Las Patronas grants $73,000 to San Diego Blood Bank as rare blood type is sought for La Jollan

Las Patronas granted $73,000 to the San Diego Blood Bank.
Las Patronas members Irene McCann, Michelle Parker, Kathy Lobo, Tina Boynton, Martha Sottosanti, San Diego Blood Bank Chief Executive David Wellis, San Diego Blood Bank Foundation Vice President Sherry Serio and blood bank representative Cherryl Castro-Lector attend a check presentation where Las Patronas granted $73,000 to the blood bank.

La Jolla-based women’s philanthropy group Las Patronas, recognizing a need in the medical community because of the COVID-19 pandemic, granted the San Diego Blood Bank $73,000 on Jan. 22 during a blood drive in honor of a La Jolla resident who is battling cancer.

The contribution serves as the closing funding for the purchase of a new bloodmobile that the blood bank expects to have in March.

“There is a tremendous need in the medical world right now, so we are excited to be a part of the effort to meet that need,” said 2020-21 Las Patronas President Martha Sottosanti. “Additionally, we want to honor the San Diego Blood Bank, even though we can’t do so in our normal way. So we thought it would be a good way to mobilize our members to donate blood. We’re trying to be creative this year to fulfill our mission.”

The blood drive honors La Jollan Stacie Buechel, who is fighting bone cancer.

Claudine Van Gonka, director of community relations and marketing for the San Diego Blood Bank, said Buechel needs blood transfusions as part of her treatment but she has a rare blood type that is missing a protein called Kpb. Buechel needs blood from donors that have type A positive, O positive or O negative blood that is also missing that protein. Less than 1 percent of the population has that type of blood.

All donated blood with those types are being screened for the protein.

On Jan. 25, the San Diego Blood Bank issued a countywide call for donations, hoping to find a donor with blood Buechel can accept.

Stacie Buechel of La Jolla needs a rare type of blood as part of her cancer treatments.
Stacie Buechel of La Jolla needs a rare type of blood as part of her cancer treatments.

Van Gonka said the best way to learn one’s blood type and whether it is missing the protein is to donate blood and have it screened. Appointments can be made to donate at

Las Patronas has supported the blood bank for 27 years, donating more than $274,000. The group has funded other bloodmobiles and equipment and contributed toward the bank’s disaster readiness fund. The blood bank has been a beneficiary of Las Patronas’ Jewel Ball fundraising effort and is one of six major beneficiaries for 2021.

San Diego Blood Bank bloodmobile
Though it will be customized, the San Diego Blood Bank will purchase a bloodmobile similar to this one with help from Las Patronas’ $73,000 grant.

“We always feel, every time we decide on our beneficiaries, there is an urgent need, and we wish we could give grants to everyone that applies, but we have a thorough vetting process,” Sottosanti said. “This year it was apparent [that] because of the pandemic, there is a great deal of need. We have only six [beneficiaries] this year, and they are larger grants than we would give and meet as many urgent needs as possible.”

The other beneficiaries are Center for Community Solutions, Episcopal Community Services, Father Joe’s Villages, National University and Promises2Kids.

For the blood bank, having partnerships like with Las Patronas “helps us function,” Van Gonka said. “Our main mission is to collect blood for hospitals, but we are also a 501(c)(3) [nonprofit] and we need to fundraise for equipment, so to have a partner like Las Patronas is critical to our success in the community.”

She said all types of blood are needed during the pandemic, as are plasma donations from those who have recovered from COVID-19. The plasma is used as a therapeutic for those currently fighting the disease because it contains antibodies.

Independent of COVID-19 treatment, she added that one unit of blood contains plasma, blood cells and platelets and sometimes the blood bank separates those components, depending on the need.

“One unit of blood could save three lives, so the donation impact is significant,” she said. ◆