GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Saturday is not only Juneteenth, it’s also Sickle Cell Awareness Day.
Sickle cell is a blood disorder that impacts millions of people worldwide, but disproportionately affects Black people.
To honor the day, Versiti Blood Center hosted a drive on Saturday at the Baxter Community Center in Grand Rapids from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Sickle cell is often treated with regular blood transfusions, creating a demand for the Ro blood type. Versiti officials say around 44% of African Americans have this blood type, but it only makes up about 4% of all donated blood.
Because Sickle Cell Awareness Day was also Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates when enslaved African Americans in Texas learned they were free, organizers want to make sure they’re being inclusive of all people.
“When you have sickle cell disease, you need blood transfusions as part of your treatment. Without blood transfusions, you could go into organ failure. That’s why we want to make sure that we have all communities that are donating blood,” said Dawn Kaiser, the vice president and director of donor services for Versiti Inc.
More details on how you can donate blood in the future can be found at Versiti.org.