Blood Drive

Comic-Con 47th Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive 2023 

Comic-Con’s Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive, San Diego Blood Bank’s largest and longest-running blood drive, returns for our 47th year, with donation areas located in the Coronado Ballroom at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, and at San Diego Blood Bank Donation Centers.

The growth of our blood drive over the years has been phenomenal. The Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive began at Comic-Con back in 1977, at the El Cortez Hotel. That first year, 148 pints of blood were collected, and as the convention has grown, so has our blood drive. Our blood drive last year collected 9,118 pints!

In our long history, a total of 62,825 pints of blood have been donated by Comic-Con attendees, exhibitors, professionals, volunteers, and staff! San Diego Blood Bank estimates that your donations have impacted more than 188,000 lives over our 46 years!

Please join Comic-Con and San Diego Blood Bank for our 47th Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive. Your donations are desperately needed and will save countless lives.

A Brief History of Comic-Con’s Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive

For science fiction fans, few names were as stellar as Robert A. Heinlein. From Starship Troopers to Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein was the dean of science fiction writers. Unfortunately, he rarely attended conventions, so his readers had few opportunities to meet the master in person.

Then in the early 1970s, Heinlein had a life-threatening illness and needed many pints of a rare blood type. He felt he owed his life to the donors, so when asked to be a guest at the 1976 World Con in his hometown of Kansas City, he agreed—but with one specific stipulation: that he would only sign autographs for people who donated blood.

Thus, longtime Comic-Con committee member Jackie Estrada approached the author with an offer to hold a blood drive in San Diego if he would consent to be a guest. He agreed, and in 1977 Heinlein came to Comic-Con. He and his wife, Ginny, had a great time and Heinlein even drew a picture for the Sunday morning Art Auction.

“David Scroggy [who went on to be a VP at Dark Horse Comics before he retired] was the first blood drive coordinator,” recalls Estrada. “We also had Theodore Sturgeon there signing his book, Some of Your Blood, which he gave to all of the blood donors. We also had entertainment for the people while they were [donating blood]. I remember that Leslie Cabarga played the piano, and C. C. Beck played the guitar. It was a very fun event and Robert was delighted. We’ve had the blood drive every year since.

A Brief History of Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein photo.
Robert A. Heinlein at San Diego Comic-Con in 1977. Photo by Jackie Estrada

Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was one of the most popular and respected science fiction authors of the 20th Century. By setting a high standard for science and engineering plausibility, he helped raise the genre’s standards of literary quality. He was the first writer to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s with unvarnished science fiction. He was also among the first authors of bestselling novel-length science fiction in the modern mass-market era.

Four of Heinlein’s novels (Double Star, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress) won Hugo Awards in the years they were published. In 2001, another novel (Farmer in the Sky) and a novella (The Man Who Sold the Moon) received “Retro Hugos” for the year 1951, and the movie Destination Moon, which was based on a Heinlein story, received the “Retro Hugo” for Best Dramatic Presentation.

He was the first writer to be named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America for lifetime achievement.

Heinlein was known as the “Dean of Science Fiction Writers,” but he was much more. He was a philanthropist who helped many charitable causes and individuals. When asked how he could be repaid for his help, he would reply, “You can’t pay me back, you have to pay it forward.”

One cause that was of great importance to him was blood donation. Having a rare blood type himself (AB+), he was a frequent donor and a supporter of the National Rare Blood Club, which was an integral part of his novel I Will Fear No Evil. In 1976, at the 34th World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, he helped organize the first of many science fiction convention blood drives. In 1977, he did the same at San Diego Comic-Con. 

2023 marks the 47th year of the Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive as an integral part of Comic-Con, and the 15th year of the WonderCon Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Blood Drive.

A Brief History of San Diego Blood Bank

In 1950 the San Diego Blood Bank was established with the support of the San Diego County Medical Society. The foresight and dedication of founding fathers Dr. Thomas O’Connell and Dr. Frederick G. Hollander led us to the San Diego Blood Bank of today, an organization known for excellence in its service to our community.

From 1950 to 1953, annual donations averaged 27,000 pints in San Diego County. In the 1960s, San Diego Blood Bank’s growth continued and so did donations, nearly 40,000 pints were given annually by 1969. In the late 1960s, we were also at the forefront of medical technology when we were one of the first blood banks in California to institute hepatitis screening on all donated blood.

The 1970s ushered in an era of tremendous development. Our landmark Hillcrest headquarters opened in 1972 and our first satellite location, the North County Donor Center, opened in Escondido in 1978.

In 1981 we were among the first blood banks in the nation to formalize a designated donor program, which allows patients to select their donors. Our autologous donor program also was put into place more than 30 years ago for patients who wish to pre-deposit their blood for a planned surgery.

By 1986, donations reached 86,000 pints annually and have exceeded 100,000 for many years now. 

One thing that has not changed since the very beginning is the remarkable commitment and selfless spirit of our most vital resource-blood donors. Our entire donor population is solely volunteer and has been since 1974. Some of today’s donors are as young as 17 and nearly half are women. 

San Diego Blood Bank is licensed by the State of California Department of Health Services and by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is a fully accredited member of the Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies (AABB) and a member of the California Blood Bank Society (CBBS), America’s Blood Centers (ABC), Blood Centers of America (BCA), the Blood Centers of California (BCC) and is the local Cord Blood Registry for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).