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URBANA — A regional blood service hopes to recruit more millennial donors by linking the act of donating blood with something near and dear to many of their hearts — video gaming.

Community Blood Services of Illinois has announced a new partnership with the professional e-sports organization Team Liquid, and will be offering blood drives at video gaming events and incentives for millennials to become blood donors.

The blood service, which operates one of its centers in Urbana, currently draws most of its donors from adults ages 40 and up, and it's also fairly successful at blood drives geared to high school students, according to spokesman Kirby Winn.

But fewer than 20 percent of blood donations come from the millennials ages 20-34, and younger men donate blood at an even lower rate, he said.

"It seems like once they're in their 20s and maybe starting careers, starting families, they're harder for us to reach," he said.

To continue being able to provide enough donor blood, Winn said, blood services can't keep relying only on their tried-and-true older-adult donors.

The hope is by linking video-gaming events with blood donation, younger adults will donate blood not just once but continue to be donors, Winn said.

With the involvement and endorsement of Team Liquid, he said, "we hope to keep the younger donors involved."

At future e-sports blood drive events, the blood center plans to offer limited edition "Team Liquid Turns Red" T-shirts to all first-time donors and to those who refer new donors at these events, plus an opportunity to enter a drawing for a Dell Alienware Aurora Gaming Compact Mid-Tower.

Community Blood Services of Illinois is part of Iowa-based Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, which provides blood products and services to more than 90 hospitals in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Winn said e-sports blood drives aren't yet scheduled, but university communities will likely be considered good venues. The blood service said it's seeking contacts in the e-sports community to sponsor and promote blood drives in connection with Team Liquid.

Reporter

Debra Pressey is a reporter covering health care at The News-Gazette. Her email is dpressey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@DLPressey).