New York man stops in Iowa on cross-country bike tour to encourage blood donations

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Bob Barnes of New York poses in front of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. (Courtesy of Bob Barnes)

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A New York man recently rode through Iowa as part of a cross-country trek on his bike to visit all 50 state capitols in one year to raise awareness about the importance of donating blood.

Bob Barnes, of Syracuse, N.Y., frequently donated blood in his home state and has donated blood at various locations in the course of his journey around the U.S.

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Barnes donated platelets in Burlington recently and plans to make another donation with ImpactLife, a regional blood center, in Madison, Wis. He stopped in Cedar Rapids on May 11 and is over 12,000 miles through his journey.

He started the trip Aug. 1 last year, and plans to make it to Juneau, Alaska, by Aug. 1, then fly to Hawaii. After pedaling from the airport to the state capitol, Barnes said he plans to spend some time in Hawaii as a reward for the yearlong endeavor.

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In 2018, Barnes rode his bike 5,833 miles across northern U.S. But he said he didn’t want to stop at that journey, so he took three years to raise funds, organize and come up with an even more challenging trip.

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When Barnes started, he said people suggested he have a cause. He wanted to lead by example.

“I don’t have a lot of means financially, and blood is something I can give and anybody who is eligible should give because I think it’s the human thing to do,” Barnes said.

Barnes said he thinks he’s made a big impact, as people have shared donation experiences on his blog. He sometimes gets recognized in different cities, and he even received a call from a follower around Cedar Rapids who met with him and made a donation.

Barnes said he enjoyed the “true Southern hospitality” Mississippi offered, but everywhere he’s gone he’s been touched by the kindness of the people he meets.

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“We hear a lot of stuff and we see a lot of stuff about bad things going on in this country, and every single place that I’ve been from my observation, everybody’s been so kind, not only to me but each other,” Barnes said.

If more eligible blood donors gave blood, Barnes said it would make a major difference to the nationwide blood shortage.

Kirby Winn, public relations manager for ImpactLife, said Barnes’ tour through the organization’s service region comes during a challenging time for the blood supply.

“The use of blood at the hospitals we serve stays about the same year-round, but the end of the school year and summer holidays can be a challenging time to recruit as many donors as we need,” Winn said.

ImpactLife aims to collect at least 3,500 donations per week throughout its service region to maintain a five-day inventory of all blood components. It projects falling about 200 to 600 donations short of that goal each week.

Winn said the group relies on mobile blood drives and scheduling additional donors at its Donor Centers. ImpactLife is offering a special promotion starting next week in which all presenting donors will receive a voucher to redeem for either a $10 gift card from a selection of retailers and restaurants or 500 points to use in our online Donor Rewards Store.

Its promotion for those who donate before Sunday, May 15, is for a $10 gift card and a tree to be planted on the donor’s behalf by the National Forest Foundation as part of an effort to plant over 10,000 trees.

ImpactLife has two donor centers in Cedar Rapids, at Lindale Crossing, 4828 First Ave. NE, and Williams Parkway, 3001 Williams Blvd. SW.

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com





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