Where does your donated blood go?

Some kids can't resist squeezing this Buddy

Seven-year-old twins Huang Sheng Yuan (far left) and Sheng Ting with journalist Toh Yong Chuan in his Blood Buddy mascot suit at the Woodlands Civic Centre last Saturday.
Seven-year-old twins Huang Sheng Yuan (far left) and Sheng Ting with journalist Toh Yong Chuan in his Blood Buddy mascot suit at the Woodlands Civic Centre last Saturday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Reporter dons blood donation mascot suit in a Singapore Red Cross public outreach drive

I did not know whether to laugh or cry - my blood pressure might have gone up a little - when some children pushed and pinched me.

To be precise, they had squeezed my red egg-shaped suit made of cloth stitched over foam.

Last Saturday, I put aside my notebook to carry the responsibility of persuading people to donate blood.

I decided to become a giant blood drop by strapping on the 4kg egg-shaped suit.

Blood Buddy has been around since 2005, although it is not as famous as Sharity Elephant.

Singapore's blood donation mascot pops up between five and 10 times each month, to wave to people at malls and public areas. "Japan has its Kenketsu-chan, Korea has its Nanumi, we have our Blood Buddy," said Singapore Red Cross donor manager Lim Cheng Hong.

Blood Buddy's birth history is a little fuzzy though. Its predecessor is a little-known mascot called Champ, a tortoise, launched by the former Singapore Blood Transfusion Service in 1998. It is not clear why a tortoise was picked.

 

The Singapore Red Cross was appointed to recruit blood donors in 2001 and four years later, Blood Buddy appeared in The Straits Times for the first time.

Blood Buddy appears at regular public outreach drives run by the Singapore Red Cross, such as the one at the Woodlands Civic Centre where I took over as mascot.

Getting into the suit was tricky. I had to wear red pants over my work trousers and slip my feet into oversized shoes, in near public view below the escalators outside Woodlands Regional Library.

Changing in the toilet was not an option because the suit was just too big.

Inside the suit, my vision was restricted to two "eye" holes and I could breathe only through a narrow gap. Thankfully, a small battery-powered fan about 7.5cm in diameter provided ventilation in the suit.

"The suit is custom-made," said Ms Lim, who acted as my minder as my lateral vision was blocked.

For more than two hours, I waved at children, posed for photographs as other volunteers gave out stickers and pamphlets on blood donation. It was so fun that I felt like dancing - and I did with two teenagers.

Most of the children were polite and one even offered me his french fries. But as I mentioned earlier, there were a few who were too boisterous - two even stuck their hands into the mouth to touch me.

Who knows if I had coaxed anyone to donate blood? But, hopefully, the children who posed for photographs will remember Blood Buddy when they grow up and become blood donors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2018, with the headline 'Some kids can't resist squeezing this Buddy'. Print Edition | Subscribe