News Releases


Creston High School Students Step Up

National Honor Society Volunteers Learn Life Lessons Managing Blood Drives

David Lyons has a special place in his heart for Creston High School. A 1987 graduate, he came back to teach honors English in 1993, and in 1999, he took over as the Advisor for the student run National Honor Society. Under his watch, David has taught, mentored, and left a lasting mark on more than 1200 students.  And while David is happy to talk AP English with you, one of his most favorite topics is the honor students who run coordinate Creston’s blood drives.  Many of the students are enrolled in the Grand Rapids Area Pre College Engineering Program (GRAPCEP) program at Creston in partnership with Davenport University. This is a school of choice program which is open to all students who fulfill the academic standards and behavioral expectations of the program. Course work has an engineering and biomedical focus, and students participate in internships throughout the greater Grand Rapids area. 

Whether David’s students line up to coordinate and support the biannual blood drives because of his influence or their interest in bioscience is a matter for friendly debate.  However,  there is no mistaking the vital role these students play in securing a safe, adequate and diverse blood supply for all the hospitals in the Grand Rapids area. In fact, he often tells them the story of his mom, who in 2007, had to have triple bypass surgery and needed blood. He is convinced one of his students helped save her life. David says, “There is not better gift than to give to people you’ll never meet. Through this selfless gift of donating blood, you’re giving the gift of life.” David also is passionate about “how important it is to teach young people about giving back to their community, and in giving blood, you can help others without having to open a wallet.”

National Volunteer Week runs April 21-27, 2013, and Michigan Blood is grateful for teachers like David and his National Honor Society students who voluntarily step up to help their neighbors. Creston High School will be closing in June and becoming the new home for City High/Middle School. Creston students will be redistricted, and David is unclear as to where his next teaching assignment will take him. One thing is certain though, the life lessons he has taught his students will be carried with them, wherever their lives take them. And as Bill Rietscha, CEO of Michigan Blood, explains: “Not only are these students playing a vital role today – they are setting the stage for making a lifesaving impact for years to come.  As our donor base ages and more ‘baby boomers’ become ineligible to donate, it is essential that we continue to introduce students to the donation process while in high school and encourage them to continue upon graduation.”

From left: Mallory Robinson, Kaleyiah Hudson-Anderson, Shalah Robinson, David Lyons, Leya Woods, Chrisan Stewart, Ana Arvizu-Mata, Jasmine Jones.  Back row from left: Caleb Howard, Kaleab Mamo.


Michigan Blood Hosts High School Leadership Training Workshop

Students Drive Coordinators Learn Key Skills
to Introduce Classmates to Blood Donation Process


On Monday, April 22, 2013, Michigan Blood will host more than 75 high school students and advisors from throughout West Michigan for an interactive Leadership Training Workshop to be held  from 10 am – 1:00 pm at Celebration Cinema North (2121 Celebration Dr. NE (Knapp and the East Beltline) in Grand Rapids.  The workshop is designed to provide student leaders with critical tools to engage their classmates in the blood donation process. 

Bill Rietscha, CEO of Michigan Blood, explains:  “It is our privilege to work with students throughout Michigan and engage them in the critical role of helping secure a safe and adequate blood supply for over 40 Michigan-based hospitals, and every hospital in Kent County.  Not only is their role important today – it sets the stage for making a lifesaving impact for years to come.  As our donor base ages and more ‘baby boomers’ become ineligible to donate, it is essential that we continue to introduce students to the donation process while in high school and encourage them to continue upon graduation.”

During this interactive workshop, high school blood drive coordinators will develop practical tools and leadership skills to host successful drives.  This three hour program will include interactive role playing, sharing best practices with other high school students, and brainstorming for creative messaging.   Students also will fine tune their social media skills and learn how their schools can host cause-based Summer Step Up programs to raise needed funding for their school organizations. 

This workshop is being piloted in Grand Rapids and will be expanded to cover Michigan Blood’s Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Traverse City, Saginaw, Midland, and Bay City service areas.    

