VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Toni Blanchard turned 16 years old on Thursday, but instead of receiving gifts and hosting a party, she decided to host a blood drive.
“At most of my parties, I like to give back," Blanchard said. "It’s around Christmas, so I give out a lot of presents and I guess the biggest present is to give back to people you may not even know.”
She and her mother, Adrienne Blanchard, reached out to the Red Cross because Toni wanted to help people in need this holiday season. She said she volunteered at charities and with other organizations.
“My mom was telling me about how some church members had to get dialysis every week," Toni said. "It made me really sad, and my mom told me about how I could sponsor a blood drive."
Her mom said she has pushed her to donate her time and give back.
“For such a young person to want to contribute to people that she doesn’t even know," Adrienne said, "and to spend most of her birthday not to have a party, but to give back to the community - that means a lot.”
They organized the drive with the Red Cross, which printed out flyers and made long-sleeve shirts that read "Amazing Superb Donor," with the letters A, B and O, denoting the different blood types. Those who donate will get a shirt.
They also reached out to the Lynnhaven Mall to see if it would host the location. The mall accepted.
Meanwhile, Bernadette Jay, a Red Cross External Communications Manager, said she had never heard of someone requesting to have a blood drive for their birthday.
“It’s beautiful when we have people come out and roll up their sleeves to donate," Jay said, "because the fact of the matter is, there’s no substitute for blood."
Jay said the number of blood donations drops during the holiday season as people get occupied with holiday preparations. The number of people needing blood, however, never decreases.
Toni's Blood Drive is Tuesday, Dec. 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lynnhaven Mall. An appointment is required and can be set up through the Red Cross' website. On the website, type in the sponsor code "LYNNHAVEN" in the red box at the top right corner that says "find a blood drive." A list of times will appear and interested users can select the time they wish to donate.