For the most recent branch of Bloodworks Northwest’s Savor Life. Save A Life. campaign, partnering with local organization Intentionalist seemed an ideal fit. As an online platform and guide that connects consumers to Seattle’s small businesses and diverse communities, Intentionalist continually aims to make sure no community members are overlooked.
When it comes to the life-saving importance of donating blood, Intentionalist Founder and CEO Laura Clise says they’re excited to engage and highlight the commitment and experiences of underrepresented members of the culinary community. “The initiative launched with a coalition of celebrated chefs and community leaders,” she explains. “Intentionalist is proud to work with ‘under-celebrated’ bakery, bar, cafe, coffee shop, and restaurant owners to ensure that our overall community mobilization effort includes all members of the community.”
Juan Cotto, Senior Government Affairs and Community Engagement Specialist at Bloodworks Northwest commends the work that Intentionalist does in raising awareness of minority, small businesses throughout the region. “These businesses are the heart and soul of our communities,” he says, “and they form the foundation of the economic and social vitality of our neighborhoods. Intentionalist provides them a voice to spread the word about who they are, what they do, and why we should be frequenting them daily.”
Cotto emphasizes the need for all communities in the Northwest to understand the importance of blood donation, and how this “selfless” act supports the health of the citizens of our community. “Every community needs blood donations to survive,” he comments, “and it’s our goal to go deeper into communities to educate them.The heart of these communities are with the leaders and owners of small businesses, and Intentionalist knows and understands who to talk to and where to talk to them. If we can get these leaders behind our cause, then every member of the Northwest community will benefit.”
For this initiative, Intentionalist extends the culinary coalition to include business owners like Hana Johanes of Shikorina Pastries, Caroline Lee of Young Tea, Darnesha Weary of Black Coffee Northwest, Harold Fields of Umami Kushi, Trinh Ong of Mi La Cay, Estela Martinez of Askatu Bakery, and many more. “Our network of dozens of diverse small businesses will be sharing information about the campaign with their customers to facilitate greater awareness of the importance of blood donation,” Clise says, “and to encourage their communities to learn more about how to donate via Bloodworks Northwest.”
Additionally, members of Intentionalist's small business community will contribute to an informational video shared across all Intentionalist digital communications channels. They will also offer special menu items, like blood donation-inspired sugar cookies and beignets with a blood orange sauce.
Unfortunately Trinh Ong, the owner of Mi La Cay restaurant in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District — lauded for its authentic noodle bowls, inspired by street food found in Vietnam — has a personal connection to the cause. Ong still receives regular blood transfusions, as she recovers from a bone marrow transplant last year.
Having been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in June 2021, Ong had to be admitted to the hospital within 24 hours of receiving her doctor’s notice for treatment. “Due to my lack of red blood cells, I had several red blood and platelet transfusions,” she explains. “Due to my condition, I had a unit of blood given to me even though there were shortages of blood. I was in need of matching bone marrow. None of my siblings was a match. So Seattle Cancer Care Alliance had to look for an unrelated bone marrow donor. I was so lucky that there is only one unrelated donor with 100% match from the Be the Match Registry.”
She later learned about a shortage of African American and Asian donors on the Be the Match Registry. Caucasian patients have a 79% chance of a match. African Americans, Asians, and others have only a 29% chance.” Ong knows how fortunate she is to have found a match despite the low odds; without the matching bone marrow, she likely wouldn’t be alive today. “The donor gives me a second chance of life,” she says. “I want to raise awareness in our community and encourage people to sign up to be a donor and help save a life.”
The reality of recovering from acute myeloid leukemia is that, at the earliest, Ong will return to work in a year. “In the meantime,” she says, “I hope that sharing my story and putting a name and a face to the importance of blood donation helps to encourage people, especially from the Asian community.”
While getting treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Ong realized there are many more Asian patients at SCCA than she thought. “All patients need help, one way or the other,” she says. She thanks everyone already involved and encourages others to sign up with Bloodworks Northwest and the Be The Match Registry.
Cotto believes that SAVOR LIFE represents much-needed optimism, as our world starts to return to a sense of normalcy following challenges faced during the pandemic — and recent events have pushed so many people to the brink. “We have heard far too many stories of friends and families who experienced difficult times,” he says. “Our goal was to work closely with another community, the culinary community because if there is one thing that we know for sure, it’s that they’re always there to help. With the work we’re doing over the next four months, it’s our most sincere intention that SAVOR LIFE is a celebration of the resilience of community and humanity.”