Local Hero: Don Klein


Presented to an individual whose commitment to blood and platelet donation played a significant role in ensuring the health of patients in our communities and throughout the country.

In 1959 on a farm near Cold Spring, Minn., Don Klein’s mother suddenly fell ill and needed to be rushed to the hospital. His mother suffered from bleeding ulcers, and needed nine units of blood. As she recovered, she explained to her children that somebody else’s blood saved her life, and that if they ever got the chance to donate blood, they should.

That statement stuck with Don.

When the Red Cross bloodmobile visited Don’s workplace in the late 1970s, he decided to roll up his sleeves and give blood donation a try.

He quickly became a regular donor, and shortly after he began whole blood donations, he learned about another type of donation called apheresis platelet donation. Platelets are a key clotting component of blood, often transfused to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Don immediately signed up and was one of the original 50 apheresis platelet donors in the Twin Cities.

Unlike today, the original process was more time consuming. Back then donors could spend up to four hours donating. But not even the time commitment deterred Don. He understood it, and felt humbled to have the opportunity to donate his platelets and give the gift of saving lives. Don says “When you sense something in your heart that’s telling you to donate, give it a try. Blood donation is truly essential to life—money can help, and so can material goods, but taking the time to give blood can sustain and save lives.”

More than 50 gallons of blood later, Don continues to donate through the Red Cross on a monthly basis, albeit a more simple and comfortable process than when he began. He is also a granulocyte, or white blood cell donor, and can be called with just a moment’s notice to donate his white blood cells for patients who are very ill.

After volunteering with the Red Cross for more than 30 years, Don understands that donating his blood is a very personal way of helping others in the community—a true “gift of life” for those who need it most.