Story by Erik Potter

An annual part of Mizzou’s Homecoming celebration for the past 33 years is a blood drive for the American Red Cross. It is one of the largest college-based blood drives in the world, drawing thousands of participants.

Most of the donors are students, though the drive is open to anyone in the campus or Columbia community. Here are a few of their stories.

Lauren Lee Burton sits in a reclining chair. A phlebotomist holds her left arm to draw blood from it.
Lauren Lee Burton has her blood drawn as her friend, Emily Anderson, joins her for support in the Hearnes Center Fieldhouse. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Lauren Lee Burton and Emily Anderson

Lauren Lee Burton and Emily Anderson made the trek to the Hearnes Center for the annual Homecoming blood drive because of their friend Nicole Webber, a sorority sister in Sigma Kappa.

In an effort to recruit participants, Webber had told the sorority house the facts about donating blood and how it saves lives. But Burton and Anderson already knew intellectually that it was a good thing to do. Then Webber showed them an emotional video about a man whose life was saved because of a blood transfusion. After the video, Webber told the group that that man in the video was her dad.

“I was just imagining if that was one of my parents,” says Anderson, a junior majoring in health sciences from Overland Park, Kansas. “That really affected me.”

It changed Burton’s perspective as well. “When you’re giving blood, you’re helping that one person,” says the O’Fallon, Illinois, native who is also a junior in health sciences. “You’re saving that life.”

Makayo Young and Kelly Harmon

Logo for 2018 Homecoming, "Game on: Tiger Strong."“I’m here for her,” says Makayo Young, a freshman business major from St. Louis. Next to him in the waiting area at the Hearnes Center Fieldhouse is Kelly Harmon, a freshman health sciences major from Fenton, Missouri.

The two have been friends since sixth grade, so it was no big deal when Harmon, an Alpha Delta Pi member, asked Young to donate in her place at the annual Homecoming blood drive. Harmon was unable to donate herself.

Young thought at first he had no personal connection to blood donation. But as he talked about it with Harmon, he realized he probably did.

When he was in elementary school, his dad had open heart surgery. Young was young enough that his mom kept the details from him so he wouldn’t get scared. He isn’t sure why the surgery was needed or if it required a transfusion, though it’s very possible.

Donating for a friend was reason enough for Young. But donating for Dad was nice, too.

Grace Corley

Grace Corley sits behind the registration desk and reaches her arms out to help a would-be blood donor.
Homecoming Tri-Director Grace Corley works with students as they check out from donating blood at the Hearnes Center. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Two days into the annual Homecoming blood drive, Grace Corley’s voice was already breaking. The junior strategic communication major from Leawood, Kansas, is one of three student directors for this year’s Homecoming celebration. One of her responsibilities is overseeing the annual blood drive.

The group is aiming for 4,000 units of blood — enough to save 12,000 lives. “The blood goes back into the community we live in, which I love,” Corley says.

While manning the registration desk, Corley has seen faculty, staff and students walk into the Hearnes Center Fieldhouse to participate. “It’s cool to see how it brings campus together.”

Mizzou Homecoming
The University of Missouri started the tradition of an annual Homecoming football game and celebration in 1911. This tradition has spread throughout the world, but Mizzou still boasts the largest student-run Homecoming in the nation.Learn more about Mizzou Homecoming.