With a goal of breaking the New England record for a one-day blood drive, set at Fenway Park, organizers of last year's annual Gift-of-Life Marathon issued a challenge to the greater Rutland Community-beat Boston. Sure enough, the challenge was met. Now organizers are thinking ahead to December 2009.
The partnership between CVPS and WJJR was forged to establish the annual Gift-of-Life Marathon. It began at the Paramount Theatre in 2003 after the Red Cross asked CVPS to add a third employee blood drive to the two drives held annually. In response, CVPS upped the ante and suggested a large-scale community blood drive. That year, 2003, the drive set a state record for a one-day blood drive with 462 pints donated. In 2007, the event collected 716 pints, setting a northern New England record that still stands.
"The goal in 2008 was to collect 773 pints and outshine Boston, which has a population of half a million people compared to tiny little Rutland, Vermont of 17,000," said Steve Costello, director of public affairs at Central Vermont Public Service, an organizer of the annual blood drive. "We wanted to set a record for all of New England and demonstrate the tremendous spirit, competitiveness and caring of this great little city while affecting hundreds of lives."
Carol Dembeck of the Red Cross said, "This is something that individuals can do to help-all someone needs to give is a little bit of their time and their red blood cells, plasma and platelets can help numerous people both local and across the country."
The Gift-of-Life Marathon has now become a big deal in downtown Rutland. Entire offices and families sign up together. In December, appointments and walk-ins kept American Red Cross staffers and local volunteers hopping!
In 2008, every donor received a gift bag containing a variety of Vermont products from some of the state's leading businesses.
According to American Red Cross's Carol Dembeck, gift bags included a box of Westminster Crackers; a Rutland County and Rutland City map and perk card for discounts at Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce members, a jar of Bove's pasta sauce, a one-year subscription to a Vermont magazine, assorted gifts from CVPS and the Rutland Regional Medical Center, and discount coupons from several local businesses.
Last year's drive came at a time of low blood donations, when people were busy with the holidays. Costello said. "Through their generosity and the efforts, we hoped to put Rutland at the top of the record books."
Local residents came out in force; many were amazed by the community's willingness to help. The opportunity to break a record, set by the biggest city in New England, seemed to be a huge driving force and a huge incentive for this event.
Bobby Poquette has been an American Red Cross Volunteer for 15 years; he became a first-time donor during the 2008 blood drive. He said that he had wanted to donate his blood so that Rutland could break the record.
Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras came through on his promise, too, when Rutland reached the goal. He was at the Paramount and donated a pint (he also shaved his head on a dare).
Rutland set the 2008 record with 199 new donors and 849 pints. Take that Boston!
At the end of 2009, you'll have a chance to help fellow vermonters and help beat another New England. Stay tuned.