For folks in Rutland this year’s Gift of Life Marathon was a real nail biter. Unofficially Rutland fell just 18 pints short of setting the national record for a one-day drive, collecting 1,951 pints of blood. Manchester, New Hampshire set the record of 1,968 pints last year.
But because the numbers are so close, the Red Cross is planning a recount of all four Rutland donation sites. Event organizers hope to have final numbers by the end of the week. But many in Rutland say the event means a lot more than a national title.
"How are you doing mam? What’s your number?," Steve Costello asked.
As a Gift of Life Organizer, Costello stood on stage most of the day directing traffic as a steady stream of people made their way to lounge chairs to give blood.
"So far so good it’s been moving really smooth. We’ve been going for forty five minutes at this point and people as soon as they get out of health history are going right up to donate so it’s going very quickly. Our first person was done donating blood 30 minutes after the start of the drive which is really great," Costello said.
This year’s drive was visibly more organized with few bottlenecks. After criticism that they had understaffed last year’s event, the Red Cross increased personnel this year by 50 percent. But because of logistical and staffing challenges, they said it would be the last time they’d be able to do such a big drive.
Theresa Fowler of Castleton said having one more chance to try and break the national record was part of the reason she wanted to give blood.
"There’s such a bond with Rutland County that people come out and try to break that record. I had to get a sub for my day care today to come over today and do this," Fowler said.
But record or no, many at the drive said it just felt good to come together, see old friends and do something nice for the community, especially after such a difficult week with the school shooting in Connecticut. Theresa Fowler says the Gift of Life Marathon helped her get into the holiday spirit.
"The need for the blood and this time of year there’s less people donating and so it’s very important that people get out and give back," Fowler explains.
Back on stage, the 40 or so lounge chairs were filled with people laughing, chatting – and even napping as they gave blood. Steve Costello greeted several as he walked by. At the first Gift of Life Marathon in 2003 they collected 368 pints and were thrilled. Never in our wildest dreams, he says did we imagine it would ever get this big.