Western New Yorkers give blood after storm to help neighbors in need

November 25th, 2014
A Sabres fan gives blood at Eastern Hills Mall on Nov. 24.

A Sabres fan gives blood at Eastern Hills Mall on Nov. 24.

The Buffalo region once again earned the moniker “The City of Good Neighbors” as residents came forward to donate blood in the days following November’s massive snowstorm. We encourage people to continue to donate at Unyts fixed sites throughout the week.

The storm had forced Unyts to cancel several blood drives between Nov. 18-20 and to close blood collection centers as well. Such disruptions can problems with the supply of blood to hospitals, as the need continues and blood products have a limited shelf life. Platelets can only be stored for five days and are often needed for cancer patients and victims of traumatic injuries.

Bills Facebook3On Friday, Nov. 21, Unyts put out a call for donors. We were looking for people to give blood to help insure an adequate supply of blood products for local hospitals. That call was shared by many Unyts partners in the community, including individual Unyts supporters, the Buffalo Bills, One Buffalo, Terror Technologies, Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs, the Ali’s Rally Foundation and many others.

The Buffalo Sabres sprang into action by supporting Unyts’ Nov. 24 blood drive at Eastern Hills Mall. The Sabres provided free game tickets for donors and helped spread the word about the need for people to give blood. Sabres players also visited the drive. (All donors who gave at the Tonawanda and Southgate sites but couldn’t take tickets at the time can pick them up at our office at 110 Broadway, Buffalo, on Nov. 25 between 12-4 and Nov. 26 between 8-12.)

People from all over Western New York responded to the call, giving blood to help local patients in local hospitals. Unyts had more than 260 presenting donors on Nov. 24 alone, including many first-time donors.

Unyts is truly grateful to all of those who gave blood, and appreciates the help of everyone who spread the word about the need for blood.


Critical Need for Blood Following Storm

November 21st, 2014

Unyts urges WNY to donate blood for local patients in local hospitals


After being forced to cancel blood drives this week due to the storm, Unyts is urging the community to donate blood TODAY. Demand at our local hospitals has increased and a strong turnout by donors is critical to ensure we have blood available for patients in the WNY community.


Unyts is the primary supplier of blood products to Kaleida Health, ECMC and all hospitals in Niagara and Wyoming Counties. The real need for blood came into play last night when 3 year old Leukemia patient Kallie Swan had to be transported by Wings Flights of Hope to Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo for a platelet transfusion (see https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kallies-Krusade/267365016721998 ). Kallie and her family live in Jamestown and were unable to make it to the hospital alone due to the storm.  While Unyts is thrilled that we were able to provide the blood needed to help Kallie and other patients, the supply has to be continually replenished. As WNY’s only community blood bank it is our responsibility to answer the call for blood products to ANY hospital in need, but we will need help from blood donors to do that. As local residents are able to return to their normal activities following the storm, Unyts encourages eligible donors to give blood. “O negative” donors and platelet donors are especially encouraged to give.


To make an appointment, call 512-7940 or visit www.unyts.org and click on Give Blood.

Drives for TODAY- November 21,2014


Eastern Hills Mall Donation Center
4545 Transit Road
Williamsville, NY

- Make an Appointment

Medlab, Inc.
600 Cayuga Rd
Cheektowaga, NY

Drives for TOMORROW – November 22, 2014


Eastern Hills Mall Donation Center
4545 Transit Road
Williamsville, NY

- Make an Appointment

Tonawanda Donation Center
96 Niagara Street
Tonawanda, NY

- Make an Appointment

Erie County Auto Bureau
2122 George Urban Blvd.
Depew, NY

- Make an Appointment

Drives for MONDAY, November 24, 2014


Eastern Hills Mall Donation Center
4545 Transit Road
Williamsville, NY  14221

Southgate Plaza Donation Center
1000 Union Road
West Seneca, NY  14224

Tonawanda Donation Center
96 Niagara Street
Tonawanda, NY  14150

Drives for TUESDAY, November 25, 2014


Tonawanda Donation Center
96 Niagara Street
Tonawanda, NY

Unyts Donation Center
110 Broadway
Buffalo, NY

Walk-ins welcome!

Unyts’ work continues despite the storm

November 20th, 2014
A snowcovered street in South Buffalo the morning of Nov. 20.

A snow-covered street in South Buffalo the morning of Nov. 20.

As snow continued to make travel impossible in parts of Western New York, Unyts closed the blood donation center at Southgate Plaza on Wednesday and the Tonawanda Neighborhood Blood Donation Center today (Nov. 20). However, our work as Western New York’s only organ, eye, tissue and community blood center never stops.

Our operations continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Even in inclement weather conditions, Unyts never completely closes.

The need for blood is constant. Once the storm clears and it is safe to travel, you can make an appointment to donate through our website or by calling 716-512-7940.


