Sun. Aug 14th, 2022

Thirteen-year-old Jack Malott-Clarke of London, Ont., Has been a comic book of his entire life. He loves dressing up as some of his favorite characters and attending annual Comic Con events.

But his world changed in 2019 when at age 10, he was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia – his body is unable to produce new blood cells and platelets, causing an empty bone marrow.

Jack’s condition requires him to have a blood transfusion at least twice a week. To date, he’s received about 130 units of blood and platelets, but that’s becoming more challenging with the blood shortage in Canada.

“A lot of people do not donate blood or platelets because maybe they’re scared, but you really should because it saves lives,” he said. “It saved mine and many other kids’ lives.”

This inspired Jack to combine his love for cosplay with his need for blood, and start a cosplay-themed social media campaign called Suit up for Jack – it involves people donating blood while dressing up in costumes.

The campaign is now in four other countries.

More than a dozen cosplayers showed up to Canadian Blood Services on Wharncliffe Road South in London on Monday to roll up their sleeves.

Eric Terry, dressed as Spiderman, was one of them.

“I’ve been donating blood since I was 18 and I’m 32 now, so a long time,” he said. “It’s touched a lot of friends and family in my life and it’s a great cause, so I’ve kept it going.”

Eric Terry’s been donating blood for several years, and believes it’s a quick and easy way to save lives. (Isha Bhargava / CBC)

Terry started donating after hearing the story of his friend, who had three liver transplants before she was seven.

“Every pint of blood saves three people’s lives. We’re in such a blood shortage especially in the summer with heat waves. It’s really important for people to donate and we need them to,” he said.

“The fact that this has grown past London just blows my mind! It’s absolutely incredible to see people from around the world coming out to support those in need.”

‘Easiest thing in the world to do’

Zachary Peebles showed up as Captain Jack Sparrow to donate blood. After learning he’s a universal donor, he’ll be rolling up his sleeve as often as he can. (Isha Bhargava / CBC)

Jack’s anemia weakens his immune system, causing frequent nosebleeds and petechiae – spots that appear on the skin due to bleeding – and makes him really tired.

“I missed two years of school because of my aplastic, I haven’t seen my friends as much and I have to wear masks everywhere I go because if I get sick it’ll be really bad,” he said.

After donating for the first time last year, Zachary Peebles learned he’s a universal donor. He’s now made it an annual tradition to give blood.

“It’s a good way to give back to the community and it really helps someone. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do just to lay there and let them take blood, and you save so many lives – that’s an excellent thing.”

Timothy Drake, social media manager for the Suit up for Jack blood donation campaign, calls the need for donations in Canada ‘urgent.’ (Isha Bhargava / CBC)

Cosplayers can be literal superheroes and save lives, said Timothy Drake, the campaign’s social media manager.

“We thought it was a unique idea to involve cosplayers. There’s an urgent need for blood in Canada. They’re really in trouble. You would not believe how many children have blood-related diseases.”

Jack, dressed up as his favorite, Captain America, is shown with his mom, Lauryn. (Isha Bhargava / CBC)

With the campaign celebrating its first anniversary, Jack’s grateful for the support he’s received and hopes the campaign makes its way to as many countries as possible.

“If people like me do not get blood then we can not live, if it goes worldwide, then kids all around the world are going to have their lives saved.”

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