A woman in blue latex gloves placed an orange stress ball in Janet Frank’s right hand in the Student Union Building Ballroom C on Monday morning. As Frank squeezed, the woman inserted a needle attached to a clear tube into her arm. Moments later, the tube turned dark red.
Frank, UNM’s first lady, was the first person to donate blood in the week-long “House Divided” blood drive competition between UNM and New Mexico State University. The event kicked off on Monday at 10 a.m. and runs until Friday at 4 p.m.
“I didn’t know that I (was) the first one, but it was an event that I was asked to be involved in,” she said. “I’m not trying to be the first, but if I can lead by example, I will happily do it.”
Frank said her husband, UNM President Robert Frank, was supposed to donate blood alongside her, but because of fatigue from his recent trip to China, he was unable to do so at the moment.
Still, Janet Frank said the event is healthy for students’ University spirit.
“It’s very important in general to give blood,” she said. “And it’s a good opportunity for the University to come together. We are a group, and it’s a very easy way to show support within the community, within the state and within your own environment … Plus, it’s a nice rivalry against NMSU.”
The event was organized by the United Blood Services of New Mexico.
Evelyn Bryant, UBSNM’s regional donor recruiter manager, said the organization got the idea from a similar event in El Paso. She said UBSNM started planning the blood drive in the summer of 2013.
Bryant said the event aims to increase the number of student blood donors in the state.
“We introduce them to blood drives in high school, and that becomes the last time they do it until we reintroduce them to some big event in college,” she said. “So, it’s bringing back the younger generation to become blood donors, because they certainly are needed.”
At the end of this week, UBSNM will identify the winner based on the total percentage of blood units collected by each university in relation to each university’s population. The announcement will come on Feb. 28.
UBSNM expects a collective turnout of about 400 students during the week, Bryant said. She said the event will bolster New Mexico’s blood supply critically.
“This organization services 44 hospitals in the state of New Mexico,” she said. “There is a need every day for somebody to have blood.”
Although she said the winner will surely claim bragging rights, Bryant said the competition should not result in bad blood between the two universities.
“We’re really excited about it,” she said. “We know good things will come from it. Not only will it do good for the community, but also it will be a lot of fun for the students.”
Jillian Martinez, ASUNM’s community experience director who helped organize the event, said this will be UNM’s longest blood drive ever. She said it allows the two universities to compete in a different realm, and she expects it to become an annual event.
“It’s the first event that we’re having … that’s not athletics-based, which is really interesting,” she said. “We were trying to do our blood drives on the same week (last semester), but it didn’t really work out that way because they started a week before us.”
And for Martinez, the event brings a new experience.
“It’s my first time donating blood, and it’s for a good cause,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to give back to UNM and the community, and also to beat NMSU.”
Bryant said she urges all UNM community members, even trypanophobic ones, to participate in the blood drive.
“I would encourage everybody to be a donor, even if you’re scared of needles,” she said. “I believe most blood donors become blood donors because someone asked them to.”
SUB Ballroom C
Runs daily until Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.