CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — A lot can be accomplished when people work together, and years ago, two people teamed up to help save lives.

As WCIA gets ready for its “Gift of Life” Blood Drive later this month, they’re reflecting on all the work they’ve done.

Retired neonatologist, Nestor Ramirez, has watched blood donations save lives … most of them are not very old.

“When I used to deal with premature babies, or very sick babies, sometimes they needed blood products or whole blood,” says Ramirez. It was vital to have blood available any time during the day or night. “Many of them were life or death. Some of these babies were going to have surgery for example, or some of these babies’ mothers had bled out so they would be severely anemic, they would need blood replacement,” he says.

Ramirez decided he wanted to help gather what his little patients used, so he helped start an annual blood drive. He teamed up with then-CEO of Community Blood Services, Pat Kovar. Over several years, they went around to area rotary clubs, signing up donors at the end of July.

“About 15, maybe a little bit more percent, of the total blood supply in the United States comes from college and high school blood drives. Don’t have so many of those in the summertime and the winter holiday season,” says Kovar. He says there were a lot of benefits to getting people to donate. “But maybe what was more important about those drives looking back on it, from my perspective, is a great percentage of the people who came in during those early drives … they just became regular, year-round donors and sustained donation behavior for lengthy periods of time,” says Kovar.

Both Ramirez and Kovar are hoping that’s what will happen during WCIA’s “Gift of Life” blood drive, because becoming a regular donor can save lives — both young and old — for years to come.

“It gives you a sense of fulfillment that you did something for the community,” says Ramirez.

The blood drive will be on Thursday, December 27 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. 

You can donate at locations across Central Illinois, including:


Lincoln Square Mall at 201 Lincoln Square

Community Blood Services at 1408 W. University Avenue


Elks Blood Center at 300 Liberty Lane


Hickory Point Mall at 1146 Hickory Point Mall


Central Illinois Community Blood Center at 1999 Wabash Avenue


Cross County Mall at 700 Broadway Avenue East