The Alice Haynes Room of the Tyler Haynes Commons was empty except for four blue medical chairs in the center of the floor. Three nurses in scrubs sat on stools, resting their chins in their hands -- tired and silent. A woman was reclining in one of the chairs, taking long sips from a bottle of water. Across from her a student was lying with a strained expression on her face, talking to a friend seated on a plastic chair nearby. A nurse slowly collected vials of blood from a tube in her arm.
Every semester, the men of Kappa Alpha Order sponsor a blood drive for Virginia Blood Services, the largest blood donor in Virginia, according to the VBS website. In March 2010, Kappa Alpha's national office awarded the chapter the Knight Commander's Cup Award for greatest overall campus participation in the event and the Crimson Gift Century Society Award for having 100 percent of brothers donate.
Kappa Alpha is one of 2,700 organizations on average each year that donates blood to VBS, according to the company's website. The site reports that VBS sponsors more than 2,700 drives annually and receives 130,000 donations. The blood is used in two-thirds of all organ transplants in Virginia, according to the site.
Austin Santoro, philanthropy chairman for Kappa Alpha last year, said the fraternity had been sponsoring the biannual blood drive "as long as anyone remembered, probably since the '90s." Santoro said 60 to 70 percent of brothers usually participated in donating, with sophomores and juniors being most actively involved. He said the entire fraternity supported and promoted the event in some way.
Santoro said this event meant a lot to the brothers, because he said it gave the community more than money. Raising money is easy, Santoro said, but "blood is very usable; it's tangible." People need it now, he said.
Kappa Alpha's goal is to collect 100 units of blood per drive, but they have exceeded this number the last two years, with 126 units in spring 2010 and 102 in fall 2011. Current philanthropy chairman, Zack Francis, said he expected to raise more than 100 units again this semester.
The fraternity exceeded its goal and collected 118 units, the most for a Kappa Alpha drive.
Francis said he had never given blood before, because he had once had a blood test for mono and passed out. He said he had been scared to donate, but felt that he was called to do so after speaking with the staff at VBS.
"They are all genuine people and believe in the cause, and it's hard not to be convinced when dealing with people like that," he said.
One donor, Whitney Paul, came to the blood drive with a friend. She said she had never participated in the Kappa Alpha blood drive before, but she had given blood this year because she liked the idea of helping others. She said she often gave blood back home, and would definitely give to this cause again next year.
"I think about it as if, say, I needed a transfusion and there wasn't enough blood -- that terrifies me," she said. "I wouldn't want anyone else to be in that situation."
Paul said she had learned about the drive from the fraternity's table in the Commons.
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The brothers have advertised sign-ups in the Commons since last Wednesday, Francis said.
Santoro said he had also given blood to the Kappa Alpha drive before, but never to another organization. "I felt a need inside to donate blood to this cause," he said.
Santoro said that the fraternity blood drive had been very successful historically, and he felt this had been partially due to the student demographic on campus. The brothers are asking their peers to donate, he said.
Santoro said that the number of brothers involved had also provided an advantage over other drives on campus. There are 68 brothers, Santoro said, and theoretically, that's a huge advantage, because that's more than half of the 100 unit target if every brother gives. It's also easier to market, he said.
Every year, the fraternity strives for 100 percent participation, Francis said.
Part of the reason Francis joined Kappa Alpha was the success of its philanthropy, he said. Francis is a Bonner scholar and is active in community engagement as part of his scholarship. Francis said the statistics of last year's blood drive was a big draw for him to join the fraternity.
Francis said donating was a "small sacrifice on our part to do something large for VBS and all the people it serves."
The official national philanthropy of Kappa Alpha is the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Santoro and Francis said. Francis said the Richmond chapter had become involved with VBS, because blood donations were related to the MDA cause, and the chapter felt called to do something more. Kappa Alpha continued the blood drive because of its success, he said.
Santoro said the fraternity members were still active with fundraising for MDA, and some brothers participated in the MDA Muscle Walk in Richmond.
The nurses at the blood drive were unavailable for comment.
This story adds an update of the total amount of units collected.
Contact staff writer Rachel Bevels at firstname.lastname@example.org
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