Pints under the pines: Camp Newman donates blood to save lives

Ben Lerman donated blood for the first time last week — at summer camp.

Lerman, 16, attends Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, where dozens of campers and counselors each donated one pint of blood to the Blood Bank of the Redwoods on July 3.

“There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for donating,” Lerman said. “Anyone who couldn’t donate because of age or weight was very disappointed.”

Eighty-nine campers and counselors signed up, of which 57 met the requirements for donation (which include being at least 16 years old, weighing at least 110 pounds and having a high enough iron level).

Since one pint of blood can be used by up to three people, those 57 pints could save as many as 171 lives.

“All because of those kids. Isn’t that amazing?” said Liz Grube, an account coordinator with Blood Bank of the Redwoods and one of 11 staffers assisting with the blood drive.

The blood drive is a project of Avodah, an annual camp session that engages 11th-graders in programming devoted to community service and social justice. Ari Vared, the former director of Avodah and now an assistant director at Camp Newman, organized the first camp blood drive last summer as a simple way for campers and counselors to perform a mitzvah. Parents signed consent forms for any interested camper who was not yet 18 years old.

Last year’s drive felt like “Jewish ethics coming to life,” said Ruben Arquilevich, the camp’s executive director. He didn’t hesitate to plan another one this summer.

In preparation for this summer’s drive, campers collectively learned about blood donation — including that every three seconds someone needs blood in the United States, that only 5 percent of Americans donate blood (though 37 percent are eligible) and that in the summer, blood banks see an increased demand but a shortage of donors.

Campers also discussed the talmudic concept that to save one life is to save the whole world.

Lerman and his peers were given T-shirts that read, “I can repair the world; I learned how at Jewish summer camp.”

Added Avodah Director Sarah Bresko, “There was a lot of camaraderie — even the kids who couldn’t donate supported those who did.”

Grube said her organization is grateful for Newman’s blood drive, especially since one-fourth of its blood supply comes from schools and universities — most of which are devoid of students during the summer.

Camp Newman “is absolutely our brightest light this month,” Grube said. “To have them step forward is just a blessing.”

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.