter.

He was rolling up his sleeves to donate blood for the 25th time. He had 25 friends with him, ready to donate in honour of the momentous occasion.

It didn’t hurt that it was the Cloverdale Blood Donor Clinic’s sixth anniversary too—and Garisto was the man behind the mobile clinic.

It started in 2008, when Garisto went into Shannon Hall, an “old dumpy facility that’s not air conditioned,” to make good on a promise he had made more than 35 years before.

Garisto, 10, was selling chocolate bars door to door as part of a fundraiser for his school.

One of his neighbours would only buy the chocolate bar if he promised to give blood when he was old enough.

Decades later, he would fulfill that promise and make his first donation of blood.

“I don’t know what it was that motivated me to go to Shannon Hall that particular day, but I decided it was time to live up to this commitment,” he said.

“After I had made the donation…I was kicking myself, thinking why didn’t I ever do this much earlier,” he said.

“I decided to make up for all the lost donations.”

At the time, Garisto was the Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus at the Precious Blood Parish in Cloverdale. He created a partnership between the Canadian Blood Services and the Precious Blood Parish, and did a two-clinic trial.

Every eight weeks, the Canadian Blood Services trucks would roll up to the doors of the Precious Blood Parish’s gymnasium. In the course of two and a half hours, the gym would be transformed into a fully-operational blood donor clinic.

That two-clinic trial turned into a partnership that has lasted for almost a decade.

Wednesday, April 19 is the ninth anniversary of the first Cloverdale Blood Donor Clinic. In that time, some things have stayed the same: there’s still a regular group that comes out to donate.

But many things are different now. Garisto’s wife can no longer donate blood because her iron levels are too low. Garisto himself, the powerhouse behind the clinic, had to stop for a while because of his diabetes.

“We’ve had parishioners that have passed away or donors that have passed away, or moved out of the area, so they’re not contributing here,” he said.

But the clinic hasn’t only seen losses.

The Sikh Nation annual blood drive used to take place at the Cloverdale clinic—Garisto remembers the tents, samosas and colourful clothing as a symbol of “two cultures coming together with the same goals to make sure we help people.” Now it’s moved, with the annual blood drive happening at Surrey’s permanent clinic every November.

There are also more young people involved, with students and teachers at Lord Tweedsmuir taking part in the bi-monthly blood clinics.

In total, the Cloverdale clinic has received 3,985 donations of what Canadian Blood Services territory manger Nancy Bryan called “life-saving gold, liquid gold” since it started in 2009. There are 250 active donors at the clinic, but Bryan said that isn’t enough.

In order to meet new targets set out by the Canadian Blood Services, Cloverdale needs to see an additional 204 people come out to donate blood.

For Bryan, this shouldn’t be a hardship.

“It’s an opportunity to just stop, take a deep breath and do something good for the community,” Bryan said.

“And it doesn’t cost the donor any money, it’s just a bit of time, and at the end of it, they get the juice and cookies—“

“Yup,” Garisto said, then laughed.

“—and they get that fabulous feeling of doing something phenomenal.”

The next blood donation clinic is on June 4 at the Precious Blood Parish, 17475 59 Ave.

For more information on donating and to find a donation clinic near you, visit: https://blood.ca/en.

 

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