Mitch Arnold is not a statistic; he’s a kid—he loves comedy improv and roughhousing with the family dog, a boxer. He was diagnosed at age 10 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer, and after three grueling years of chemotherapy, he beat it. But at age 17 it returned. He now faces a more-toxic chemo regime or a bone marrow transplant and many months in the hospital for treatment.

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Versiti Blood Center of Michigan hopes that, with their help, kids like Mitch will soon be back cracking jokes and chucking tennis balls. As a national leader in innovative blood health solutions, Versiti is now part of a five-state organization that helps collect and deliver blood to patients who need it most, as well as providing research into blood diseases looking for better treatment and cures.

The research arm was born out of blood collection—when you donate blood and check the box “yes” to allow a sample of your blood to go to research, that “blood library” has helped contribute to a blood research institute that is unique. “We have researchers from around the world who come to work here because of the access to blood for research,” says Kelley McCaskill, vice president of philanthropy for Versiti. The kind of research that looks to provide breakthroughs and cures for diseases like blood cancers or sickle cell anemia.

Donations to Versiti don’t just fund research—they fund breakthroughs. “Our researchers, quite simply, can do more with philanthropic support,” McCaskill explains. “Philanthropic dollars allow for innovation and opportunity, because junior researchers and faculty aren’t eligible for funding from the National Institute of Health, a common funding source. But these are the very people who are there to look at things differently.” And if researchers do have NIH funding, they have to follow those grant requests to the letter—they can’t deviate from their proposed study, no matter what they discover along the way. “If we secure that critical philanthropic money for them,” says McCaskill, “they’re allowed to say, ‘I think that if we try this, we can achieve something different… Let’s take this path and see where it goes.’”

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