Below are a few photos showing some of the effect of the storm on South Buffalo.

snow1 (4) snow1 (5) snow1 (3) snow1 (1)


November is American Diabetes Month

November 10th, 2014

Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The ABCs of Diabetes are explained in this infographic from the National Diabetes Education Program

The ABCs of Diabetes are explained in this infographic from the National Diabetes Education Program

The American Diabetes Association also notes:

  • People with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Diabetes causes nearly 50% of all cases of kidney failure.
  • More than half of all amputations in adults occur in people with diabetes.
  • More than half a million American adults have advanced diabetic retinopathy, greatly increasing their risk for severe vision loss.
  • About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.

“Our goal for American Diabetes Month and beyond is to show Americans that it’s not too late to start living a healthy active lifestyle and you can even have fun while doing it,” the organization said. Recipes and tips are available at diabetesforecast.org/adm.

The National Diabetes Education Program is encouraging people to control the “ABCs” of diabetes: the A1C test (which measures your average blood sugar level), blood pressure, cholesterol and stop smoking.

We want to tell your story

November 7th, 2014

Organ, eye, tissue and blood donation saves and enhances lives. Unyts is planning to share the stories of people waiting for organs and those who have received transplants and transfusions. Are you waiting? Is a close friend or family member waiting? Have you or a loved one benefitted from the donations of others? Let us know.

As we encourage more people to give blood and to join the organ donor registry, Unyts has found that the best way to reach them by showing how donations are helping people right here in Western New York.

If you or someone you’re close to is waiting or was helped by donated blood, tissue or organs, and you’re comfortable sharing your story publicly, please fill out the short form below and we’ll be in touch.

Let’s buck the trend!

November 5th, 2014

WGRZ reportWGRZ reported yesterday that Buffalo saw the largest drop in charitable giving nationwide. What? After all, we are the City of Good Neighbors. See the report here.


Let’s keep that from happening again this year! Click the banner below to give to the give to the Unyts Annual Appeal today.




National Donor Sabbath honors those who gave the Gift of Life

November 5th, 2014

Donor Sabbath

Faith leaders and religious communities around Western New York are joining Unyts in recognizing National Donor Sabbath this Nov. 14-16, a time for people of all faiths to honor those who have given the lifesaving and healing gift of organ, eye and tissue donation. Unyts is Western New York’s only organ, eye, tissue and community blood center. Each year, donation and transplant organizations around the country work closely with communities of faith throughout the month of November to bring the message of donation to congregations and encourage all to register as donors.

For many, faith plays an important role in the decision to register as a donor. All major religions support donation and believe it to be the ultimate act of kindness and generosity. Click here to read about different religions’ views on donation.

With more than 123,000 individuals on the national transplant waiting list, registering as a donor today can provide hope to those desperately waiting for the gift of life and potentially save lives in the future.

Unyts will host a National Donor Sabbath celebration on Nov. 11 from 5-7 p.m. at 110 Broadway, Buffalo, NY 14203. The event will include a tour of Unyts and presentations from families of organ transplant donors and recipients. Click here for information on registering for the free event.

Barbara Breckenridge wins Bounce Back Award

November 4th, 2014
Kidney transplant recipient Barb Breckenridge has earned many medals at the Transplant Games of America.

Kidney transplant recipient Barb Breckenridge has earned many medals at the Transplant Games of America.

Barbara Breckenridge of Buffalo is one of the winners of the Chris Klug Foundation’s first annual Bounce Back Award, presented by Astellas. The award recognizes two transplant recipients who exhibit a great quality of life. The two winners announced on Nov. 3 were selected from among 75 nominees hailing from 27 states.

Barb is a 15-year kidney transplant recipient. Since being given a second chance at life, she has dedicated her life to advocating for organ and tissue donation.

Barb provides peer counseling for dialysis patients, transplant patients and their families, and individuals who have been newly-diagnosed with kidney disease. She facilitates a kidney support group at Erie County Medical Center, and has done many radio and television appearances promoting the Donate Life cause.”

Breckenridge has also won over 31 medals at the Transplant Games, and has traveled to Australia, Sweden, and South Africa to compete. Her tireless advocacy embodies the spirit of the Bounce Back Award.

The other winner was David Miller, of Semmes, Ala., who received the liver of a 13-year-old boy who lost his life after a tragic fall. He educates high school students to teach their peers about organ and tissue donation and to register them as donors. David has also won medals at the World Transplant Games and participates in 5K runs.

The winners and one guest each will travel to Aspen, Colo. for the Chris Klug Foundation’s 9th annual Aspen Summit for Life weekend Dec. 5-6. The awards will be presented on top of Aspen Mountain in front of 400 racers and supporters.

“We read so many amazing stories of what is possible after a lifesaving transplant. Picking just two winners was an incredibly difficult task, but we’re so proud of Barbara and David and the way they live their lives,” said CKF Executive Director Beth Slater.

“I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Barbara and David to my hometown of Aspen to celebrate life together and recognize their volunteerism to help others in the transplant community today,” said Chris Klug, the founder and chairman of CKF.


