With the sun shining and the gate to Cheney Stadium open, the green grass of R House was a welcome sight. This visit to Tacoma’s chosen gathering place was a bit different – no parking lot attendants, no pregame playlist, no smell of popcorn, or roasting hot dogs.
This visit had a different purpose. This was not about pleasure or sport, but something bigger.
The last time I donated blood was in high school. A bygone era. That’s the problem that Bloodworks Northwest’s Cheney Stadium pop-up donation center is trying to solve. In the past, a major source of local blood donations have been from high schools and colleges. In Washington state, the place we call home, those institutions closed down two months ago.
Most offices, another large source of donations, have switched to remote work. That means no Bloodworks NW mobile donation centers at our region’s largest businesses. The well is running dry.
With physical distancing measures being required by the governor due to the global pandemic, the capacity of non-mobile sites has been dramatically reduced.
I climbed the Cheney Stadium stairs to the second floor. Showing up just prior to my appointment with my QuickPass ready, check in was quick. The suite was clean and spacious. The set up made it possible to stay an appropriate distance from my fellow donors, but the conversation was welcomed.
It’s been two months since the state announced the Stay Home order. Blood from before coronavirus is no longer useful. The need for blood is about to increase significantly as elective surgeries in Washington get back underway. The nation’s blood supply is shallow as well. Red blood cells are only good for 56 days.
Without their largest donor bases, and with an expiring supply, Bloodworks NW coordinated with the area’s professional soccer teams to rally the troops. In Seattle, they used T-Mobile Park in partnership with the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders, and Seattle Seahawks all boosting awareness. Up in Everett, the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Storm have also participated.
In Tacoma, we are stepping up to the plate. The Tacoma Rainiers, Tacoma Defiance, and OL Reign are all doing our part to help contribute to what could become a grave situation. The South Sound’s giving nature meant that the initial short run at the Cheney Stadium pop-up donation center expanded until the end of the month. People are giving.
Like many of you, needles freak me out. I discover that’s actually the number one reason people do not donate – fear. The aides working at Cheney Stadium know this. They understand it. The chat we have is casual. The delicate touch of prep is calming. Their voices are tranquil. There is no pain in the process. About 10 feet away on a different chair is a co-worker. We talk about the Rainiers and Defiance while we wait. There’s a classic Cheney Stadium game on the TVs too.
Each donation helps up to three people live. That simple and powerful equation means those without money, but with healthy blood, can help three neighbors. In this era of pandemic, the need for blood is as high as ever, but donations are down.
Bloodworks NW and other donation centers always struggle in the summers. Schools are at limited capacity. During tragedy, people always step up. People are generally good. They help each other.
One way to help during those slow times – pandemic, summer, holidays – is to schedule regular donations, or just donate when you can.
Last week I donated for the first time since high school. About twenty of my co-workers donated as well. Players, coaches, GMs, sales representatives, and more participated in donating blood at these pop-ups around Puget Sound. There’s a need, and my fears were all unwarranted. I left blood behind, and left feeling filled with something far more substantial: knowing I had done my part.
Always Together. We R Tacoma.
About the Tacoma Rainiers
The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Tacoma has been a member of the Pacific Coast League since Cheney Stadium opened in 1960, and has been a Mariners affiliate since establishing the Rainiers moniker in 1995.
The most up-to-date news and notes about the Tacoma Rainiers and Cheney Stadium can be found at WeRTacoma.com, or by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand), Instagram (@tacomarainiers) and liking the team on Facebook.
About Tacoma Defiance
Tacoma Defiance is the USL Championship affiliate of reigning MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders FC. You can follow The Future of Champions on Twitter (@TACDefiance), Facebook, and Instagram (@tacdefiance). We are #DefiantlyTacoma.
We R Tacoma Team Store
The We R Tacoma Team Store is open, online. Grab your Rainiers gear, your Defiance ‘fit, and follow the team store on Instagram and Twitter.
More information on social distancing and how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 can be found at Tacoma-Pierce County Health. The most up-to-date information on how COVID-19 is affecting events at Cheney Stadium can be found here.