Chicago, Illinois.– The Joint Caucus of Black Elected Officials teamed up with the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers at a press conference at the Thompson Center today to launch September’s “Sickle Cell Awareness Blood Donation Month Campaign.”

“Sickle Cell Disease is a debilitating blood disorder with 1 out of 12 African Americans carrying the trait for the disease and 1 out of 100 Latinos. Treatments require ongoing transfusions but the more transfusions a patient has, the more difficult it can be to find a match, and the most compatible and reaction-free match is that of a donor with a similar ethic background. However, less than 5% of the nation’s blood supply comes from Black donors, leaving many sickle cell patients often waiting for the right match,” said Shelley Mitchell, Regional Manager of Donor Recruitment for Versiti Blood Centers of Illinois.

“The past six months have been an especially devastating time for Illinois’ blood supply.  Thousands of blood drives were cancelled because of closed schools, business, etc., due to COVID, and the demand for blood has increased greatly this summer because of people who had postponed medical care during the spring are now requiring more complex treatments.  We applaud Rep. Ford and Commissioner Miller for taking the lead on this important outreach and to the other members of the Black Caucus, who have stepped forward to make people understand how vital it is to their communities that they donate blood,” said Margaret Vaughn, Government Affairs Director for the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers.

“Blood transfusions are used to treat severe anemia in sickle cell patients and to combat its associated tiredness, dizziness and difficulty breathing,” explained Martine Williams, Regional Director of Vitalant. “The African American Community is one that is traditionally underrepresented when it comes to blood donations and Sickle Cell Awareness Month is an ideal time to shine a light on this ongoing need for blood.”

“As a sickle cell carrier myself, and with a sister who suffers from this debilitating disease, I know firsthand how critical it is to have an adequate blood supply on hand.  My sister was recently hospitalized for a pain crisis as a result of Sickle Cell and needed a blood transfusion. Because of the complicated process of matching her blood, it took 4 days before she was able to get a suitable match for her transfusion. That means 4 days of being in incredible pain. The more donors making donations means more options for Sickle Cell patients like my sister at their time of need,” said 6th District Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller.

“By not donating blood we are putting other fellow African Americans at risk,” explained Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) who helped spearhead the campaign and has been a longtime advocate in the General Assembly for blood donation. “As public officials, we have a responsibility to do all we can to not only increase donations but educate our constituencies on why their blood is so especially needed. Each blood donation can save up to three lives.”

“Sickle Cell Disease is genetic; it is still causing pain and still being stigmatized! Until there is a universal cure and increased access to quality comprehensive care, we need to do all we can to improve and normalize the daily life and struggles for individuals in Illinois living with Sickle Cell Disease. We are happy to be working with our Black elected officials and the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers to raise awareness of the important role Minority Donors play in the treatment of Sickle Cell patients,” said Executive Director of the Sickle Cell Association of Illinois TaLana Hughes, MPH.

“Since blood only has a shelf life of 42 days, blood donation is not something you do once in a lifetime.  But donations are needed on an ongoing basis and every 2 seconds someone needs blood and it has to be tested, processed and on the shelf ready to go.  We hope that by launching this campaign our constituents will not only donate once but become regular donors,” explained State Rep Camille Lily (D-Chicago).

“We greatly appreciate Rep Maurice West’s (D-Rockford) work in raising awareness on the critical need for blood in Rockford during the initial COVID shutdown and recruiting blood donors for his upcoming drive,” said Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers Heidi Ognibene of the Rock River Valley Community Blood Center.

“Donor requirements include being at least 17 years old (16 with parental permission), in good health and weigh at least 110 lbs. The donation process takes about an hour, consisting of a health screening, donating time and snack. Individuals can donate whole blood once every 56 days,” explained Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers President Jim Watts of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.


  1. Go to americasblood.orgenter your zip code and be connected to your closest blood donation center to schedule an appointment. The IL Coalition of Community Blood Centers’ members (which Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, Rock River Valley Blood Center, Versiti and Vitalant) have over 40 donor centers throughout the state.
  2. Donate at one of the Sickle Cell Awareness Blood Drives:
  • Sept 11th– DuSable Museum 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 740 E. 56th Place in Chicago. Contact Vitalant (formerly LifeSource) 877-258-4825 to schedule a donation time.
  • Sept 19th– Abundant Living Center 11 am to 3 pm (14540 Lincoln Ave in Dalton). Contact with Versiti (formerly Heartland Blood Center) 877-258-4825 to schedule a donation time.
  • Sept 19th– Rehoboth Apostolic Worship Center 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  (9130 S. Vincennes in Chicago).  Contact Vitalant (formerly LifeSource) 877-258-4825 to schedule a donation time.
  • Sept 19th– Second First Church10:00 a.m. to 2:00 pm. (318 N. Church St. in Rockford) Sponsored by State Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford).  Contact Rep. West 815-987-7433 to schedule donation time.
  • Saturday, Sept 26th Gordon-Booth District Office 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (500 W Main Street inPeoria) Sponsored by Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth.


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