On Red Cross’ 140th, a Washburn donor reflects on pins and friendly competition

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Today, May 21, 2021, the American Red Cross marks its 140th anniversary. During that remarkable and wide-reaching history that started with Clara Barton in 1881, people have come up with all manners of appreciation and distinction with their involvement.

For Jeffrey Johnson, of Washburn, his life-saving involvement includes a bit of family and a bit of history.

Jeffrey Johnson, avid American Red Cross blood donor and pin collector.

In 2001 Johnson began donating blood and giving consistently. Between his generous donations and his late father’s donations, the family has surpassed the 16-gallon milestone by simply demonstrating the act of kindness.

The Johnson family knows friendly competition is a good thing especially when it involves a greater good.

“My father was a regular donor and has donated at least 88 times and has 11 pins,” said Johnson. “I just donated my 40th pint and just received my fifth pin. I don’t believe I can surpass my father’s record, but I will try.”

The Red Cross pin culture dates as far back as the early 1900s. The organization bestowed pins on financial donors as a token of appreciation, nurses for their service – even giving pins for people who completed Red Cross water safety classes. The tradition continues today, with people earning pins for years of service, important projects, noteworthy achievements, national large-scale disaster deployments and blood donations.

The average whole blood donation is about one pint of blood, and eight pints equals a gallon. For every gallon of blood donated, a donor is awarded a pin from the Red Cross.

Johnson admires his family collection of Red Cross blood donor pins and looks forward to collecting more. He gives blood as often as he can at the various Red Cross blood drives in Ashland and Washburn.

The blood donor recognition pins pile up for every life-saving benchmark by Johnson.

“I admire by father’s commitment to donate blood and thought the pins were special, but now I realize they helped sparked my passion to donate,” said Johnson. “I am motivated to donate because it seems to be such a simple way to help other who are in need.”

To encourage others who may be hesitant to donate Johnson says, “Hydrate and eat a good meal prior to donating. Relax, it usually goes very well and the benefits it provides to others are well worth it!”

Every two seconds in the United States blood is needed to respond to patient emergencies, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease. The Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for the patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide. Make your appointment at RedCrossBlood.org.

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