News Releases


Tribute to Local Pioneer Who Helped Save Hundreds of Thousands of Lives

Blood Donations Sought as a Tribute to
Sharon Childs – She Started Michigan Blood
in Traverse City and is Retiring after 43 years  

On Wednesday, March 27, 2013, Michigan Blood invites the Grand Traverse Bay community to celebrate the impactful role Sharon Childs has played in securing a safe andadequate blood supply for
Munson Medical Center and more than 40 other Michigan-based hospitals. Childs is retiring from Michigan Blood after 43 years of service. In 1994, she moved her family to Traverse City from Saginaw to help establish Michigan Blood as the provider of blood locally. Since then, Childs has played a leading role in the collection of more than 204,589 units of blood. 

A Sharon Childs Tribute Day Blood Drive will be held Wednesday, March 27th from 10:30 am – 6 pm at the Michigan Blood Donor Center at 2575 Aero Park Drive (Map It). Every person who attempts to donate will receive a $10 Meijer gift card and raise money for a local charity. Safe Harbor will receive $10 from Michigan Blood for every attempted donation during the Tribute drive. Safe Harbor is a faith-based ministry offering love and service to the homeless of the Traverse City area through emergency shelter, meals, community, and encouragement to move forward in a positive direction in their lives. It’s a charity that Sharon Child’s has supported for many years and it was chosen at her request.

Bill Rietscha, Michigan Blood’s President and CEO, notes: “Michigan Blood has been fortunate to have Sharon Childs as a dedicated leader and associate for the past 43 years. What better way to honor Sharon than by hosting a blood drive in her name that will benefit the community she loves.”  

Appointments are encouraged; to schedule a time to donate or to learn more, call 1.866.642-5663.


Michigan Blood Launches New Platelet Apheresis Procedure in Traverse City

Donors Able to Help More Patients with Single Platelet Donation

Blood donors know the critical role they play in saving lives – whether the anonymous patients they are helping are suffering from cancer, a chronic illness, burns, an injury, or trauma. Because there is no substitute for human blood, donors generously roll up their sleeves throughout the year at one of Michigan Blood’s 3700 mobiles drives or nine donor centers statewide to help patients in more than 40 hospitals in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The majority of blood donations are done by collecting whole blood and then separating the needed components by red cells, white cells, plasma, and platelets in the laboratory. Blood donations also can be done by a sophisticated process called apheresis, whereby just the needed blood component(s) are collected and the remaining blood is returned to the donor. There are many advantages to donating lifesaving red cells, platelets, and plasma through the apheresis process. For the patient, it is possible to collect larger amounts of just the needed, perishable component. In the case of apheresis platelet donation, it is possible to collect the amount of platelets found in 5-15 pints of whole blood – which can make a precious difference to a patient whose platelet production has been impaired. Platelets also must be transfused within 5 days of donation (which include 2 days for testing), so collecting platelets through apheresis is the most efficient way to do so.

Beginning Monday, March 4, 2013, Michigan Blood will offer the apheresis platelet procedure in its Traverse City donor center, 2575 Aero Park Drive. Apheresis donation is done by appointment only (1-866-MIBLOOD – 866-642-5663). The Traverse City donor center has been utilizing the apheresis technology to collect red cells and plasma, which is the fluid that carries all blood cells around the body and contains proteins for blood clotting. Plasma transfusions may be needed by people who lack certain blood proteins because of liver disease, burns, trauma or severe infections. Michigan Blood’s Grand Rapids (1036 Fuller NE) and Saginaw (Tittabawassee Road) Donor Centers also provide the apheresis collection process for red cells, plasma and platelets. All procedures are scheduled by appointment.  Due to the short life span of platelets, the Grand Rapids donor center offers apheresis appointments 364 days per year (Closed on Christmas).

Mark Palkowski, Vice President of Operations for Michigan Blood, notes: “Michigan Blood’s investment in offering the apheresis platelet procedure in our Traverse City Donor Center is a win-win-win.  With this procedure, one donor can provide the same amount of platelets traditionally collected from as many as 15 whole blood donors, so they know their life saving gift is helping more patients. We also can be even more responsive to Munson Medical Center and our other northern Michigan hospitals. Our apheresis plasma and red cell donors in the Grand Traverse area understand the benefit of apheresis and utilizing only the blood components needed.  Also, because apheresis donors are eligible to donate every 28 days, (as compared to every 56 for whole blood donation), our apheresis donors have more flexibility in scheduling.”

Scott Voltz, a science teacher and water polo coach at Rockford High School, is an avid apheresis platelet donor and he is never hesitant to share his experience with his students and encourages those 17 and older (16 with their parent or guardian’s permission) to attempt to donate. “I started donating whole blood when I was in high school. My grandfather was a donor for years – and my mom is -- so I learned at an early age how important donating is to help save lives. The procedure is really easy – I’ve been known to take a nap -- and the two hours are more than worth it to help out patients in need.” 