For additional details, contact: Kristen Sisson at 616.233.8524 or


Michigan Blood Launches Initiative to Diversify the Blood Supply

Community Leaders Meet in Saginaw to Address
Need to Recruit African American Donors

Friday, April 19th, Michigan Blood will kick off a critical community health initiative that has the potential to improve the lives of African-Americans. Engaged community leaders representing community services, healthcare, public/private/nonprofit organizations and businesses, faith-based groups, education, and the media will convene from 7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m. at Saginaw Valley State University in the Regional Education Center, Room 202, to address the mounting need to diversify the community blood supply.

Dr. Tammon Nash, the Associate Medical Director at Michigan Blood, will serve at the keynote speaker. As part of her post-doctoral fellowship with the University of Michigan’s Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar Research Project, Dr. Nash analyzed factors that influence African-Americans and their willingness to donate blood. She will discuss her findings and the importance of increasing blood donations from African-Americans. Together with our panelists from the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America - Michigan Chapter and a patient who relies on frequent blood transfusions, she will discuss how to engage communities in doing so.

As the blood products provider to more than 40 hospitals in our state, Michigan Blood is committed to diversifying the blood supply because it ensures the best care for patients in need of life-saving blood transfusions. While blood donations from all ethnic groups are critical, Michigan Blood is committed to raising awareness about the need for African-American donors in particular. It’s critical because less than two percent of African-Americans are blood donors, yet only African-American donors have unique blood traits that can help other African-Americans with life-threatening illnesses. For patients in need of regular transfusions, often the best blood match comes from donors within their ethnic group.

Community leaders will be encouraged to join a planning committee to engage the African American community to support diversifying the blood supply.  A fall 2013 community awareness expo and blood drive is being planned.   

For additional details and to get involved in this initiative, contact: Tamar Chipp at 989-497-1053 or


In a Few Simple Steps, Newborn Babies Can Give the Gift of Life

Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Offer Life Saving Treatment for Patients throughout the World
Suffering from Certain Cancers and Blood-related Diseases

Traverse City Mother Shares Her Gift in Celebration of Mother’s Day

A mother’s joy of holding her healthy newborn in her arms for the first time is one of the most amazing moments.  Now imagine this euphoria with an added bonus: the opportunity to pay this gift forward and save a life by donating the blood stem cells from the baby’s umbilical cord. Literally within the first few minutes of a newborn’s life, he or she can be making a difference for a stranger next door, or on the opposite side of the globe. 

The decision to donate umbilical cord blood does not interfere with birthing. According to Mary Burroughs, Supervisor of Michigan Blood’s Cord Blood Bank, “Collection is quick, simple, and free of charge to the patient. There is no risk or pain for either the mother or baby – and moms who deliver by C-section also can donate their cord blood.” 

Expectant mothers interested in donating their newborn’s umbilical cord blood stem cells should contact Michigan Blood (1-866-MIBLOOD or 616.233.8604) and request a collection kit be sent to them. Michigan Blood confirms each expectant mother’s donation intentions with her physician or midwife, and sends a courier to the hospital after delivery. The blood stem cells are tested, frozen and stored at Michigan Blood until a match is found and they can be used to save a life. Cords which are not donated are treated as bio waste and discarded.”

When it opened in 1999, the cord bank at Michigan Blood was  the state’s first public cord blood bank and today is one of only 20 such public banks in the country. Public cord blood banks collect, test, and store the blood stem cell from a newborn’s umbilical cord (not to be confused with embryonic stem cells). For people with certain life-threatening diseases like leukemia and lymphoma, a transplant of stem cells from cord blood or marrow may represent the best hope for survival. Cord blood stored at Michigan Blood is listed on the Be the Match® registry, a global resource for matching cord blood with unrelated patients who need blood stem cell transplants. 

To date, Michigan Blood has provided 133 cord blood stem cell transplants to patients throughout the world – as close as Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and as far as New Zealand, covering five of the world’s 7 continents. Michigan Blood’s donor center for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) has also provided over 600 blood stem cell (marrow) transplants from its registry of over 57,000 adult donors.

Carrie Smith of Traverse City is the mother of 3 young children, and she
elected to donate her children’s umbilical cords after reading a pamphlet in her doctor’s office. “I talked to my husband and we both agreed that of course we were going to donate knowing we had a chance to help someone in need and save a life.”  Carrie delivered her oldest child, Ella, on July 5, 2004, and in 2012, Ella’s stem cells were transplanted into a 58 year old man with leukemia. According to Carrie, “Ella was very excited to hear that she made a difference in someone’s life – especially since she had just arrived in the world only to turn around a give a miracle to someone else.”

