The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Saving a Life

Tropical Blood Drive returns for fifth year

It’s a preconceived notion that most of the blood pumping through the veins of adult New Orleanians is tinged with a bit of salt, sugar and alcohol. When you drink a margarita, you’ve got all three right there. Our celebratory lifestyle means we treat ourselves a bit more often than your average American – that’s part of the reason so many visitors love coming here.

What is especially unique about our blood isn’t the evidence of our last Saint’s game, but rather, it is the conviction we carry to help out our friends and neighbors. It was through this sense of community that the Tropical Blood Drive was born.

In 2013, two friends with two incredible organizations were talking about the awful shock of the violence during that year’s Mother’s Day Second Line parade. A mass shooting injured nine and took the life of one. They felt they had to do something, so Christina Duggar, president/founder of the Mardi Gras dance troupe The Organ Grinders, and Erica Dudas, managing director of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and Assistance Foundation (NOMAF), figured out a way to join forces.

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“Pairing our resources together to promote blood giving in the community was a way that everyone could push back against the violence in a positive way,” explained Duggar.

“Giving blood is one of the most constructive ways to help your community,” added Dudas. “Every two seconds someone needs a blood transfusion, yet less than ten percent of the people eligible to give blood ever do. Our music and cultural community are heroes, and with them behind this effort, we can help sustain important medical services needed in this community and provide hope to others.”

The combination of the energy of the dance troupe and the mission of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, not to mention the commitment of two talented leaders, created a blood drive so successful that it has continued every August for five years. This year’s Hawaiian-themed blood drive is Sunday, Aug. 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tipitina’s, the internationally known music venue watched over by guardian angel Professor Longhair. Tipitina’s is located at 501 Napoleon Ave. at Tchoupitoulas Street.

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If you haven’t gathered by now, this is no ordinary blood drive. The Tropical Blood Drive somehow balances the serious goal of collecting 250 pints of blood (which means many more people have to attempt to donate to account for those screened out) with the just-as-serious goal of throwing a great party.

“We invite all the dance troupes to participate, and the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic and Assistance Foundation provides the live music,” said Duggar. “We count on the colorful costumes, the easy Hawaiian theme, our cool location – along with music and dance – to make this an unforgettable event.”

Dudas pointed out that the local businesses that participate in the raffle really helps as well and, “brings everyone together.”

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This year’s blood drive will feature 10 Mardi Gras dance troupes and three brass bands. The dance troupes who will put on a dancing showcase include: The Organ Grinders, Pussyfooters, El Lucha Krewe, High Quality Dancers, Muff-a-Lottas, Camel Toe Lady Steppers, Petty Betties, Cherry Bombs, Sirens, and Rolling Elvi Jailhouse Rockers.

Musical performances will include the Original Pinettes Brass Band, Soul Brass Band and the Jeremy Thomas Quartet, as well as the never-ending beats of DJ Fayard. A limbo contest and raffles.

The event also offers physical therapy services from Tandem Physical Therapy and rapid HIV and Hep C testing courtesy of Odyssey House Louisiana. Information will also be available about mental health services from NAMI New Orleans and healthcare/insurance services from 504HealthNet.

“It has been a privilege to partner with NOMAF,” said Duggar. “Music is part of all of our lives and NOMAF plays an integral role in keeping our local musicians and extended community healthy. I'm extremely proud of their work and this annual drive.”  

“Just that combining New Orleans' party and music culture with real-life outcomes that make our city better – like blood donations and promotion of other nonprofits doing so much good work in the city – is at the heart of NOMAF's promise to the community,” said Dudas.  

Dudas said that Louisiana ranks nearly last on every health indicator in the U.S. and sees this work as meaningful.

“We don't have galas to raise awareness for our important mission – we host blood drives, healthcare enrollment events and flu shot drives,” said Dudas. “Not that there is anything wrong with galas, but when you work in an area like community health and medicine – the needs of others and the work in general are just never ending – and I just find myself thankful that we can put a fun spin on it and invite everyone to do their part.”

To date, the annual blood drive has collected 866 pints of blood, and the organizers are hoping to exceed 1,000 pints total, translating to roughly 3,000 transfusions for local hospitals.

To participate, it’s a good idea to pre-register and reserve donation time in order to avoid wait times, you can use this link to sign up in advance, but it isn’t required. All participants who donated blood will receive a floral lei, event t-shirt and food and beverages donated by are restaurants. Of the 900 attendees expected, all are encouraged to wear their tropical best.



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