San Diego, CA: For 43 years San Diego Comic-Con has held an annual blood drive honoring the legendary science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein. Since 1976 more than 25,000 pints of blood have been donated by Con participants, impacting more than 75,000 lives. In spite of the cancellation of the in-person event, Comic-Con@Home, in conjunction with the San Diego Blood Bank, will sponsor the 44th Annual Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive to gather life-saving donations from July 22 through August 16.
The history of the blood drive is a story unto itself. A notoriously private person, Robert Heinlein rarely attended conventions, in spite of the thousands of adoring fans of works such as Star Ship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. However, in the early 1970s Heinlein suffered a life-threatening illness that necessitated transfusion of multiple pints of his rare blood type. To repay the kindness of those who donated, he agreed to sign autographs at the 1976 World Con in his hometown of Kansas City - but only for people who donated blood. Hearing about this, San Diego Comic-Con contacted the author, who agreed to attend the following year in return for blood donations. Thus was born the Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive at San Diego Comic-Con.
Since 2000 The Heinlein Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the author’s legacy, has helped to coordinate blood drives at conventions around the country in honor of Robert Heinlein’s principle of “Pay it forward.” Over the past decade, Society-sponsored or coordinated drives have gathered more than 40,000 pints.
Because there is no event at which to donate, Comic-Con and the San Diego Blood Bank have partnered to provide opportunities to donate. From July 22 through August 16, individuals can make an appointment with the blood bank by going to SanDiegoBloodBank.org/donate to find the nearest location and set a time. Donors must make an appointment before going in and should review Covid-19 information and restrictions at www.sandiegobloodbank.org/blood-donation-and-coronavirus-covid-19. Donors will receive a limited-edition Marvel Black Widow T-shirt as a thank-you for helping continue this tradition.
To learn more about Comic-Con@Home or to see schedules of panels and online events, visit comic-con.org/cci/2020/athome. For more information about the San Diego Blood Bank or to schedule a donation, visit the website at sandiegobloodbank.org.
Article by Stephen Prendergast.