(Host) Think of it as a holiday party where you just happen to give blood.
That’s how organizers of Rutland’s fifth annual Gift of Life Marathon are describing the blood drive extravaganza that takes place Tuesday at Rutland’s Paramount Theater.
As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, for many, the event has become a holiday tradition.
(Keck) Steve Costello is director of public affairs for Central Vermont Public Service. He also helps coordinate Rutland’s Gift of Life blood drive.
(Costello) "In 2006 we set a northern new England record of 672 pints in one day. That has since been beaten by Manchester, New Hampshire, which is roughly nine times the size of Rutland. So we’ve officially set the goal of 700 for this drive. That’s really the target and what we hope to get to."
(Keck) Costello’s optimistic they’ll reach it.
He says things will be set up a bit differently this year to accommodate more people. And he says they’ve been working hard to encourage first time donors.
He says what’s really amazed him, however, is how the community has embraced this event.
(Costello) "There’s one family who’s become an integral part of this. One of their children needed a liver transplant. So now the whole family comes in to donate every year. There are businesses where everyone in the office comes in – 10 – 12 – 14 people, and they all donate together. . . . . I think this event really has become kind of a signature event for Rutland and something that a lot of people are really proud to be part of."
(Reuther) "That’s absolutely the feeling."
(Keck) That’s Chittenden resident Lin Reuther. She’s been a blood donor for 30 years, and says after giving blood at the Paramount it’s almost a letdown now to donate anywhere else.
(Reuther) "You go in and you see all these people you know, you see people you recognize, but you’re not exactly sure who they are. Everybody’s happy and it’s like a little picture of Christmas right there."
(Keck) Reuther says she talked her husband into donating. And this year she’s going to bring her 13-year-old daughter along after school.
(Reuther) "I think it’s important – like I take her to vote with me every year – it’s important for her to see that you can give to people in your community even if you don’t have a lot of money. There’s always things people can do or give especially at the holiday time."
(Keck) Red Cross officials say the region that includes Vermont and part of northern New Hampshire needs to bring in 50,000 pints of blood a year.
That’s a challenge because the age of blood donors is increasing and it’s difficult to attract younger volunteers.
Officials at the Red Cross say that’s why events like the one Tuesday at Rutland’s Paramount Theater are so important.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.