• Kraft Center, Jimmy Fund Clinic are Patriot Nation for a day

    Patriots players Zoltan Mesko and Malcolm Williams  

    One great team saluted another as members of the New England Patriots football squad stopped by the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

    Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko and defensive back Malcolm Williams met on October 9, 2012 with platelet and blood donors, volunteers, and patients at the Kraft Center, which expanded in September with the integration of the platelet donor facilities at Dana-Farber and the whole blood and red blood cell donor center at partnering Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH).

    The merged facilities on the first floor of the Jimmy Fund Building are expected to improve efficiency and grow collection volume of platelets, whole blood, and red blood cells, all of which are vitally needed by cancer patients to replace their own depleted supplies.

    Watching Mesko and Williams hand out autographed footballs to donors and patients, Kraft Center staff shared their excitement about the merger. "Dana-Farber and BWH are two talented organizations, coming together smoothly to benefit all their patients," said Malissa Lichtenwalter, the center's new supervisor of blood donor recruitment.

    "One great thing about having patients here who we used to only see at Brigham and Women's is that they are now closer to a lot of the other oncology clinicians they need to see," said Chance J. Luckey, MD, PhD, the center's assistant medical director. "We've been thrilled with the merger so far."

    Patriots player Zoltan Mesko  

    During the athletes' visit to the Kraft Center, one donor explained the whole blood donation process to a rapt Williams, while another donor in a Pan-Massachusetts Challenge sweatshirt encouraged Mesko to try the annual bike-a-thon to benefit Dana-Farber.

    "I've given platelets about 130 times, so I've been waiting for this opportunity a long time," said donor — and ardent Patriots fan — Loring Webster while clutching his new football. "I give once a month, and every time I come in it seems like a celebrity visited the day or the week before. Now I finally caught them."

    The players also next visited the Jimmy Fund Clinic, where patients from toddlers to teens offered high-fives as family members zeroed in with their cameras. "This is my first visit here, so it doesn't get much better than this," said Dionna Soto, a 17-year-old patient from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. "I don't expect every day to be this exciting."

    The visit was made possible through the "Celebrating Volunteerism" initiative of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. The foundation was created by Patriots owner and Dana-Farber Trustee Robert Kraft and his family to support charitable programs and organizations throughout the region. Celebrating Volunteerism recognizes deserving volunteers and inspires others to give. Robert Kraft’s son, Dan Kraft, has followed this credo as a regular donor at the Kraft Center.

    To donate blood or platelets, call 617-632-3206 or email blooddonor@partners.org.

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    • To make an appointment to donate blood or platelets or to learn more about eligibility, the donation process, or hosting a blood drive near you, call 888-LETS-GIV (538-7448) or 617-632-3206, or email blooddonor@partners.org.