Church gives $5.1 million to American Red Cross, in part to help boost sickle cell initiative

An American Red Cross employee registers a blood donor in a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fenton, Missouri, on March 3, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Kiera McGrotty of the American Red Cross places a sign on the meetinghouse door of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to a blood drive in Fenton, Missouri, on March 3, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Across several states in the Church’s United States Central Area, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosted 200 blood drives in its meetinghouses in 2020. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is giving $5.1 million to the American Red Cross to help it meet blood and convalescent plasma needs for hospital patients, with part of the gift to boost the organization’s sickle cell initiative.

In helping the American Red Cross better carry out its mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering, the donation will help with new machines and the collection and maintenance of blood platelets.

The donation was announced Monday, March 21, on

Sickle cell disease turns soft, rounded red blood cells into hard, crescent-shaped cells, leading to extreme pain and serious health challenges.

The American Red Cross launched its sickle cell initiative in September 2021, aiming to reach more blood donors who are Black, as the majority of those with sickle cell are of African descent and blood donations from Black people are critical to help those suffering from sickle cell disease.

“As an organization dedicated to alleviating suffering, the Red Cross is committed to the health and well-being of all communities, and a diverse blood supply is critical to improving health outcomes for all patients — especially those with sickle cell disease,” said Gail McGovern, CEO and president of the Red Cross. “We greatly appreciate the Church’s extremely generous donation and continued partnership in support of our lifesaving mission.”

Those with sickle cell disease may need frequent blood transfusions throughout their lifetimes to treat complications — sometimes requiring as many as 100 units of blood annually. Frequent transfusions can make it difficult to find compatible blood types if patients develop an immune response against blood that is not closely matched to theirs.

“A closely matched blood product is critical for patients with sickle cell disease,” explained Dr. Yvette Miller, executive medical director at the Red Cross. “Many individuals of African descent have distinct markers or structures on their red blood cells that make their donations the most compatible blood to help patients with sickle cell disease. While most patients can receive blood from a donor of any race or ethnic group, due to the presence of some unique red blood cell antigens shared by people of African descent, donations from individuals who are Black are more likely to provide better health outcomes for those fighting sickle cell disease.”

Said Bishop Gérald Caussé, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “We’re pleased to contribute over $5 million this year, but our most important contribution is our Church members — thousands of them — who have literally rolled up their sleeves to give blood and donate so much of their time.”

The Church of Jesus Christ and the American Red Cross have a longstanding association dating back to the late 19th century.

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