Meet some area residents who can be counted on to give the "perfect gift" during the holidays

December 16, 2011

Platelet donors from Beaver, Greensburg, Johnstown and State College areas committed to holiday gift of self

Meet some people who aren’t experts in favorite colors, sizing or the latest trends but know how to give the “perfect” gift for the holidays just the same. 

These individuals are platelet donors, donors who give platelets or platelets and plasma, through a donation method called apheresis. Platelets, tiny cell fragments that help control bleeding, are often needed by cancer and leukemia patients because chemotherapy can prevent a patient’s bone marrow from making enough platelets to carry on everyday activities.

Bone marrow recipients can receive up to 120 doses of platelets waiting for their new bone marrow to engraft. Platelets may also be transfused during heart bypass surgery to prevent post-operative bleeding.

“Platelet products must be transfused within five days of donation, so we need to ensure that one or more of our five platelet donor centers are open every day of the year except Christmas. The need is ongoing and demand often outpaces supplies,” commented John Hagins, CEO, American Red Cross, Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region. “We are grateful to donors who make and keep commitments to donate blood and platelets on holidays or during the holiday season.”

The Greater Alleghenies Region has five platelet donor centers, hours by appointment, in Altoona, Pa.; Beaver, Pa.; Greensburg, Pa.; Johnstown, Pa.; and State College, Pa.

By donor center, holiday platelet donors are:

Beaver, Pa. Platelet Donation Center:

Husband and wife William Dean and Emily Till, Beaver, donate platelets every other week, or 24 times a year, the maximum number of donations one can give. Several relatives, including a parent and sibling, have been treated for cancer and received platelets. Dean’s father lived with leukemia for 20 years with the help of platelet transfusions. “It’s important for us to help others,” they noted. Emily Till - 239 total platelet products, William Dean - 179 platelet products as of November 2011.

Greensburg, Pa., Platelet Donation Center:

Barry and Brad Shirey, brothers from Ligonier, Pa. Barry has donated 364 products; Brad, 525 products as of December.

Johnstown, Pa., Platelet Donation Center:

Andrew Koharchik, Somerset, Pa.:”I donate platelets, especially over the holidays, in honor of friends and family who have had cancer. I feel if my donation can give someone another holiday with their family then it is worth a few hours of my time.” He has given a total of 306 platelet products as of November 25, 2011.

Charles Schilling, Johnstown, has 636 product donations as of November 25, 2011.

State College, Pa., Platelet Donation Center: Ken Martin, Bellefonte, Pa., A former member of the Greater Alleghenies Region’s volunteer board of directors, Martin donates both whole blood and platelets. “Because the shelf life of platelets is so short, platelets are collected almost every day and it is much easier for me to donate on holidays. Subsequently I have donated on every holiday except Christmas Day (I normally try to donate on December 24 and January 1). I would be happy to donate on Christmas but the Red Cross tries to protect this day for their employees. The need for blood products does not take a break for holidays and I am happy that I can do just a little to help ensure the supply is available when needed.” He has given a total of 365 platelet products as of November 2011.

For more information or to schedule a platelet donation appointment, call 1-800-542-5663, ext. 2637, or 814-262-2637. For additional information about the platelet donation process, including eligibility information, visit

Individuals may also follow the Red Cross on Twitter:

The Greater Alleghenies Region directly serves hospitals, patients and donors in a 100-county area in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, with more than five-dozen blood products and related services, and also supports blood needs experienced by patients elsewhere in hospitals served through Red Cross Blood Services.