Joban Bal has been giving for more than two years.
Although too young to donate blood until recently – donors have to be at least 17 – the Tamanawis Secondary student has been involved with spreading the message of donating to the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) since Grade 10.
Now in Grade 12, Bal figured a good send-off before graduating was in order, so he organized his school’s first blood drive and DNA match on Wednesday.
Shortly before the March 9 Young Blood for Life event, 99 people had already signed up to donate blood. More than two-thirds came from the school and the rest from the community – including drop-ins to fill available spots left by absentee donors.
The number of donors exceeded CBS’ goal of 76 donors for the day, said Sarah Jasmins, CBS territory manager for Surrey.
“Our national (blood) inventory is lower than it normally is, so we’re trying to top it back up,” Jasmins said.
Bal was part of a group of students who advocated for the event in recent weeks – including setting up an information session at a local Sikh temple.
“No one really donates unless they’ve been asked to donate,” Bal said.
On Wednesday, the school’s 35 volunteers assisted with registrations and in the waiting and recovery areas in the school’s small gym.
Although only CBS specialists drew blood, students took cheek swab samples in the second portion of the day’s event: A stem cell drive for a CBS program called OneMatch.
Each sample allowed a person’s DNA to be stored on a database for future referral in a stem cell or bone marrow transplants. A variety of disorders are treated with stem cell transplants, including blood-related diseases such as leukemia, aplastic anemia and inherited immune system and metabolic disorders. Anyone aged 17 to 35 can sign up to be on the OneMatch database.
Bal said people often don’t think about DNA matches outside of their own families, but one-in-a-million matches sometimes take place between strangers over long distances. In fact, less than one-quarter of patients who need stem cell transplants find a compatible donor within their own family.
“It doesn’t cost us anything to donate,” said Bal. “You get an opportunity to affect someone else’s life.”
Young Blood for Life is a national campaign by the CBS. Over the last six years, the program has collected almost 99,000 donations and recruited 35,000 new donors.
For regular blood donations, Surrey’s CBS clinic is located at 15285 101 Ave. To book an appointment, call 1-888-2 DONATE.
Attended to by Canadian Blood Services phlebotomist Sonia Saggu, Grade 12 student Saman Brar, 17 (above) donates blood at Tamanawis Secondary’s first blood donor clinic on Wednesday. Ninety-nine people had signed up for the day-long blood drive. Boaz Joseph photo.