Voltz’s wife Alicia is quick to verify how vital platelets are. Alicia is a third year pediatric resident at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. She has given platelets to premature babies and young children fighting cancer or recovering from an injury or trauma. “Premature babies who have low platelet counts, or thrombocytopenia, are at risk for a number of serious complications, including bleeding in the brain. Kids with thrombocytopenia depend on the availability of platelet transfusions to decrease the risk of bleeding with necessary procedures, like a bone marrow biopsy in a cancer patient, surgery after a bad car accident, or a special IV when a patient is really sick in the intensive care unit. Our patients rely on the selfless generosity of donors like Scott, and I love how he is always rallying his students to follow his example.”

To learn more about apheresis platelet, plasma, and red cell donations or to schedule an appointment, call 1-866-MIBLOOD (642-5663).


Up North Live picked up the story. Read it here.

Rockford High School students produced a video about their science teacher, Scott Voltz, who also happens to be an apheresis platelet donor with Michigan Blood.


Saving Lives Is A Family Affair

Bone Marrow Recipient’s Cousin Donates Marrow
after Joining Registry on Cousin’s Behalf

When 11 year old Maddie Tomasko of Rockford, Michigan was clinging to life, hoping to find a bone marrow match for a potential lifesaving transplant to cure her leukemia, her parents Cheryl and Steve hosted several Be the Match® registry drives with Michigan Blood. Maddie had not found a match with her parents or three brothers (only 30% patients find a match with a direct reative), so they turned to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)’s Be the Match Registry for help. The Registry contains more than 10 million potential donors internationally, yet only 40% of the 10,000 patients who turn to the Registry each year find a match. The Tomaskos were committed to helping grow the Registry to help increase Maddie’s – and thousands of others – odds to find a match.

Fortunately, Maddie found a perfect match with a 20-year old stranger from New Jersey who joined the Registry as part of a drive at her college in Pennsylvania. Maddie underwent her transplant in June of 2011 and is now a healthy, thriving 7th grader. She met her donor, Stephanie Pezzello, last summer at the World Trade Center Memorial. Their meeting spot not only pays tribute to all those volunteers who gave of themselves to save others on 9-11, but on that tragic day in 2001, only one non-military flight was allowed in the air following the attacks, and it was a bone marrow courier plane.

Pay It Forward

The Tomaskos hosted “Team Maddie” and “Maddie Pasta for Purpose” Registry Drives in 2011 and 82 people stepped forward to join the Registry.  One was Maddie’s cousin, Jason Walcott. Jason had watched how Maddie’s life was saved by Stephanie’s generous donation, and he wanted to do the same. The likelihood of a perfect match is slim – one in every 540 people on the Registry gets a call. “It was the least I could do,” said Jason. “I was really hoping to get a call – Maddie is here today because someone else stepped up.”  Jason did, and earlier this year he went to Michigan Blood’s Grand Rapids donor center (1036 Fuller NE) to donate his bone marrow for a patient with a rare form of cancer of the blood. 

The National Marrow Donor Program does not allow donors or recipients to learn of each other’s identity for one year following the transplant, and each party must agree to the release of contact information.

Life on the Sidelines 

Maddie joined her 21-year old cousin Jason during his six hour donation process, along with her mom and Aunt Pat, Jason’s mom. “We wanted to keep Jason company because we could imagine what his recipient and family were going through,” said Maddie. Cheryl added, “When you are holding your breath for the courier to arrive and you know just how sick your loved one is, all your energy is going toward keeping the marrow donor healthy so nothing goes wrong. To be watching Jason donate, it brought everything full circle.” 

Jason’s mom Pat, added: “We walked the road with Maddie and now we are on the other side.  This creates several different emotions – it reminds us of what Maddie went through, and knowing the reality of what Jason's recipient is going through is very tough. Now I know what Stephanie’s family went through and I am so proud of my young son. We were so focused on keeping Jason healthy and that everything went well, and now we can’t wait to get correspondence from the National Marrow Donor Registry staff. To know that Jason joined the Be the Match Registry to help his cousin Maddie, and now his marrow is helping save the life of a leukemia patient somewhere in the world, it is amazing and humbling. We encourage all 18-44 year olds to consider joining the Registry.”     

Michigan Blood’s Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Programs will host a Registry Drive on Monday, February 25, 2013 from 5-9 pm at The Mitten Brewing Company, 527 Leonard NW, in Grand Rapids. The Mitten Brewing Company selected Michigan Blood as its charity partner for the month of February, donating a percentage of sales all month to help offset testing costs to join the Registry. Marrow donors, recipients, staff and volunteers will be on hand to welcome guests and share their stories. For more information on joining the Registry, contact Kona Dominick, Michigan Blood – Stem Cell Programs Be The Match Representative, Office – 616-233-8516, Cell – 616-209-9228,


SVSU Assistant Football Coach Donates Marrow

Josh Miller may be known as a football coach amongst his peers, but a recent donation has given him another title - Lifesaver. 