Asked if Carrie would recommend cord donation to other expecting moms, she resoundingly said, “absolutely! The cord is treated as waste, when its stem cells carry life-saving opportunities. It is so easy – all joking aside, all you have to do is remember to take the collection kit with you to the hospital.”   

According to Dr. Lee Ann Weitekamp, Michigan Blood’s Vice President of Quality and Medical Services, “there are three main sources of blood cells for transplant.  Two sources are from adults, the bone marrow and peripheral blood. The third source is from cord blood obtained from the umbilical cord after the birth of a child. Cord blood contains fewer blood stem cells than the adult sources, but the cells present are able to reproduce more efficiently. The cord cells also are less fussy in terms of tissue type matching, which helps reduce a common problem in transplantation called graft vs. host disease. It allows more patients to use cord cells because the match doesn't need to be as close.”

Michigan Blood works with the following Michigan hospitals for donations:

  • Borgess Medical Center - Kalamazoo, MI
  • Bronson Methodist Hospital - Kalamazoo, MI
  • Covenant Medical Center Harrison - Saginaw, MI
  • Mercy General Health Partners-Hackley - Muskegon, MI
  • Holland Hospital - Holland, MI
  • Lakeland Hospital St. Joseph - St. Joseph, MI
  • Lakeland Hospital Niles - Niles, MI
  • Metro Health Hospital - Wyoming, MI
  • MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland, MI
  • Munson Medical Center - Traverse City, MI
  • North Ottawa Community Hospital - Grand Haven, MI
  • Saint Mary's Health Care - Grand Rapids, MI
  • Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital - Grand Rapids, MI
  • Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial Hospital - Fremont, MI
  • Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital – Zeeland, MI

For additional information, call 616.233-8598 or click


Michigan Blood: Proud Sponsor of the Kalamazoo Marathon/Borgess Run For The Health Of It

As a community-based blood bank, Michigan Blood embraces the opportunity to get involved with the communities we serve and the many people who are the heart of what we do: the blood donors, drive volunteers and blood recipients. That’s why Michigan Blood is proud to partner with the many hospitals around the state to take part in events that bring the community together.
One of those events is the Kalamazoo Marathon/Borgess Run for the Health of It, coming up on May 3-5th.  The event is expected to draw thousands of people to the streets and sidewalks of Kalamazoo as runners and walkers make their way to the finish line. One of those who will be among the 5k Runners is blood donor Amelia Martin of Galesburg. Amelia recently received her 1 gallon pin during a blood drive at the Borgess Health and Fitness Center. Amelia is a donor who knows first-hand the importance of donating blood. 

Her 7-year old son Nicholas was born with a hole in his heart and needed blood transfusions as he underwent surgeries just days after he was born. “My son had lots of medical issues,” says Amelia, “I’m trying to teach him how to give back.” When Amelia joins other runners on the race course at the Borgess run, she gets that same sense of being part of a connected community. “It makes me feel good. That’s my favorite part. I love seeing all the other people out there.”
The weekend of events begins on Friday May 3rd at the Kids Fun Run.  Kids who stop by the Michigan Blood display can say hello to Ruby, our blood drop mascot. Then, for runners and walkers, Michigan Blood will have a booth at the Saturday Expo at Wings Stadium. Race participants are invited to fill out their own race bib with a personalized message to wear on their backs on race day. Also, runners are invited to sign up to join others around the country by supporting upcoming blood drives and the victims of the tragic events at this year’s Boston Marathon. Then on race Day May 5th, watch for our team members from Michigan Blood who will be out running and cheering along with thousands of others at the Kalamazoo Marathon and Borgess Run for the Health of It 5k. We hope to see many of our donors, volunteers and those whose lives have been saved out on the course!
In the coming months watch for these and other events with our hospital partners:

  • Run For A Cause…Our Kids – benefitting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital – June 15, 2013
  • Lake Michigan Credit Union Bridge Run – benefitting Saint Mary’s Health Care – September 15, 2013
  • Bronson Children’s Hospital Walk and Run – September 29, 2013