By Michael Grace-Dacosta
Erica Naccarato, from the women’s volleyball team, helped organize Ryerson’s first partnership with the Canadian Blood Services to host a blood donor clinic at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) on March 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“As varsity athletes we get so many benefits from the community. We have this amazing athletic centre. We have all the support in the world from everybody else,” Naccarato said. “I think it’s really nice to give back to the community.”
Canadian Blood Services is a not-for-profit charitable organization that is responsible for collecting and providing blood for patients across Canada, with the exception of Quebec where Hema Quebec manages those duties.
Canadian Blood Services collects 850,000 units of blood annually. They have permanent locations in Toronto — at College and Bay, Bay and Boor, and King and University — and mobile clinics throughout the city.
Naccarato worked with Tiona Taylor, volunteer and community events coordinator at Ryerson, and territory manager at Canadian Blood Services Roop Sidhu over the course of five months to plan this event.
“When Erica came to me she had passion and drive on her own,” Taylor said. “I just wanted to make sure Ryerson Athletics was there to help support her in any way we needed to.”
Naccarato has been volunteering for Canadian Blood Services for the past two years. During her shifts at the clinic, Naccarato assists the nurses and checks up on donors after they give blood.
Not many people would volunteer to be around blood; even fewer would do so if they had been scared of needles for most of their life.
“When I was younger and I would get shots from the doctor, I would hide from them. I would be in the doctor’s office and I would hide under chairs,” Naccarato said. “[When I first donated] I was absolutely terrified. My mom had to be next to me the entire time.”
Initially, Naccarato went to donate blood as a way of getting over her fear of needles, but she said she fell in love with the positive environment of the clinic.
“It puts everything into perspective,” Naccarato said. “You’re focusing on other things in your life and these people are coming in and donating their blood out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Naccarato said that when most people think about donating to charities they rarely consider donating blood. Or if do, many don’t take is seriously. At the clinic where she volunteers, Naccarato said many people who register to donate fail to show up to their appointment.
“Out of every 100 eligible Canadians, 30 of them say they intend to donate blood, but in reality less than four people actually come out and donate blood,” said Sidhu.
She said Canadian Blood Services would be open to working with Ryerson again and could possibly make hosting a clinic at the MAC an annual event depending on Wednesday’s results.
Sidhu and Naccarato said the goal of the clinic is to get 70 donors.
“You save lives. It takes an hour to donate,” Naccarato said.