Student Stories

Scav Hunt Wants Your Blood

Every spring, the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt List asks for something new: homemade lasers and chair pants one year, slot machines and chicken hypnosis the next. But while variety is the spice of Scav, there’s one item that’s recurred every May since the Hunt’s earliest days in the late 1980s—give blood.

The Scav Hunt Blood Drive is a tradition within a tradition. It might not grab quite as much attention as, say, Bible-themed wrestling matches in Hutch Courtyard (this year’s Item 256), but this annual push for blood donations has quietly formed an integral part of Scav for nearly three decades.

Every year, teams send their eligible donors to the UChicago Medical Center to give blood during the week of Scav. When a Scavvy gets to the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, they sign in with their team name. Once the usual preliminaries have been completed, blood has been drawn, and energy-boosting snacks have been consumed, they can head back to their headquarters with the awareness that they’ve helped both their team and their community. Teams don’t know exactly how many points each donation is worth—this information is a tightly-kept secret among the Judges—but there’s no ambiguity about the larger value of their efforts. Giving blood saves lives.

According to Emily Tixier (AB’15), Head Judge for the 2015 Hunt, the Blood Drive helps serve one of Scav’s core missions: “A lot of Scav is giving back to the community and this is a really physical way of doing that.” Each List provides the student body with countless opportunities for fun and creativity—“having people do crazy things that they wouldn’t normally do, having them show off that they have these skills,” as Emily says—but the Blood Drive extends Scav’s impact outside of the University’s reach, at a profound and concrete level. As Emily explains, “Something that is unique for working with the hospital is that it stays within the community,” going directly to local patients in need.

Prior to becoming Head Judge, Emily served as the 2014 Hunt’s “Vampire,” organizing all matters related to the Blood Drive. She cites her positive experiences interacting with the DCAM staff as a Scavvy as a key reason for taking on the position. “I remembered how excited the staff were when I was a Scavvy...even though I wasn’t able to donate blood, they were really nice about it, and I was just excited to work with them again to make this happen.”

Rising fourth-year Tahoe Schrader took over Emily’s vampiric role for the 2015 Hunt. Tahoe sees the Blood Drive as a crucial part of the Scav experience. “I think that Scav exists as a way for people to work together to do things that they look back on with super fond memories. One way is to build stuff and do crazy things, but another is to work together to save tons of lives.”

While Scav proves an effective motivation for providing lifesaving donations, Tahoe hopes the Blood Drive will encourage individuals to donate blood on their own time, too. “Not many people think about giving blood and how useful it would be, but Scav uses its position of being a very popular thing on campus to remind people to do this….It could convince these people to do blood donations outside Scav as well.”

Snell-Hitchcock Scavvy Hernando Fereira (AB’15) embraces this philosophy. Hernando recognizes the importance of the Blood Drive to his team’s success, but his relationship with the DCAM goes far beyond a quest for points. “First year, I realized that we could donate blood in the DCAM, so I started to organize blood donation trips—I knew that in the far future was the Scav Blood Drive, but I figured [waiting until May] was a waste of everybody’s blood.” Since then, he’s tried to lead a trip every quarter; he estimates that during his time at UChicago he’s donated blood at least 10 times.

Like Emily, Hernando finds the nurses’ energy to be infectious: “I just love that every time I go to the DCAM they seem genuinely excited to see me.” He also brings his own enthusiasm to the DCAM, supporting his teammates who might feel nervous about having blood drawn.

“People want to know that they’re not going in it alone, so I go on every day that we have Scav blood trips planned,” Hernando explains. “A lot of times, someone just wants someone to stand beside them and talk to them while they’re donating blood or to hold their hand. This one time I sang a song to somebody!...I try not to talk it up as a Scav thing—it’s about helping other people.”

And starting in 2014, Scavvies have had a new way to help people as part of the Hunt. For the past two years, the Judges have offered an alternative to the Blood Drive: a community service day hosted through the University Community Service Center. This development followed concerns that certain members of the UChicago community were unable to participate in this aspect of Scav due to FDA regulations on who can and can’t donate blood. These restrictions affect a wide variety of students, from frequent travelers to individuals with certain medical conditions, but their impact on the LGBT community is perhaps the most controversial: men who have had sex with other men are unable to donate blood in the United States.

With some Scavvies feeling left out, it was time for a change, Emily says. “When we have discussions about items, a big thing that we talk about is inclusivity….We don’t want to exclude anyone in Scav. We want everyone to be able to participate in any respect that they want to. This is important for that group of people that is really excited about giving back and participating in Scav but just can’t [donate blood]. That’s not their fault, and it shouldn’t be their fault, and they shouldn’t have to feel bad about that.”

Thus the Day of Service emerged to supplement the Blood Drive. Early in May, Scavvies set out on UCSC-provided buses to work on South Side community gardens. An individual earns the same amount of points for their team whether they donate blood or participate on the Day of Service, but not for both. Any Scavvies who can donate blood are urged to choose that option. Tahoe explains: “We try to keep the service option for people who absolutely can’t donate blood instead of people who are merely on the fence about giving blood.” This way, there’s plenty of room on the service trip for the Scavvies who need that option, and the Medical Center still receives as many blood donations as possible.

Maintaining this high donation level is crucial work, since the Scav Hunt Blood Drive has consistently provided the Medical Center with one of their biggest sources of blood. The DCAM staff is so committed to Scav that they agreed to set up a portable blood donation center in the Bartlett Trophy Lounge this year, in order to make the Blood Drive more accessible to the average student. “It shows how willing the DCAM is to work with us, because they’re sending all their people out to this location just for Scav Hunt,” Emily explains.

From the Day of Service to the portable blood donation center, Scav’s decades-old Blood Drive continues to change with the times, but the spirit of service remains the same. Tahoe hopes this ethos will live on in Scavvies’ memories long after they leave the College: “once they’re gone and graduated and thinking back about what Scav did, one of those things is doing something that helps out a community.”