Blog of Bloodworks Northwest

"Naomi Strong: It All Started with a Conversation" (S3 E31)

Everyone has a reason to walk into a blood donation center and donate. For Seattle’s Sharelle Klaus, the founder of DRY Soda, it all started with a conversation she had with her good friend, Mark Dyce. But now Sharelle’s on a mission because after that conversation her reason to donate blood became personal. Here’s the latest edition of Bloodworks 101 with your host John Yeager. Listen to the episode here and transcript below.

Naomi: Well, you know, when it’s personal in your life depends on someone being kind enough to take the time to donate blood. I just feel a different level of appreciation for each and every person that does take the time to donate. And it matters. I mean, literally saving a life.

John: Hi, I’m John Yeager and this is “Bloodworks 101.” The podcast brought to you by your friends here at Bloodworks Northwest, designed to inspire or educate you to donate either time, money, or blood. It all started with a conversation between two friends, Sharelle Klaus and Mark Dice, as part of the Savor Life, Save a Life Campaign. That set out back in spring to recruit 10,000 new and reengage donors by July.

Seattle, Sharelle Klaus, started DRY Soda 17 years ago, something she said that was special and elevated when she couldn’t drink alcohol. Now she says, she’s on a mission of social drinking for all. It’s part of the sober, curious movement.

Sharelle: Yeah, it’s interesting. We, you know, back when I started this, it was, you know, people were just talking about, “Oh, you know, sober people are pregnant people,” or whatever. And I was like, “There’s a lot more people that are moderating or giving up or whatever.” And that’s obviously now it’s really huge. It’s just a booming business of the Zero Proof movement.

So, yeah, it’s really exciting. And we just, I wanted to, back then I was thinking, I just wanna change the way people think about drinking. Not that I’m anti-drinking, but just everyone should have options even if you don’t wanna drink. It doesn’t have to, you know, alcohol doesn’t have to be the center of every celebration

John: Today, Sharelle tells me DRY Soda is sold in around 7,500 stores. How’d she get involved with Savor Life, Save a Life?

Sharelle: I’ve been a part of the culinary community here in Seattle for a long time. A lot of the restaurants helped with DRY when I got started. We’re definitely cut, you know, DRY is involved. DRY is in a lot of these restaurants.

John: Enter marketing strategist and consultant, Mark Dice. Full disclosure, Mark was a consultant on the Savor Life, Save a Life Campaign.

Sharelle: I have known Mark Dice for a very long time. And he is the one that’s was help leading this with his foundation. And they reached out and asked if… He told me the story about blood donation.

John: It was a conversation with a lot of numbers.

Mark: A lot of us that have been engaged with Bloodworks in these campaigns are so close to this. And every day that we work in it, we don’t realize that most people like 99.9% of the people, don’t realize that it takes a thousand people in our region every day to give blood to maintain the supply and to sustain and build the supply. People don’t know that every two seconds people need blood.

People don’t know that only 38% of the population are eligible to give blood and only 10% of those do. And so, when I talk about those statistics, it really makes people like Sharelle, take a step back and say, “Can you please say that again? Because that seems pretty extreme in that blood really is the basis of our healthy community.” And so, when I had that initial conversation with Sharelle, she raised her hand immediately and said, “Count me in.”

Sharelle: When he told me the statistics, I was just so shocked. And I was like, “Wait, what? Like, we live in this country where we should have riches of everything, and I didn’t know that there was actually that kind of, they’re just that deficit and, like, what happens if you need it?” And so, I was immediately drawn and I said, “Absolutely, like, tell us what we can do. It’s an incredible thing you’re trying to get done here. So yeah, let’s, I’m happy to do whatever it is you guys want us to do.”

John: Feeling moved by those numbers, Sharelle Klaus donated blood. She was in, but then, it got personal.

Sharelle: Yeah. So about, well, four weeks ago, my very close friend and neighbor, she’s such a good friend. I moved in next door to her. Just very unexpectedly, she’s a very healthy young, mid-40s woman, who travels the world and is an incredible entrepreneur, was diagnosed with a very aggressive and rare blood cancer. And it just to be honest, turned my world upside down in a way that I just had… You know, I’d experienced parents getting sick and things like that, but not some, not my young vibrant friends.

And the interesting thing is because it’s a blood cancer, it’s a very aggressive one. She’s had to have aggressive treatments, but she’s had to have continual blood transfusions and she’ll continue to have to have them. And, I was so taken aback by that, because I was like, “Oh, oh my gosh. Like, what if Naomi didn’t have the blood she needed?” Like, it was just this weird, like…and I called Mark, who’s the one that got me involved in this.

I’m like, “You’re not gonna believe this, but like, this is what’s happening to Naomi. And I just I’m so kind of overwhelmed that this was something that I just learned about, started caring about and getting involved in and now it’s truly affecting one of my dearest friends.” So, in such a profound way, and she needs a lot of blood. Like, these, it’s not just one blood transfusion she’s having, she’ll have many over the course of the next eight months.

