Toni Blanchard decided to do something special over the holiday season to celebrate turning “Sweet 16.” The teen who volunteers her time at charities and with other organizations decided that instead of holding a birthday party to receive gifts for herself, she would host a blood drive to collect “the gift of life” for others.
“At most of my parties, I like to give back,” Blanchard said. “It’s around Christmas, so I give out a lot of presents and I guess the biggest present is to give back to people you may not even know.”
In conjunction with the American Red Cross and her mother, Adrienne Blanchard, Toni hosted the blood drive on Christmas Eve at Lynnhaven Mall which agreed to be the host site.
“My mom was telling me about how some church members had to get dialysis every week,” Toni said. “It made me really sad, and my mom told me about how I could sponsor a blood drive.”
Her mom said, “For such a young person to want to contribute to people that she doesn’t even know, and to spend most of her birthday not to have a party, but to give back to the community – that means a lot.”
Blood donors received long-sleeve shirts that read “Amazing Superb Donor,” with the letters A, B and O, denoting the different blood types.
“It’s beautiful when we have people come out and roll up their sleeves to donate because the fact of the matter is, there’s no substitute for blood,” said Bernadette Jay, a Red Cross External Communications Manager.