Blood donor success started as passion project for Infanti

Sometimes the smallest gestures end up making the largest impact.

Patti Infanti recalls a conversation she had about seven years ago with Dr. Carla Carnaghan of the Dhillon School of Business. Infanti, who works in the University of Lethbridge’s Financial Services Office, had just come back from donating blood with a couple of colleagues. They thought it would be neat if there was some sort of campus challenge to recruit even more people to start donating, so Infanti placed a call to Canadian Blood Services.

The U of L, through supporters such as these, won the 2017-2018 Canadian University and College Blood Donor Challenge.

“They told me about their partnership program and how we could sign the University up and we decided to do it,” says Infanti. “I remember the first few years when it was just Carla and I sitting at tables. We were able to recruit a few volunteers to help us out but it was hard; it took a lot of work to get people involved.”

Eventually, the hard work paid off with the U of L being honoured as the winner of the 2017-2018 Canadian University and College Blood Donor Challenge.

“I was shocked when they told us that we’d won because we’re competing against some huge universities,” says Infanti. “Maybe because we are so small, there is more of a community here.”

For the period September 2017 through March 2018, the University led the country with 592 total donations as well as 92 new donors. Infanti is quick to deflect praise to everyone who has jumped on board her passion project.

U of L students played a huge role in the University achieving its highest donor rate ever.

“It’s certainly not just me; I maybe started it but I’ve got so many people on our committee now and every one of them is passionate about this,” she says. “I know I am so proud to say I work at the University and I think so many others feel that way, too.”

Infanti says she always had been a blood donor but had fallen out of step for a while before she jumpstarted the U of L program.

“I was at a point in my life where I was looking for a positive thing to do and the more I learned about it, the more passionate I became about it,” she says. “People are inherently good and it’s not a hard thing to do. The difficult thing is you don’t want to make people feel guilty if they can’t donate because there are so many reasons why they might not be able to. For them, there are still lots of ways to get involved and I think we’ve really come together as a community and I feel so proud.”

She credits Nancy Walker, the University’s vice-president (finance and administration) for being especially supportive in the early years of the campaign by offering incentives to employees if they signed up to donate. Infanti also gives a ton of credit to U of L students.

“Belinda (Tomiyama) at Canadian Blood Services helped us get the Students’ Union involved, as well as the School of Graduate Studies,” says Infanti. “I truly believe the turning point was when the students got involved because they get very passionate about these things, too. It’s easy for me now, all I do is book signage and tables for them and really, it’s just taken off, which is exactly what we wanted.”

Her example of selflessness runs in the family. Her son, also a donor, noticed signs for the OneMatch stem cell donation program and signed up. This past January, he was told he was a perfect match with a patient in need and helped with a stem cell donation.

Infanti says it is stories like these, and many more, that speak to the importance of the program and how the University community can make a difference.

“I want to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone who is involved in this, whether they can donate or not. Just being part of this is a huge thing. I think of how many lives we have actually saved as a University; it is so far reaching.”

The University of Lethbridge 2018 Blood Drive is now underway with four October donation events on campus:

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – University Centre for the Arts Atrium
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – 1st Choice Savings Centre
Monday, Oct. 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – University Centre for the Arts Atrium
Wednesday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Life Balance Fair (1st Choice Savings Centre Track)