Dynamic mother-daughter donor duo

By Tom Ruse, American Red Cross

Susan and Kristin Brown – mother and daughter, respectively – have been donating blood together for years. At a recent drive held at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), this dynamic family duo shared their bond and Mother’s Day spirit that continues to bring them back to make life-saving donations.

Susan has been donating for more than 50 years. She explained how it all started: “The first donation was when I was in the school of nursing at UW-Madison. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) was an avid donor. That had a positive impact on my decision to donate.”  

Kristin first began donating at age 17. “I wanted to participate because I knew that my dad was an avid blood donor and felt this was a simple way to give back and follow in his footsteps.”  

Kristin, right, and Susan Brown have a close-knot family that enjoys sharing in all things Wisconsin together, including sporting events, trying new food and cocktail creations. “Really anything we can celebrate as a reason to get together, we will!” That includes donating blood; in total, Susan has donated 25 pints and Kristin has donated 19 pints.

Besides Kristin, Susan has two other daughters, Erin and Sara and son, David. For the last several years, Susan and Kristin have donated together when WARF holds a drive (Kristin serves as Facilities Services Manager at WARF). Returning to the same site provides consistent mother-daughter time, not to mention a regular reminder of the need.  

 “It really provides a unique opportunity for us spend time together while helping support such an important cause. We often promote our involvement in hopes others will join us,” said Kristin.

Susan has seen the other side of giving blood, too.

“My husband has had a few open-heart surgeries that required blood transfusions, which made me realize the importance of giving back. There is always a need for donations, because of adverse weather events, other disasters, recent COVID-related issues.”

Kristin concured, “Having family members who have needed a donation has heightened my awareness of what I can do now for someone else. I’m thankful that WARF is so supportive of our work drives. I find great value in participating in a work-sponsored event that also has universal community impact”.

There are many memorable experiences Susan and Kristin have had because of donating.

“Prior to donating with WARF, I donated at a Christmas Eve drive,” Kristin recalled. “It was snowy, but it was important for me to show up and support. There was a real sense of community and festive spirit that day. It felt great to go into the holiday with a ‘giving back’ mindset.”

“I donated on my birthday once,” added Susan. “It made the birthday cake taste that much sweeter!”

Susan and Kristin are eager to encourage others who have never donated to give it a try.

“It is such a selfless act that doesn’t require a lot of time,” Susan emphasized. “You immediately feel this sense of giving back, that you really helped someone in need. Then, when you receive the email notification letting you know where your blood was sent to help someone in need, it provides a greater awareness of the impact one donation can have.  It really helps you feel more connected to the process.”

“Think about paying it forward,” Kristin continued, “And while no one wants to dwell on this possibility, there may be a time in the future when you or a loved one needs a donation.”

Consider the rewarding experience of helping by donating platelets, plasma or blood.  Visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS today to find current donor drives in your area.

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