Making Of: Cartoonists Draw Blood Drive with American Red Cross

This past Saturday, October 31, 2015, we had our third annual “Cartoonists Draw Blood”  blood drive event with the American Red Cross. I came up with the concept in 2013 because I was looking for local projects that cartoonists could be a part of with community outreach. 

How this blood drive works is that you register to donate blood and sign-up for a designated time that works well for you. We allow walk-ins on the day of, but pre-registering helps with the flow. The blood donation takes about 15 minutes. After your donation is complete, you are provided with drinks and snacks. Then you are able to meet several local cartoonists and they will draw a one-of-a-kind original sketch for you as a thank you. The cartoonists also have promo materials that donors can take with them and hopefully follow the cartoonists work in the future.

I am no stranger to organizing events, as I was a board member of AIGA DC, the professional organization for design for five years. During my time with AIGA DC, I organized and promoted the chapter’s largest event fundraiser  AIGA 50 (as co-chair with Dian Holton). I also helped with many events benefiting the AIGA DC Design Continuum Fund via the Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship Program. Working the the AIGA team was an honor. We certainly put in a lot of pro-bono time to make flawless events appear from thin air, like magic.

When the “Cartoonists Draw Blood” idea entered my brain, I picked up the phone and called someone from a local comics collaborative and pitched the idea to him. I was very excited and looking for others to join in and make the event happen. Unfortunately, he did not want himself or the group to be a part of the event and passed on the idea. Instantly at that moment I told him that I’d continue with the event by myself — it was already planted from my brain to my heart at that moment.

I tracked down the appropriate American Red Cross people to put the event in motion. It was not a breeze to get in touch with the American Red Cross. Honestly, it has been easier for me to become employed at my past two full-time design jobs than it had been to reach out to the Red Cross to host a blood drive. In addition to getting their attention, I had to find a venue space that could handle the blood drive, be cost efficient, willing to work with us, and near a Metro station. So many prerequisites, so little time… 

Originally, I was looking to partner with a local comic shop as a venue for the blood drive and I did get permission to make this happen, however in hindsight there is not enough space within any of the comic shops in the Washington, DC area. Most of the shops are very tiny, so I was thinking we could get a blood bus outside. The Red Cross suggested that instead of a comics shop that I look into schools or churches. I researched many locations and some wanted to charge $500 to use their space. This was money I did not have to invest in an event that does not make us money. Our event is not even about money! Luckily we were able to connect with Seekers Church. They have been amazing to work with and we could not do the event without them to provide the space. They also have many other fun events worth checking out and one of their missions is helping the homeless people in the area.

After being passed around to several representatives at the American Red Cross somehow they connected me with Ashley Hood, who has helped get the event off the ground. This year we also worked with David Hull, who was helping since Ashley recently gave birth. They also allowed us to break from the traditional blood drive poster template and create our own featuring iconic art with a zombie, vampire, and werewolf by Steve Artley, a talented political cartoonist.

I choose to make this event part of National Cartoonists Society with the Washington, DC chapter because I became co-chair and we were looking for projects to do, so it is completely logical to connect the connection!

Each year we’ve been improving how the drive is produced and Troy-Jeffrey Allen has stepped up to co-organize the event with me (after the first year of me doing everything my myself). It does help tremendously to have two people handle logistics, communicate with the American Red Cross, be in touch with the venue, wrangle artists, make sure we recruit blood donors, promote the event, set-up and handle what issues arise the day of, and more. Thank you, Troy!

One addition Troy had the idea to do this year was an online countdown image that we could post on social media. Many of our artists volunteered to draw an announcement image to get the public excited about the event and encourage them to sign-up to donate blood.

Last year, we had to cut the blood drive short, as a water main break closed down the road due to a construction crew working across the street. There are a lot of hurdles to jump over and some are beyond our control, but with our third year in the bag I think we’ve hit a good stride.

Since the event this year was Halloween, we encouraged blood donors to dress up in costume, although it was not required to give blood. Quite a few people did dress up. We had zombies, people wearing spooky Halloween socks, ninjas, Mickey Mouse, Daredevil, vikings, and more. The title of the event, the cause, and everything went perfect with Halloween and it was a fun thing to do before trick-or-treating, as the event wrapped at 3:30PM with enough time to spare prepping for evening festivities.

The Washington Post, Takoma Voice, Fairfax Times, and Capitol Communicator have all helped promote the event this year or in the past.
We had so many artists who wanted to join us that we split into two shifts. Thanks to all the cartoonists who donated their time and talents in 2015: Steve Artley, Carolyn Belefski, Bill Brown, Chris Flick, Eric Gordon, Art Hondros, Mal Jones, Teresa Roberts Logan, Joe Sutliff

Thanks to Joe Carabeo, who documented the event with his film and photography skills.

Thanks to our sponsors: Cartoonists Draw Blood, American Red Cross, National Cartoonists Society, Seekers Church

We exceeded expectations by going over our target goal provided by the Red Cross — it’s only Monday morning and they’ve proclaimed our event “a big success” and already proposed a date for 2016! Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for another event next fall.

Thanks to everyone for being a part of this and saving so many lives with art — in addition to having fun with us. A rough count in the three years of doing this event, we’ve saved the lives of up to 200 people!

More photos can be found in the gallery at the Curls Studio Facebook page.