Florida

Blood donors in Orlando get assist from University of Florida students

Aimee McCarthy from Jacksonville gives blood at a facility in that city on Sunday. Blood banks in Orlando quickly filled to capacity as donors lined up by the hundreds to help survivors.
Aimee McCarthy from Jacksonville gives blood at a facility in that city on Sunday. Blood banks in Orlando quickly filled to capacity as donors lined up by the hundreds to help survivors. AP

Tyler Richards grew up in Orlando 15 minutes from Pulse nightclub. But he found himself hundreds of miles away in Washington, D.C., on the day of the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

So he turned to Venmo, an app that allows users to pay others through a cellphone. Richards, 19, a rising junior at the University of Florida, raised more than $500 in a matter of hours for pizza and snacks to help feed the long line of blood donors in Orlando. It was an outpouring of support that quickly filled up storage capacity at the city’s blood banks.

“I used to run blood drives and knew people are turned away because their iron levels are low, so I wanted to help out,” Richards said.

He called the local Domino’s and bought dozens of pizzas. His friends in Orlando passed out the food to people waiting in line. The pizza chain gave a discount to the students. The group raised almost $400 in less than half an hour after posting on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

“I can’t donate blood myself and I’ve grown up there my whole life so the only thing I can do is help the people who are actually doing something,” Richards said.

“They sent us to a OneBlood location with people who had been there for hours, and the food and snacks were scooped up right away,” said Brandon Corsentino, 24, a University of Florida alum who helped to hand out the food.

Though the storage capacity in Orlando blood banks was filled Sunday, Pat Michaels, a spokesman for OneBlood said there was still an urgent need for O negative, O positive and AB plasma blood types. Miami residents who would like to donate this week can schedule an appointment at OneBlood, with locations in Miami, Kendall, Hialeah and Homestead.

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