John: And where’s that gonna come from?

Sharelle: Exactly.

John: Sharelle says they now have a Naomi Strong Movement.

Sharelle: You know, she’s been saying, “You guys donate blood because, like, I need it. Like, this is important,” and people have been donating and I’m just, I’m ever so grateful. I was so grateful for being part of Save a Life and the restaurant community in Seattle. It’s such an incredible community.

And I say that because I started a business here that depended on these restaurants who really came through for me, but it made me that much more appreciative of everyone that is truly working on this because I realize, it sometimes can feel a little… I think COVID helped us all feel less isolated from health crisis because it was just so close to all of us. But it’s even that much closer, and I just, makes you that much more appreciative of the people that are taking the time and effort to do this, and what an easy thing it is to do. I went and did it as I told you, and it takes not very much time.

I mean, it’s like, I know you guys say it, you could save a life, but you really can’t save a life and [inaudible 00:06:51]. “Who’s too busy to save a life?” Like, I know this just, it sound so cliche when you’re saying it, but man, it’s so real.

John: Then I reminded Sharelle that she’s not alone. That when you make that decision to donate, there’s usually a big why.

Sharelle: One of the things that I didn’t expect when I walked into the donation center is, and I get a little choked up, but just the people that were in there doing it. And there was a guy in line up front of me and he was a regular. And I’m like, “What a gift?” Like, I was kind of overwhelmed because to be honest, that was the first time I…well, not the first time I donated blood, but the last time I did it was years and years ago.

It was like a blood bank type thing. And to be honest, I hadn’t thought about it again. And yeah. And I was just, I was so struck by the people sitting in the chairs. So, these guys are like, these are good people. These are people that are like taking not a lot of time outta their day, but they’re doing this and it’s making such a difference. So, I didn’t expect to like feel that. And this was before I knew about Naomi. I went to donate before Naomi was diagnosed. So, it was still special to me.

Mark: She’s never had anyone in her life, family, friends, or anyone else, ever touched by the need for blood donation. And you and I both know that once you have someone in your life or yourself that is touched by blood donation, the whole landscape changes.

John: Then I got a chance to talk to Naomi Gonzalez who, with her wife runs TomboyX, a clothing company that started back in 2013. A couple of years ago, “Inked” magazine, honored TomboyX as one of the 10 fastest growing companies in Seattle. Tell me about Sharelle Klaus. I mean, you guys are really good friends. I mean, I wanna hear it from you because she says that you made such an impact on her that you guys are now sort of next door neighbors and there’s this, there’s a real friendship that goes pretty deep.

Naomi: Yeah. You know, we met Sharelle a number of years back in the beginning when we first started our business, we’re just instant friends.

John: So, how did you get involved with it’s the Savor Life, Save a Life Campaign, but it’s really your connection with Sharelle?

Naomi: Yeah. You know, this is, maybe she wanted to do something once I got diagnosed, she really wanted to make an impact in some positive way. I’ve donated blood to the Northwest blood bank before. So, I’m so happy to say I’m a donor. But you know, when I was diagnosed on May 5th with an aggressive form of blood cancer, multiple myeloma. And in the process of receiving chemo treatment, I’ve had to receive blood donations and platelets. And it has been, you know, such an integral part of what has kept me, you know, alive, really.

John: From July 17th to July 31st, there’ll be a virtual drive in Naomi’s honor called Naomi Strong. Just go on to donate at any Bloodworks Northwest donor center or Pop-Up anywhere from Eugene to Bellingham and all over Western Washington and mention the promo code “NS! Naomi Strong!”

So, how are you feeling now, and what’s the prognosis?

Naomi: Yeah. You know, I’m third of the way through my treatment and you know, I I’m feeling strong. On our first cycle, we’ve got about 75% of the visible cancer, which is great. It’s so very, very good, great prognosis. I’m young, I’m strong, I’ve got, you know, very positive attitude about how this is gonna go and I just refuse to give up. So, I know this is gonna go pretty well.

Well, you know, when it’s personal in your life depends on someone being kind enough to take the time to donate blood. I just feel a different level of appreciation for each and every person that does take the time to donate. And it matters. I mean, literally saving a life.

So, for everyone out there that is considering it or thinking about it or, you know, maybe putting it off, I would, you know, just ask that, you know, try and make the time to do it for someone. I mean, a great thing to do even if it just, you know, you might walk outta there with a smile, knowing that you really made a difference.

John: Naomi Gonzalez, wanna save a life? Well, sometimes it starts with a conversation between two friends. Become part of that conversation yourself. Go to and make an appointment. I’m John Yeager for “Bloodworks 101.” See you next time.

August 5, 2022 1:57PM

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