The Philadelphia Union didn’t have a match on Saturday, July 24, but that didn’t mean PPL Park wasn’t put to good use.
Over 400 Union fans attended the First Annual Union Blood Drive for the American Red Cross, braving the hottest day of the hottest summer on record to donate 388 productive units of blood. Each productive unit can be used to save up to three lives, meaning Union fans collectively helped save up to 1,164 lives in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Region.
While some in attendance had donated a number of times before, 31% of donors contributed to the cause for the very first time.
"I've never taken part in a blood drive before -- anti needles,” said Union Founding Member Dan Crain. “However, for the last 18 months I've been volunteering for ARC, going to help families that have just experienced disasters such as fires and building collapses in Philadelphia.
“And for the last year I've been a proud Union season ticket holder. When the two came together, I simply couldn't say no. Thanks for helping save lives Union employees and fans! It was a great experience, and I hope to be back next year!”
The summer months are traditionally low donor months due to high schools and colleges being on hiatus and people going on vacation, making it all the more critical to keep the blood supply replenished.
Enter Union fans.
"I always give blood when the “Blood Bus” comes to my campus/job in Reading, so when I saw the Union holding a blood drive at PPL Park, I knew I had to go,” said donor Bill Gusler. “And then they also threw in a limited edition scarf and VIP tour! I drove down from Reading and went with my cousin, and it was her first time giving blood -- she was nervous.
“I ended up being asked to give the “Double Red Cell Donation” to which I had no problem. Once the whole process was done, we picked up our collectors scarves and headed over to the owner’s box before we were guided on a VIP tour, which was amazing! I was here for the open house, but we never got to tour the locker rooms. It was a great day to be a donor and a Union fan. C’mon the U!”
Donors in attendance were rewarded with a custom scarf commemorating the event and a tour of PPL Park, including the owner’s suite, locker room and player benches. Fans also had their pictures taken with the ball used by Sebastien Le Toux to score the first goal in franchise history.
“Great time giving blood and having the BONUS of a personalized tour at PPL (Park)!” exclaimed donor Rudy Tellez. “Great cause and worth getting up at 5:00am! Unique experience with a class act touch! Way to Go Union!”
While the Union still have their sights set on making the MLS Cup playoffs in their inaugural season, when it comes to the club’s annual blood drive, it’s safe for fans to come out and say, “we’ll get ‘em next year.”