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Release of Likeness

Donating blood for a victim of the I-35W bridge collapse marked the beginning of Justin’s regular donations with Memorial Blood Centers.

Justin Kittelson-Burke’s first experience donating blood in the summer of 2007 was typical. “I heard from others that usually after you donate you have this feeling that you gave back, that your blood was possibly going to save a life,” Justin said. “And I thought ‘Well, that’s good enough for me.’” What happened next, however, was anything but typical.

On August 1, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed—a tragedy that touched virtually every life in the Twin Cities. Soon after, Justin received an unexpected phone call. “Memorial Blood Centers invited me to attend their annual meeting and be recognized for my donation,” Justin remembers. “Turns out my blood donation had been tagged, labeled, tracked—and used for victims of the 35W bridge collapse. Of course, I didn’t feel like I needed an honor but I thought it would be cool to do anything I could to raise awareness about the need for blood donations.”

Justin feels compelled to tell his story because he’s concerned about his generation’s attitude toward giving. “As my wife’s grandpa says, his generation understands the need to donate blood. But I’m 27, and I feel that many people in my age group have this ‘What do I get out of it?’ mentality. I really want to tell them that if you give someone a gift, it feels really good. And in the case of giving blood, it’s contagious: once you get that great feeling after you donate, you want to tell all your friends and get them to give as well. It takes such a small amount of time. And even if you don’t know where or when your blood is being used, the good feeling is enough.”

Justin also praises his workplace, Great River Energy, for supporting Memorial Blood Centers through on-site blood drives. “If your workplace is putting on the drive, it’s a no-brainer to donate. They’re saying that they feel it’s so important to give blood that they’re giving you the time to do it. And there’s never going to be a surplus of blood—there’s always going to be a need.”