A Vermont community of 16,000 is trying to break the national single day blood donation record today.
In its 11th year, Rutland’s Gift-of-Life Marathon is an annual holiday tradition. Organizers hope to collect at least 1,969 pints of blood - which would set the national record for pints collected in a single day. Co-organizer Steve Costello notes that previous marathons have broken the New England record three times and recorded the second- and third-largest single day blood collections in American history. “Last year we ended up 13 pints shy of tying the record and so we’re hoping to do better than that this year. We have a lot of appointments. We have a lot of interest in walk-ins and we have done several things to expand the drive this year. We have five sites this year. We have a lot more Red Cross staff, including Red Cross staff from New York this year coming from the Albany area. And we have about 300 volunteers to help insure a smooth flow throughout the day.”
During its first year, the Gift-of-Life marathon collected 300 pints. But in subsequent years, it began breaking state, then northern New England, regional and other records. Costello says while those accolades help raise awareness, the marathon is about the need for blood. "Blood donations always drop off this time of year. But the demand does not fall off. People still have accidents. People still need cancer treatments that involve blood or blood particles. There’s a whole host of reasons that the supply doesn’t quite meet the demand this time of year. And that’s what this drive is all about, is trying to insure that.”
Red Cross Northern New England Region Blood Services Communications Manager Mary Brant notes that every day in their service area of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, 700 units of blood must be collected to meet the demand of the region’s hospitals. “The need for blood is constant. Every two seconds in the United States someone needs blood. So, record or not, it is a good thing because it raises awareness, it educates people to just how important it is to make giving blood a regular priority. There may be a temporary spike in the giving now. And hopefully what we would like to see is people coming away from this and deciding to make it a regular part of their routine. Because when something happens, when there’s a need for blood, it’s the blood on the shelves that saves lives.”
Castleton State College is a sponsor and organizer of the blood drive. President Dave Wolk will be shuttling students and nearby residents to the venues. He says it is a perfect match to the college’s mission of service learning. “The primary reason is to allow students and staff, myself, all of us, to think outside ourselves. And make a difference in our college and our community before these students go out to make a difference in the world. I’m now in my 13th year here at Castleton, and I know many students who have maintained the idea of thinking outside themselves and doing the right thing when noone else is looking. And that’s what the Gift-of-Life marathon is about.”
More than 2,000 people have made appointments for the Gift-of-Life blood drive. But Steve Costello is not taking anything for granted. “We definitely encourage walk-ins. Because even though we do have over 2,000 appointments, some of those folks undoubtedly will wake up with a cold or the flu or something. Things can happen at work or home that prevent people from showing up. And typically seven to eight percent of people who show up at a blood drive are not allowed to donate for one reason or another. They have a temperature or high blood pressure or low iron or one of many other little reasons that could cause someone to be deferred.”
There are five blood donation sites in Rutland that will be open until 6 p.m.
Manchester, N.H., set the current record of 1,968 pints collected in a single day in 2011.
Follow the marathon on Twitter hashtag #GOLM13 or www.facebook.com/GiftOfLifeVT