man playing guitar with granddaughter

A drive to encourage others to give the gift of life

November 21, 2018 | Heather Shannon
craig takata owner operator uci chick-fil-a
Craig Takata owns and operates the Chick-fil-A near the UCI campus.

Blood donation is personal for Craig Takata.

He was in junior high school when his mom became seriously ill with lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system.

“She needed surgery,” Takata says. “So leading up to it, her doctors encouraged her friends and family to donate blood in case she needed a transfusion,” a type of blood donation known as directed donation.

It was a good thing: Takata’s mother required two surgeries, the first to remove her cancer; the second was to stop her uncontrolled bleeding.

“She wound up needing more than 70 units of blood,” Takata remembers. That’s enough blood for nine people. The importance of those donations left a huge impression on him.

His mother eventually recovered from both the surgery and lymphoma before passing away in 2008 from esophageal cancer, thought to be the result of radiation treatments for her lymphoma all those years ago.

On a mission

Takata, who now owns and operates a Chick-fil-A franchise next to the UCI campus, was so moved by the experience of his mother that as soon as he was old enough, he became a regular blood donor.

“I think about all those people who donated blood. They saved my mom. There aren’t too many things you can do and say it’s a totally life-saving thing.”

Takata opened his restaurant in October 2014. At that point, he decided to go bigger and host blood drives by partnering with the blood donor center at the UCI Student Center.

Since then, he’s hosted 12 of them — one per quarter. Each donor receives a restaurant gift card in exchange for their pint of blood.

plaque commemorating blood collection 1000 pintsMilestone achievement

This summer, Takata’s blood drives hit a huge milestone: 1,000 pints of blood collected. That amounts to hundreds of lives that have been saved.

Teresa Barrett-Bewley, director of the UCI Health blood donor centers in Orange and Irvine, marked the achievement with a special plaque.

“It was a great surprise,” Takata says. “It was so neat to see the partnership working and to be participating in that.”

Barrett-Bewley keeps it fun, he says, by regularly updating Takata on the results of his drives, which usually collect about 100 units of blood each.

She, too, finds the partnership fruitful.

“Craig’s generosity and commitment to our partnership has been an inspiration. It’s altruism at its best,” Barrett-Bewley says.

A family thing

Takata has passed along his passion for blood donation to his three sons.

“When I donated, I’d bring my sons with me so they could see the whole process. It seems to be sticking.”

Two of his sons now participate in blood drives at their high school.

“I have so much gratitude for the blood donor center and the work they do,” he says. “We’re very grateful to be able to work with them.”

Takata sees blood donation as a responsibility in light of what his mother went through.

“If that blood wasn’t there for her when she went through her surgery, she would not have survived. But she got 20 more years of life. She always looked at it that way.”

Donate at the next blood drive

Craig Takata’s next sponsored blood drive is Tuesday, Nov. 27. Donors will receive a Chick-fil-A meal card. The blood drive will take place at the UCI Campus Blood Donor Center, located on level 1 of the Student Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Make an appointment online ›

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