The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the donation of $5.1 million to the American Red Cross on Monday to support the organization’s sickle cell initiative and other related needs.
The donation is expected to provide new machines and help with the collection and maintenance of blood platelets, according to a news release.
“We’re pleased to contribute over $5 million this year, but our most important contribution is our church members — thousands of them — who have literally rolled up their sleeves to give blood and donate so much of their time,” said Bishop Gérald Caussé, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The American Red Cross launched its sickle cell initiative in September 2021 with the goal to reach more blood donors who are Black, as the majority of those with sickle cell are of African descent. These blood donations are critical in treating those with sickle cell disease.
“As an organization dedicated to alleviating suffering, the Red Cross is committed to the health and well-being of all communities, and a diverse blood supply is critical to improving health outcomes for all patients — especially those with sickle cell disease,” said Gail McGovern, CEO and president of the American Red Cross. “We greatly appreciate the church’s extremely generous donation and continued partnership in support of our lifesaving mission.”
People with sickle cell disease may require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lifetimes to treat complications — sometimes needing as many as 100 units of blood annually. These frequent transfusions can make it difficult to find compatible blood types if patients develop an immune response against blood that is not closely matched to theirs.
A closely matched blood product is critical for patients with sickle cell disease, said Dr. Yvette Miller, executive medical director at the American Red Cross.
“Many individuals of African descent have distinct markers or structures on their red blood cells that make their donations the most compatible blood to help patients with sickle cell disease,” Miller said. “While most patients can receive blood from a donor of any race or ethnic group, due to the presence of some unique red blood cells antigens shared by people of African descent, donations from individuals who are Black are more likely to provide better health outcomes for those fighting sickle cell disease.”