Less than a year after signing up to join the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match Registry at a bone marrow registry drive at Saginaw Valley State University, the SVSU assistant football coach received a phone call from Michigan Blood informing that he was a potential match for a middle-aged patient with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that affects the immune system. The Saginaw Township resident proceeded with confirmatory testing and donated peripheral blood stem cells in January 2013.

“I wasn’t sure what would happen after I signed up, but I knew I wanted to do something to help,” said Miller, 26. “When I received the call I was excited that I could affect someone else’s life in such a big way.”

The Michigan Blood Stem Cell Program, a Be The Match Registry affiliate, recruits potential marrow donors to help patients in need of bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants. Patients with life- threatening blood-related illnesses depend on the Registry to find a matching donor. A bone marrow transplant replaces damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. This procedure can be used to cure illnesses such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell.

Miller is a part of a small percentage of people who are called upon to make a marrow donation. On average, one in every 540 members of the Be The Match Registry in the U.S. go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to a patient. With more than 10 million potential donors on the Registry, only four out of 10 patients find a match. To increase the number of matches, the Michigan Blood Stem Cell Program hosts registry drives to add potential donors to the Be the Match Registry. 

“Patients needing marrow transplants can only find a suitable match within their family about 30 percent of the time,” said Barbara Hile, program manager for Michigan Blood’s Marrow/Stem Cell Program. “The remaining 70 percent of matches are made between complete strangers through the Be the Match Registry. A marrow transplant is often the patient’s last, best chance for survival.”

Miller, an SVSU alumnus, says his eyes have been opened to the possibilities of giving back and encourages others to join the Registry.

“It’s a humbling experience to know that my contribution could help someone,” he said. “I’m hoping that others will consider joining the Registry. It starts with taking a little step and putting self to the side.”

To join the Registry, registrants must be between the ages of 18 and 44. The process includes filling out a health questionnaire and providing a cheek swab. The total cost to add a new member to the Registry is about $100. Michigan Blood fundraises throughout the year to offset the cost of tissue testing necessary for registration. Most often, a majority of these costs are covered and new registry members are asked to contribute only $25. Because of the need to diversify the Registry, those of diverse ethnic backgrounds are able to join at no cost with the help of federal funding. For more information, potential registrants can visit or call (616) 233-8555.

ABC TV 12 picked up Josh's story.

ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI


Laughter IS Good Medicine

Michigan Blood to Host Benefit Blood Drive for Gilda’s Club GR

Blue Care Network to Underwrite $10 Donation for Every Person Who Attempts to Give Blood with Matching Grant Provided by The Wege Foundation   •  Participants Eligible to Win Raffle Tickets to LaughFest

As the saying goes, “laughter is good medicine” and Michigan Blood, in partnership with Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, Gilda’s LaughFest, Blue Care Network of Michigan, and The Wege Foundation, are out to prove it.   Together, they will host a special day long blood drive to support the children and adults of all ages who turn to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids to support during their journey with cancer or grief and, true to their namesake Gilda Radner, find ways to laugh along the way. The blood drive will be held:

March 4, 2013
8 am – 7 pm

1036 Fuller NE, Grand Rapids
(South of Leonard, north of I-196 interchange)

With underwriting from Blue Care Network of Michigan, a $10 donation will be made to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids’ High Five Children’s Grief Program for every person who attempts to donate during the special event. The Wege Foundation will match the amount raised, providing further support for grieving children who need to find their smile in the midst of what they are experiencing. Participants also will be eligible to win LaughFest tickets to:

  •  The Shaquille O’Neil Presents: All Star Comedy Jam  -- March 8, 2013
  •  Justin Willman, March 16, 2013 (Family Friendly Comedy and Magic)
  •  Gary Valentine – March 17, 2013
  •  Best of the Midwest Competition, March 14, 2013 – 10 comedians compete for $2500 prize

Erik Wolenberg, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and Gilda’s LaughFest, notes: “We are thrilled that Michigan Blood and Blue Care Network are hosting this blood drive on our behalf. Cancer patients often need red blood and platelet transfusions to help counter the effects of their treatment and their loved ones often ask how they can help. By supporting the blood drive, they can help cancer patients at all of our local hospitals and a financial gift will be made in their name to Gilda’s Club’s High Five Children’s Grief Program. Plus, they may win some great LaughFest tickets. It’s a win-win-win for all … as we say, ‘we’re in this together.’ "

To donate blood, you must be 17 years of age (16 with parent or guardian permission), weigh at least 110 pounds, and pass the health screening.  Walk-ins are welcome. Appointments are preferred for donors’ convenience.  To schedule an appointment, call 1-866.233.miblood (642-5663), or online at

For more information about Gilda's Club Grand Rapids, click here.

For the LaughFest line up (March 7 – 17), click here.

For information on ticket packages which blood drive participants are eligible to win:


Mlive picked up the story. Read about it here.