Blood donors flood Colorado Springs center in wake of massacre

By Ellie Mulder Updated: October 2, 2017 at 8:24 pm • Published: October 2, 2017 0

Three months after leaving Las Vegas and moving to Colorado Springs, Cassie Soto woke up early Monday to a call from her dad, who had stayed up all night helping people stranded by the massacre there that claimed at least 59 lives and wounded more than 500 people.

Desperate to help - but far from family and friends in Las Vegas - the 22-year-old decided to donate blood for the first time.

She sat in a packed Bonfils Blood Center on Monday. "I think I would be nervous if it wasn't for this reason ... if it wasn't for my city," Soto said.

In Las Vegas, residents lined up for hours to donate blood shortly after the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre, the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

"I feel like that's the dynamic of the U.S. as a whole," Soto said. "We have differences, but when a tragedy happens, that's all put aside. ... the people of Las Vegas don't have to be asked or told to help. You just do it, and I'm a proud Las Vegan for that."

Jeanine Michaels, 53, lived in Las Vegas for 11 years and has a daughter and granddaughter there. "I thought, what can I do from here except donate and pray?" she said.

Others had no connection to Las Vegas but simply wanted to help.

"I've been trying donate for a while, actually, in honor of a friend, but today was kind of the kick in the butt I needed to get down," said Megan Fossinger, 33.

"I volunteer for the Red Cross, as well, and I just think that it's our duty as people to help others when we can."

The Colorado Springs center gets 10 donors on an average Monday, but it had seen about 40 this Monday afternoon, with at least a dozen more waiting, said Chris Mollaun, donor care supervisor.

"This is a lot busier than normal, which is really encouraging to see," said Solitaire Lastra Merrill, a regional donor recruitment representative. "I think Coloradans are unique in that we've had a lot of disasters ourselves, and Coloradans seem to come out en masse when needed." Bonfils is part of a multi-state system of blood centers, and a sister center in Las Vegas had provided nearly 200 units of blood and blood products to hospitals treating victims by Monday afternoon, a news release says. Bonfils "stands ready to send blood to Las Vegas if needed."

"What I would like everyone to remember is that the blood that's being used for the victims in Las Vegas is the blood that's already been on the shelves at the hospitals ..." Merrill said.

"It's those consistent donors, that donated on a Monday, on a Tuesday when there was no need for it, that provided the blood that Las Vegas is already using."

Bonfils' local center is at 3670 Austin Bluffs Parkway, suite 110. To make an appointment, call 303-363-2300 or 800-365-0006 and select option two. For more information, visit bonfils.org.

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