Researcher in white gown, mask and gloves conducting research with blood samples.

Located in the initial epicenter of the United States’ COVID-19 pandemic, New York Blood Center Enterprises (NYBCe) was in a unique position to pivot their operations and join the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In early March 2020, the organization rapidly mobilized to collect COVID-19 convalescent plasma in partnership with local hospitals. Current research suggests that these units may help patients with COVID-19 recover more quickly. NYBCe also formed the COVID-19 Research Repository (CRR), an initiative led by the efforts of Dr. Christopher D. Hillyer and Dr. Larry Luchsinger and spearheaded a COVID-19 serology (antibody) study of testing platforms currently deployed in the field. The CRR also initiated pre-clinical phase trials for two SARS-CoV-2 vaccines believed to enhance the patient’s immune system response in the presence of the antigen.

While these efforts all have promising outlooks, NYBCe can’t do it alone. The organization is not only a non-profit but also one of the largest independent, community-based blood centers in the world. This means they rely on financial contributions to continue their everyday life-saving operations as well as their fight against COVID-19.

Fortunately, the community has stepped up in this time of crisis. One such individual is James Schwann, an Ohio resident and student from Columbia University. James and a few of his colleagues recently started a fundraising campaign for NYBCe. Recently, James spoke with representatives of the organization and explained how this campaign came to be.

NYBCe: What is your relationship to NYBCe?

James: When I realized I would be home for the rest of the academic term due to COVID-19, I began to think how I could, in any way, help combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Every day, I would see my governor, Mike DeWine of Ohio, on the television giving updates about the virus’s impact. More importantly, in the first few weeks of lockdown, Americans across the country witnessed New York City’s battle against the coronavirus. The situation in that city was horribly dire for a long time.

In response to the growing negative news and outcomes, I decided to research organizations centered in New York City that were combating the virus. Being a Columbia University student, I thought it’d be great to partner with an organization from the city if the opportunity presented itself.

After talking to some adult figures in my life as well as fellow students, the idea of trying to raise funds to encourage individuals to donate their plasma for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 came to mind. Thus, I got into contact with the New York Blood Center. After speaking with representatives such as Elisabeth Scaffidi and others who were extremely helpful, I started raising funds for NYBCe!

NYBCe: Besides all of the news out of New York City, was there anything else that inspired you to start a fundraising campaign for NYBCe?

James: My father is a cardiothoracic surgeon, so I saw firsthand the devastating effects of COVID-19 on individuals. On top of that, during my state’s lockdown, I felt as though I could be doing more to contribute as the days wore on. Thus, I began to look for pathways where I could make some sort of difference in the fight against the virus. I am very glad I was able to find NYBCe and help raise some money for convalescent plasma treatment and in-depth epidemiological research.

NYBCe: How are you collecting funds?

James: In an effort to collect as many funds as possible and have people contribute money to the campaign from all over the country, my teammates and I decided to use the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to raise money. So far, it has been quite the success.

NYBCe: How much have you raised so far?

James: As of July 29, 2020, we have raised $3,730! We hope to raise more by the end of the summer months.

NYBCe: How much do you hope to raise?

James: When I and my fellow teammates started this campaign, we had no exact dollar figure goal. We just wanted to raise as much as possible in order to contribute to a cause that is making a legitimate difference against COVID-19. Hopefully, we can cross the $4,000 threshold by the end of the summer.

NYBCe: How much longer will your campaign be running?

James: We’re planning to continue fundraising up to Labor Day!

NYBCe: Where specifically are the funds raised during your campaign going?

James: Funds have been donated from all across the country: ranging from places like New York, to Ohio, to places further west like Illinois. It has, truly, been a team effort. The funds are mainly going towards NYBCe’s programs aimed at collecting convalescent plasma to use in clinical settings.

NYBCe relies on financial contributions from generous constituents like Rob Kirk in order to provide vital healthcare services to communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. These services include collecting and distributing convalescent plasma to hospitals, conducting antibody tests, and maintaining an adequate blood supply. NYBCe also requires financial contributions to conduct lifesaving research and train the next generation of leaders in cellular therapy and transfusion medicine.

To help NYBCe fulfill their mission during this critical time, give via their online donation form today. For other ways to give, visit our Support Us section. You can also contact the Fund Development team directly for more information on NYBCe’s philanthropic needs. To schedule an appointment to donate blood and help NYBCe after the COVID-19 pandemic caused their supply to drop to dangerously low levels, visit donate.nybc.org.

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