At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloodworks Northwest immediately lost 60% of its blood donations.
It had to pull its bloodmobiles off the streets, and stopped holding blood drives at high schools, colleges and businesses.
Out of desperation, though, came a stroke of genius. Bloodworks Northwest decided to hold pop-up blood drives in the very places its donors are missing: venues such as T-Mobile Park, CenturyLink Field, the Paramount Theatre and Cheney Stadium.
“It’s a close as you can get, with no sports,” said Bloodworks Northwest spokesperson John Yeager. “And to give blood amid the historic, grand beauty of the Paramount Theatre? You’re like royalty.”
On Wednesday, the organization installed its latest pop-up at the Museum of Flight, where donors could get a glimpse of the 1913 Rumpler Taube glider reproduction hanging near the entrance, and perhaps find themselves donating next to an astronaut in a full space suit — including a mask.
“There’s a public need to maintain the blood supply, and people are looking for ways to help,” said Bloodworks Northwest President and CEO Curt Bailey. “Plus, it’s a fun venue. It’s really a treat.”
He wasn’t kidding. The former Marine Corps helicopter pilot was happy to get a look around the museum and be close to Boeing, which manufactured the CH-46 he used to fly.
“This is a way to breathe life into a place that’s just vacant,” Bailey said. “We can’t fix a blood shortage like that; COVID took that away.
“So we have to plan ahead. It’s not where we are right now, it’s how we are looking at September.”
Bloodworks Northwest is getting 30% of its donations from the pop-ups, with the rest coming from donor centers. Both require donors to get appointments in advance.
Said Yeager: “If we didn’t have these, we’d be up a creek.”
Museum of Flight President and CEO Matt Hayes showed up to donate Wednesday.
The museum has been shut down since mid-March, “and ever since, we’ve been talking about what we could do, as opposed to what we couldn’t do,” Hayes said. “Giving blood is one of the easiest, yet important things you can do for the community. ”
Jesse Pasichnyk, a software engineer and pilot, learned about the pop-up through a local group called Flights Above the Pacific Northwest.
“I was putting off giving blood before,” he said. “There was way too much unknown about it. It’s a little more understood now, and I like the museum. So it made sense.”