Tuesday, 28 February 2006 17:00

OK City Saturn dealers inspire community to give blood

Written by Karyn Hendricks

Nine years ago, Saturn of America started a national blood drive on Valentine's Day. It began as a philanthropic effort to bring communities together to raise blood. Bob Moore Saturn of Oklahoma City and Bob Moore Saturn of Edmond saw the possibilities and decided to participate, but success was not in the cards. From 2000 to 2002, the results were dismal. It was so bad, the Blood Institute, which oversees the blood collection, refused to send the personnel and equipment to run the drive.

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GM Kevin Volk and Bob Grant, community relations coordinator for Bob Grant Saturn dealerships, pull a winning ticket.
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Car winners: left rear -- S.T. Macklin, black Saturn Ion; rear right -- Carolina Antonio, red Saturn Ion; Amy Hook (c), white Saturn Vue; and Roland Edmonds, up front, surprised at receiving a Saturn SL1.

Deciding not to concede failure, Kevin Volk, general manager of the two stores, and Bob Grant, community relations coordinator, came up with a hook - they would give away a car in a drawing among the donors. So in 2003, they set a national record, collecting 4,674 units of blood in one week - more than any other Saturn store in the country.

Refusing to rest on their laurels, they offered up another car and collected 5,088 units, setting another national record. All the sweeter, they received the first of four ABC Saturn Retailer's Challenge Award for the Most Units contributed given by the sponsoring agency American Blood Centers.

Upping the ante

With a proven track record, the Oklahoma Blood Institute came to the dealerships and asked them to run the campaign for seven (instead of the traditional one) weeks from December through February. The goal was to concentrate on providing an adequate blood supply during the most critical time of the year - the December holidays. In addition, a special effort was made to reach out to every demographic to find new donors. For the first time in many years, the blood banks had an adequate supply of blood.

The amazing result of the 2005 campaign was 33,202 units of blood. With each unit potentially saving three lives, close to 100,000 lives could be saved through this effort.

Learning more and more each year about operating the blood drive, the Saturn dealerships took on partners to up the ante. They joined with the Oklahoma Blood Institute; Oklahoma Lifeshare, the group responsible for transplant donation services; and the Oklahoma Education Associa-tion.

In addition, fraternity Sigma Nu sponsored a "bedlam" contest between arch rivals Oklahoma State and Oklahoma University to see which school could donate the most blood. Another sponsor was the Women of the South - not a Confederate organization, but a group of businesswomen who do philanthropic projects in the south side of Oklahoma City.

Four cars were given away to support this effort. A new Saturn Vue was given away to the donors from the general public. Five finalists were chosen and student Amy Hook was picked at a drawing that took place at Saturn of Oklahoma City.

A Saturn Ion was given away in a similar manner to S.T. Macklin, one of five finalists from Oklahoma State, winner of the bedlam contest.

To bring Life-share into the fold, three transplant hospitals were asked for the names of three organ transplant recipients (total of 9) who were in need of reliable transportation. An independent committee of judges from the sponsoring organizations picked two finalists. When Carolina Antonio won the new Saturn Ion, Roland Edmonds was undeniably disappointed. Imagine his surprise when told that, as the loser, he would receive a 2002 Saturn SL2. Both happened to be kidney recipients who were now automobile recipients as well. Antonio is pursuing a medical career so she can help others with health problems. Edmonds is continuing his education so he can make a contribution as well.

Actually, they weren't really given the cars. They each received a dollar, which they used to purchase the cars, helping to save money on taxes. Oprah could learn from this group!

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Kevin Volk (l), general manager of the two Bob Moore Saturn shops (in Oklahoma City and Edmond) poses with blood donors, including car winners.

Grant explained that the goals for the drive were to replenish blood supplies, bring new donors into the system, gain some public recognition in the community, and make a mark with Saturn. No question those goals have been met.

"The neat part about doing a public relations event such as this is the way you end up saving somebody's life. Everyone who gave a pint of blood had the

potential to save three lives. With a total of 76,240 units collected, the donors may have saved as many as a quarter of a million lives. This effort made an impact on a bunch of lives by giving life - and, in our case, transportation as well," explained Grant, a blood donor himself since the early 70s.

"Furthermore, in the last two years, we have given 9,850 brand new donors into the system with an overall total of 10,000 to 12,000. One of the biggest needs for blood in Oklahoma is the military. Their needs are high, but so is their generosity. Unfortunately, with troops de-ployed overseas and unable to give for a year after their return, someone needs to pick up the slack. Our company has made a commitment to this effort."

Next month, Grant will be going to Houston to pick up an award for the most creative campaign for 2005 which resulted in those 33,202 units of blood being collected. The rest of the Saturn dealers countrywide raised 10,000 units altogether.

"If my legacy in life is what I have done with this blood drive, that is fine with me," concluded Grant.

 

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