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Family makes it their mission to donate blood


PHOTOS COURTESY: AMERICAN RED CROSS, SCOTT KEITH - The Weiss/Parker families have been donating blood as part of a family tradition since the 1970s. At top, the family members who donated this year and the group (above) who donated in 1979.While many of us were still recovering from the holidays, several members of the Weiss/Parker family headed to the American Red Cross Portland Blood Donation Center, on North Vancouver Avenue, to give blood.

For decades, members of this special family have been helping the Portland community by donating blood in January, a time of year when the need for blood is great.

The beginnings of this family tradition can be traced to the 1970s. Sam Weiss, the family patriarch, recalled, “My father came to my sister and I, and said, ‘I’d like to start a family tradition of a New Year’s Resolution of life by having all the members of the family donate.’”

Weiss, who lives in Portland, continued, “My father died shortly after the tenth time we continued the tradition, so it has become, partially, a memorial for him as well as it being something members of the family feel is helpful to increase the awareness of the public that the Red Cross needs blood at this time of the year.”

By giving blood, you give someone, perhaps an accident victim or a patient facing surgery, a chance at living.

“We’ve had the fortune of not receiving any donations, but we are aware of people who have surgeries and accidents,” Weiss said. “You show your appreciation of life by providing it to others.”

Neil Tosuntikool, donor recruitment director of the Red Cross Pacific Northwest Blood Services Region, said the Weiss/Parker family donations are helpful, especially this time of year.

“From a blood collection standpoint, it’s obviously been very supportive to the American Red Cross, and ultimately, the patients we serve, for two reasons,” Tosuntikool said. “In the total units of blood donated, of course, but more specifically, in the very unique time period in which the Weiss/Parker family donates.”

January, which is National Blood Donor Month, typically has high demand due to donations declining around the holidays in November and December. Harsh winter weather also contributes to a decline in donations.

“It’s extremely gratifying and it’s wonderful to see the Weiss/Parker family continue this great tradition,” Tosuntikool added.

“The Weiss/Parker family set such a great example for not only those of us who are donors ourselves, but also for those of us who work here at the Red Cross,” Tosuntikool said. “It’s fun to share in their family tradition. It’s a privilege to be able to see them keep on in this. I hope they continue to do so for a very long time.”

Come rain or snow, the Weiss/Parker family has not missed a January donation. “I will be happy to say that we have never had to postpone the tradition because of weather,” Weiss said.

At this year’s blood drive, held Jan. 2, the family, according to Weiss, brought donations (over the years) to 1,468 pints.

“Whole blood can’t be manufactured,” Weiss said. “It’s only something that you can give of yourself, which may help up to three other people have a quality of life. You may never know what good you’ve done, but you can be aware that there are people who are living today because of what you’ve done. How often in this day and age can you do that?”

Talking about these family blood donations, Weiss noted, “You go home, knowing you’ve done something worthwhile. There’s just a good feeling, not only of having donated, but you’ve also spent time with all the generations of the family.”


The American Red Cross has an urgent need for blood and platelet donations to prevent a shortage this winter. Busy holiday schedules in November and December contributed to about 1,700 fewer blood drives held across the country compared to the two previous months, which has resulted in about 50,000 fewer donations and reduced the blood supply.

Donation appointments can be scheduled by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

How to donate blood

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Scott Keith is a freelance writer for the Portland Tribune and the Pamplin Media Group. If you have a health tip, or a story idea, contact Scott at: scottbkeith@yahoo.com