Tonya Gnewikow realizes how important it is to donate blood. The Warrens resident and Tomah High School physical education teacher was one of 70 people that donated blood during a two-day drive held Nov. 18 & 19 at Tomah’s Recreation Park.
Versiti BloodCenter account representative Emalea Cogdill said the drive accounted for 205 blood products that will help to save more than 600 lives at community hospitals like Tomah Health. “Times are expected to get even more challenging in the coming months as COVID-19 continues to spike and flu season approaches,” Cogdill said. “Blood donors are needed now to help ensure life-saving blood is available.”
Gnewikow said she also donates to help to save local lives. “It is very important since I have been born and raised in this area and in any emergency we would be heading to Tomah Health.” Versiti BloodCenter of Wisconsin is the sole supplier of blood to nearly 50 hospitals in Wisconsin including Tomah Health.
Donating blood for nearly 30 years, Gnewikow credits family members and her dad, Jim VanWychen for leading by example when it comes to donating. “My dad has set an excellent example because he has donated way more than even I do,” she said. “It is a positive good community thing to do.”
Tonya said she misses blood drives held at Tomah High School, which have been canceled due to COVID-19. “I was super impressed because as I came in the door two of my high school students were in here donating blood,” she added. “Schools and businesses are typically Versiti’s largest source of blood donations this time of year,” Cogdill said. “Because of remote work and virtual schooling, many of those drives have been canceled.”
Tomah Health marketing & public relations director Eric Prise said despite COVID-19, donors continue to support the hospital. “We continue to be thankful to all the donors and to the Tomah Parks & Recreation Dept., for use of the site for our blood drives,” Prise said. He said drives have been moved from Tomah Health due to continued COVID visitor restrictions at the hospital.
The drive was the final one for 2020. Prise said the next drive will also be a two-day event Jan. 26 & 27 at Recreation Park.