If you see a bright red Jeep Renegade cruising around Whidbey Island, there’s a good chance its driver is a lifesaver.
North Whidbey resident Natasha Vanderlinden won a new car last May in a Bloodworks Northwest sweepstakes, and her custom prize arrived this year. But for Vanderlinden, the real reward for giving blood is knowing that her donation can save lives.
Vanderlinden, an Oak Harbor library employee, has been a regular blood donor for two decades. At the time she won the organization’s “Rev It Up” sweepstakes last year, she had donated with Bloodworks Northwest 34 times.
The Bloodworks Northwest team invited her to a Zoom meeting to announce her big win. She had been automatically entered in the giveaway for donating blood, and though she was aware of the ongoing sweepstakes, she had no expectations of winning.
Vanderlinden has never had a new car before. She chose a red Jeep Renegade, an outdoorsy vehicle to support her love of hiking and other hobbies.
“This one has the persona of adventure,” she said. “I liked that.”
Vanderlinden began donating blood shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In a Bloodworks podcast, she said she was inspired by the way people came together to help those who were injured or otherwise impacted by the attacks. She remembered learning about thousands of people lined up in the streets to donate blood and decided she would begin to donate blood yearly in September to commemorate the attacks and remember everyone who did what they could to be of service during that time.
Despite an overwhelming fear of needles, Vanderlinden made blood donation a habit. In an interview, she said she now donates as often as her schedule allows.
Donating is more important now than ever, she said, as the pandemic caused a critical blood shortage.
“It goes toward children and cancer research centers and people who’ve been in car accidents and all sorts of treatment,” she said. “It’s important because not everyone can do it. A lot more people can do it than do.”
Bloodworks Northwest is a nonprofit that provides blood to hospitals all over the Pacific Northwest.