The Chris Klug Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting lifesaving organ and tissue donation and improving the quality of life for those touched by donation. Information is online at www.chrisklugfoundation.org. For information on the Aspen Summit, visit www.SummitforLife.org.

Red cells and platelets help four-year-old fight cancer

November 3rd, 2014

Whether you once needed someone’s blood or you’re just a giving person, we want our blood donors to know how much they’re appreciated. That’s what “Share Your Story” is all about, and we’re highlighting a different donor, recipient or supporter each month.

Four-year-old Alexis Sonricker enjoys playing princess, even at the hospital.

Four-year-old Alexis Sonricker enjoys playing princess, even at the hospital.

Alexis Sonricker

Alexis Sonricker was three years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in November 2013. During the past year her parents, Jennifer and Jeremy Sonricker of Warsaw, have been taking Alexis to Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo for chemotherapy and other treatments. Unyts is the hospital’s primary supplier of blood products, and Alexis has received many red blood cell transfusions as well as platelet transfusions. Her treatment is likely to last 2 1/2 years.

Sonricker up

Alexis is undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“She has had a rough go, and her reaction to the leukemia and the chemotherapy treatments for leukemia has caused her counts to plummet so many times,” said Alexis’ mother Jennifer. “If it wasn’t for people donating blood, our daughter may not be here. We are so thankful for people that donate and support donations.”

Alexis holds hands with her twin brother, Aiden.

Alexis holds hands with her twin brother, Aiden.

Alexis loves to paint, sing, dance, and create artwork. Alexis enjoys her class at preschool and is very creative. At home, she enjoys playing with her twin brother, Aiden, and likes to “mother” her younger sisters, Katelyn and Hannah. Disney princesses are among her favorite things. “She has always been a Cinderella fan, but right now her absolute favorite is Aurora from Sleeping Beauty,” said her mom.

Alexis is full of personality. “She is a redhead, and has a spitfire attitude to match,” said Jennifer. “I think her tenacity and strength has been her biggest asset this last year.”

Friends and neighbors have been very supportive of Alexis and the Sonrickers, raising funds to offset some of the family’s expenses, keeping Alexis in their prayers, and helping out in other ways.

Asked if she had a message for blood donors, Jennifer said, “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Not only has our daughter been helped, but so have countless other children and adults going through illnesses and treatments that can wipe out their bodies. Thank you for being so selfless and helping others.”

The Sonricker family shares updates on Alexis and her journey on the Facebook page Helping Lexi Kick Leukemia.

If you have been touched by the Gift of Life through blood donation, or donate for a reason you feel passionate about, we’d love for you to:


Honoring Our Heros: Shaun Szmak

November 1st, 2014

Shaun Szmak of Buffalo became an eye and tissue donor upon his passing on Dec. 4, 2010. This remembrance was shared by his parents, Colleen and Doug.

Szmak2Shaun was born June 26, 1979. He was our second son, he has an older brother named Doug (we call him Dougie).

Shaun was born prematurely and required a lot of attention. He spent a few months in the hospital due to being born premature. We were told by the doctors that he would most likely be a learning-disabled child, and a small child due to all his issues. Shaun proved them wrong, he grew up to be a very tall man, but yes, he did have some learning issues. Shaun struggled most of his childhood years in school; nothing came easy for him, which was very frustrating for him.

As Shaun got older he loved to use his hands, always making stuff out of wood; that was his love. He was very content with doing these kind of things, building things. Shaun was also very good with working on cars and motorcycles. He was the neighbor kids that everyone would come to to get something fixed. He had a heart of gold and was always willing to help someone.

Szmak6Shaun was not able to hold down a job for a very long time, due to his learning disability issues, but always would move on and find another job.

Growing up, Shaun was a happy child. He was always there for his family and friends, always ready to help someone out. Shaun had a lot of hobbies; baseball, bowing, football, skiing — there wasn’t much he did not try. We called him our little daredevil.

Szmak3Shaun’s biggest loves were his motorcycle and his cars. Shaun never got married, but had two children. He spent many hours with his son, Andrew teaching him all about dirt bikes and motorcycles.

Shaun was a very loving individual, and because of that, when he passed away we felt it was the right thing to do, to donate his tissues. Szmak1We know in our hearts that is what Shaun would have wanted. He had a heart of gold and the most beautiful eyes.

Shaun has forever changed our lives and we miss him dearly. We know that by donating, Shaun has helped a lot of people.

We truly believe God had a plan for Shaun, and he is in a better world. That helps us cope with the death of our son.

Each month, Unyts pays tribute to organ, eye and tissue donors. It seemed fitting to call this feature “Honoring our Heroes” as these donors are heroes to their families and to the people who have received transplants.


If you would like to nominate a loved one who gave the gift of life, please click the button above. Unyts will contact you when your loved one is chosen for the Hero of the Month.