(Host) Every year, hundreds of people gather in Rutland for an unusual holiday party at the Paramount Theater.
There are presents, refreshments and lots of good cheer. The only catch? You have to give blood.
VPR’s Nina Keck reports.
(Keck) Over 1,000 people turned up last year to donate blood and organizers expect even more at this year’s Gift of Life Marathon. Chittenden resident Lin Reuther started donating at the event five or six years ago.
(Reuther) "You go in, you see all these people you know, you see people that you recognize but you’re not quite sure who they are. Everybody’s happy. It’s such a wonderful holiday feeling. And then, of course, they can’t give you enough goodies and yummy food to eat afterwards. And there’s this treasure bag everybody gets. It’s like a little picture of Christmas right there."
(Keck) She says for a community like Rutland, that’s been so hard hit by the recession, this kind of event is especially meaningful.
(Reuther) "I think it’s important 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 and can give especially at the holiday time."
(Keck) Steve Costello, spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service, came up with the idea for the drive six years ago. A regular blood donor, he figured a drive between Christmas and New Year’s would be a great way to help the Red Cross, since it’s usually a time when blood supplies are quite low. Last year, Rutland set a single-day donation record for all of New England with 856 pints. This year, he says, they’re shooting for a thousand.
(Costello) "You know, I’ve had a lot of conversations with the Red Cross over the years, and in the last few days, including today. And they are really blown away both by what this community has done and by the willingness of people to pull together and make this happen."
(Keck) Costello says the Red Cross will have about 130 employees from four states working the event, along with close to 200 volunteers from the community.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.
(Host) The Gift of Life Marathon will be held Tuesday (12/22) from 10:30 to 6:30 at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland.