By MARY BEVANS GILLETT Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Sharon Childs feels all blood donors are heroes. For many donors, recipients, colleagues and healthcare providers around the region, the feeling is mutual.
Michigan Blood is holding a Sharon Childs Tribute Day Blood Drive on Wednesday, March 27. Childs is retiring as manager of donor services at Michigan Blood on April 5 after 43 years of service.
Instrumental in establishing the Traverse City center, Childs has devoted her career to securing safe and adequate local blood supplies for Munson Medical Center and 40 other Michigan-based hospitals. By numbers alone, she has helped collect close to 204,600 pints of blood.
Childs’ relationship with Michigan Blood began when she was a charge nurse in Bay County, where she and her husband, Jim, raised their two sons. She worked for the organization’s Bay City-Saginaw region for 25 years, offering educational programs, donor services and building community awareness before being tapped to help establish the Traverse City center (formerly known as Northwest Michigan Blood Center) in 1994.
Building a new program in a new community required finding facilities, ordering equipment, training staff, forging partnerships and creating awareness in addition to blood banking.
“Many people had never heard of community blood programs, or didn’t understand what we did or the needs,” she said, noting that opportunities and ideas arose from those discussions.
As the program grew, the organization introduced the blood bus. That brought donor access to the most rural corners of northwestern Lower Michigan, stretching south of Manistee and Reed City, west to Kalkaska and north to Leelanau and Antrim counties. Childs has taken the bus directly onto Amish farms as well as to schools, businesses and community centers.
Young people have been a target population. Throughout her career, Childs visited countless classrooms from high school to elementary grades to educate students about blood and encourage healthy life choices. Many of those she touched return years later with their own stories of the positive influence she had on them and their families.
“I’ve watched three generations of a family become donors…and other teenagers pull out their cards to show me they donated,” Childs said. “These are all tremendous, tremendous people … blood donors are our silent heroes.”
Childs is looking forward to time with family, including her three grandchildren, though she and Jim, who was also with Michigan Blood for 18 years, will continue supporting the organization. Both are multi-gallon donors.
“I will support this forever,” Childs said. “This has never been a job or a career.
“It’s been my life.”
One of Childs’ favorite charities, Safe Harbor, will receive a $10 donation from Michigan Blood for every attempted donation Wednesday, and each of those people will receive a $10 Meijer gift card. Safe Harbor serves the homeless in Traverse City with emergency shelter, meals, community and encouragement.
The Sharon Childs Tribute Day Blood Drive runs from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Michigan Blood Donor Center, 2575 Aero Park Drive in Traverse City. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are encouraged.
To schedule a time or for more information, contact Michigan Blood at (866) 642-5663 or www.miblood.org.