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Inside Mazda

A Blood Drive in Memoriam Turns Into a Regional Community Effort

Mazda Cares featuring Kristina Ross

This is Mazda Cares. In light of COVID-19, we’re sharing stories of how our Mazda family is coping with (and even combatting) the crisis. Tracing back to our Hiroshima roots, Mazda has a deep history of helping communities in times of need. Our aim is to share stories that highlight our belief that what matters most is one another — because through the power of humanity and community, we can overcome any challenge.

Kristina Ross, Assistant to the Chief Marketing Officer, Vice President Retail Operations and Vice President Vehicle Sales Planning at Mazda North American Operations, started planning a blood drive in September 2019. It was intended to be a memorial in honor of her late father, who had passed earlier that year from MDS (pre-leukemia) and who had benefited from the gift of donated blood. As the set date of April 19, 2020 rolled closer, everything changed. “Planning was just going along, and then COVID hit,” says Kristina.

The American Red Cross put out a call for donations due to increased need from canceled drives — so before Kristina’s friends and family could sign up to donate in memoriam, spots filled up from strangers looking to support their community during the pandemic. “Initially I was very happy it was full, but it took on a new meaning. It was my dad’s memorial and the intent was to celebrate his life with friends and family — [but now it’s taken] on a new life and it’s amazing that so many people are stepping up.”

Friends, family, colleagues, and strangers answered the call to donate blood at Kristina’s drive. Here, Kevin Ross and Faith Norris don masks at the socially-distanced event on April 19, 2020.

Prior to COVID-19, Kristina had only spoken about the blood drive with an executive, but as the pandemic worsened, she started mentioning the drive via team calls. Eventually it was announced during a town hall. “I felt incredibly supported,” says Kristina. “They supported me, executives reached out, one of the marketing team members came to donate, [and] others financially donated.”

Ultimately, the drive was a success, with 39 total donors, 38 units of blood (the goal was 33), and 23 first-time donors. The drive also forged new relationships for the American Red Cross, making way for future drives and helping secure the region’s blood supply for the coming months.