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TELEGRAM SAVES LIVES: Giving thanks to the giv’ers

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(From left) Abdelsalam Abugharara, Brady Griffin Hefford, and Hasan Hai and Jeff Hillyard of the Newfoundland & Labrador Beard & Moustache Club in St. John’s. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Editor’s note: The annual Telegram Saves Lives campaign ends today. As part of our efforts to encourage people to give blood, we’ve been running a series of letters from people whose lives were changed by blood donation. Canadian Blood Services submitted this one.

We are shining a spotlight on three award recipients (including some MerB’ys) who dedicate their time to recruit blood donors so that patients around our province get the blood they need. Because of their commitment, they were celebrated in Ottawa in September during Canadian Blood Services’ annual Honouring Canada’s Lifeline event.

The Regional Partner Award recipients were members of the Newfoundland & Labrador Beard & Moustache Club (St. John’s). Mermen — known affectionately in this province as MerB’ys — aren’t just mythical creatures. They’re real, they attend donation events (on land) and they save as many lives as they can.

Formed in 2017, the Newfoundland & Labrador Beard & Moustache Club (NLBMC) promotes “a positive image for facial hair” while also supporting local community groups and charities.

Since partnering with Canadian Blood Services in summer 2018, the NLBMC has adopted, volunteered, invited the community to and donated at three blood donation events, attracting national and international media in the process.

“We donate blood in our MerB’ys tails,” explains Jeff Hillyard, NLBMC vice-president.

The group is famous for a fundraising calendar featuring burly, bearded mermen set against the scenic backdrop of Newfoundland. Published annually by NLBMC, the calendar earned viral buzz last year.

“The NLBMC is about shining a light on organizations that help others, but who may sometimes not receive the recognition they need,” says Hillyard. “One of our organization’s proudest moments in supporting Canadian Blood Services is when we’ve heard people tell us that the reason they started donating regularly was because of the promotion we’ve done as a club. That’s beautiful, because giving blood is such a simple but kind gesture that is often easily overlooked.”

Also at Honouring Canada’s Lifeline, the Regional Volunteer Award was presented to Abdelsalam Abugharara of St. John’s.

“By volunteering, I can chat with donors, thank them and feel that I provided help somehow.” — Abdelsalam Abugharara, St. John’s

When you’re doing a PhD in oil and gas engineering — in a language that isn’t your first — and you have a wife, two young children and another on the way, you may think there’s little room left in your life to volunteer. Abugharara makes time to do it anyway. He believes supporting Canada’s Lifeline is “the most effective investment in your life” — and has made good on that investment.

In fact, in less than one year of volunteering, he gave more than 100 hours of his time to support donation and blood typing events; promote blood donation in the community through Memorial University’s Muslim Student Association and on social media (bringing in 30 donors); and assist in his school’s “MUNblood Club.” Today, he volunteers weekly at the St. John’s blood donor centre.

“What I do matters because I cannot donate blood every week, so I need to find a way to do something for those in need of blood more often,” says Abugharara. “By volunteering, I can chat with donors, thank them and feel that I provided help somehow.”

The Regional Stem Cell Donor Award was presented to Brady Griffin Hefford of Steady Brook.

Imagine being told your stem cells could save someone’s life — and then learning that they actually did. That’s what happened to Hefford. He joined Canadian Blood Services’ stem cell registry upon hearing that a little boy in his community was looking for a match. While he himself was not a match for the boy, his efforts were not in vain; he eventually got to help another person in need.

At that time, Hefford was working a full-time job, getting ready to start university, and preparing for his final year of playing junior hockey. Donating stem cells would require multiple trips between his hometown and Halifax during this busy time of his life.

That didn’t stop him.

“I believe in always putting yourself in the other person’s position, and that’s when things become clear,” he says. “In the end, I made the right decision to donate.”

Not only that — he was completely prepared for the start of the hockey season.

“Canadian Blood Services helped me realize that everybody should try and give something to someone,” he said. “It may be a small gesture or a big gesture, but everyone has something to give. The experience was just as rewarding for me as it was for the person I was giving to.”


Also from Telegram Saves Lives campaign

Grateful for our little warrior

I wouldn’t be here without blood transfusions

Blood donations, new heart saved my baby

Community leader fighting cancer gives thanks

Blood donor becomes grateful blood recipient


Willing to donate? Here’s how

• Where:

Telegram Saves Lives donor centre

Canadian Blood Services

7 Wicklow St.

St. John’s

You can also book a spot at www.blood.ca or call 1-888-2-DONATE

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