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Red Cross, Elvis, Sweepstakes: “Uh Huh Huh.”

The American Red Cross is facing a critical shortage of blood, platelets, and plasma and offering donors a chance to win a trip for two to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s legendary home. 

The King of Rock and Roll took his own advice to “Don’t Be Cruel” and was a documented blood donor. The Red Cross provides 40% of America’s blood supply, according to the organization’s website.

The nonprofit is running the sweepstakes in conjunction with Elvis, a biopic from director Baz Luhrmann being released on June 24. During June, all donors will automatically be entered to win the vacation package, which includes round-trip airfare to Memphis, Tenn., a three-night stay at The Guest House at Graceland hotel, an Elvis Entourage VIP tour, a customized Gibson Epiphone guitar and a $500 gift card for expenses. All donors will receive a $5 e-gift card.

In January, the Red Cross declared what officials said is its first-ever “Blood Crisis.” According to a statement from the organization’s leaders, the Red Cross was in the “worst blood shortage in over a decade.” Blood and platelet donations had dropped by 10% since the coronavirus pandemic’s start in March 2020, primarily due to multiple blood drive cancellations, staffing limitations, and fear of exposure to seasonal flu and the ongoing pandemic.

The drop was exacerbated by disruptions to in-person academia, which had led to a 62% drop in donations from college and high school donors. This population made up around 25% of all blood donors during 2019, according to a statement from the Red Cross.

Just as the organization is doing now, in January it used a sweepstakes to stimulate donations. Donors who gave blood, plasma or platelets between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31 received a chance to win a trip to Super Bowl LVI, which took place in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. A separate sweepstakes run concurrently offered a fully-installed home theater and $500 for game time snacks.

While there might not be a direct correlation between that effort and blood supplies, the earlier sweepstakes gambit might have helped alleviate the worst of the supply crunch. “In recent weeks, the Red Cross has seen the public answer our call for more donations to help restock hospital shelves, alleviating the worst blood shortage the Red Cross has experienced in over a decade,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to The NonProfit Times.

“Volunteer blood donations are the foundation of the U.S. blood supply, with more than 14 million blood products collected annually from non-remunerated donors,” the spokesperson continued. The Red Cross provides 40% of America’s blood supply, according to the organization’s website.

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