Dash Drives: Turning a bad memory into a lifesaving effort

During his first year battling leukemia, 7-year-old Dash Ohlsen received 19 blood transfusions. “You just don’t realize how important blood donations are until someone you know needs a transfusion,” says Dash’s dad, Taner. “Those times when Dash needed blood he was very, very vulnerable. It was really scary.”

Two years ago, on the one-year anniversary of Dash’s diagnosis, Taner says he and his wife, Kara, needed a distraction. Something to steer away the negative emotions and distract their minds from the “one year ago today” memories that drug them down.

“Because Dash had so many transfusions that first year, we developed a passion for blood donation, so we decided to team up with United Blood Services to hold blood drives at area elementary schools. These drives, which became known as “Dash Drives,” begin with presentations at the schools, teaching students about the importance of blood donation, who needs blood, what it feels like to donate, and a call to action – asking each child to invite one person to donate blood at a drive that takes place at the school a week or two later.

That first year, 2015, there were two blood drives, one of which was at Dash’s school. They were so successful that last year, 10 Dash Drives were held – six in Bismarck, two in Minot, and two in Williston, resulting in 352 units of blood donated. According to Travis Dressler, donor recruitment manager for United Blood Services, one donation has the potential to save three people’s lives, which means more than 1,000 lives were potentially impacted because of last year’s Dash Drives.

“It’s so cool to see these elementary-age kids doing such a great thing in their communities,” Dressler says. “By encouraging people to donate blood, they are truly making a difference and saving lives.”

This year, the number of drives increased to 11, three of which have already taken place. If you ever wonder about the power of a child’s persuasion, take a look at the drive held last week in Minot. “There were 29 people who signed up and 113 people showed up to donate,” Taner says. “Travis with United Blood Services said it was the biggest turnout he’s ever seen.”

More than 100 people showed up to a “Dash Drive” at Edison Elementary School in Minot.

There are still plenty of opportunities to donate blood at one of the remaining Dash Drives, which are open to the public. “Dash alone received 20 donations total, and some kids with other types of cancer require 100 or more donations,” Taner says. “When you look at that plus all of the adults with cancer, accident victims, and all the other people who need it – that shows the amount of blood necessary to keep up the supply. And blood isn’t something you can just make, you need people to donate it. It’s an incredibly important gift.”

Following are the remaining Dash Drives for this year:

Lincoln Elementary, Lincoln
Saturday, Feb. 11

Centennial Elementary, Bismarck
Thursday, Feb. 16

Solheim Elementary, Bismarck (Dash’s school)
Wednesday, Feb. 22

Rickard Elementary, Williston
Thursday, Feb. 23

Lewis and Clark Elementary, Williston
Friday, Feb. 24

Pioneer Elementary, Bismarck
Tuesday, Feb. 28

Washington Elementary, Minot
March 1

Hoeven Elementary, Minot
March 3

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