RUTLAND The holidays are right around the corner, and with them comes the annual Gift-of-Life Marathon at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland and an enormous goal. Organizers today announced that the fifth annual Gift-of-Life Marathon will be held Dec. 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Appointments, which are strongly encouraged, can be made by calling 800-843-3500. Walk-ins will be accepted, but appointments help ensure a smooth process and will allow donors to get in and out more quickly. Last year, the event set a northern New England record, collecting 672 pints, but the record was broken this summer by Manchester, N.H., where 684 pints were collected in an event patterned after the Gift-of-Life Marathon. The Gift-of-Life Marathon is organized by CVPS, WJJR/WSYB and the Paramount Theatre in cooperation with the American Red Cross. We really want to reclaim the record for Rutland, CVPS spokesman Steve Costello said. Manchester is five or six times the size of Rutland, but we think we can out-do them and make a huge difference for people who need blood in the process. Our goal is to collect 700 pints. The Vermont Red Cross, which set a record of its own for staffing at last years event, will bring in even more help this year. They plan to add at least two more blood-drawing beds to the Paramount stage. The event keeps growing, but we get better at organizing it each year, Red Cross account executive Chris Frenette said. The event actually flowed better last year than it did the first year, despite collecting 300 more pints. Rob and Ann Warrell of Pittsford and their baby, Jacob, are the honorary poster-family for the event this year. Ann Warrell needed two pints of blood after Jacobs birth in September. Ive donated blood for years, but never dreamt I would need it, said Warrell, a CVPS employee who organizes and oversees volunteers at the Gift-of-Life Marathon each year. It really brought the importance of blood donation close to home. You never know when you or someone you love will need blood. CVPS, the Paramount Theatre and WJJR began the event after the Red Cross asked if CVPS would add a third employee blood drive to two held annually. CVPS suggested the Gift-of-Life Marathon instead, and key staff at WJJR and the Paramount were excited about the idea. WJJR and WSYB will broadcast live during this years event. This is not your typical blood drive, WJJRs Terry Jaye said. Its a family reunion, a community celebration and a blood drive wrapped into one, with great food, prizes and special treats for everyone who attends. And it affects hundreds of peoples lives. This will be the fifth annual Gift-of-Life Marathon, which has collected 1,729 pints of blood over the past four years. It started with 370 pints in 2003, followed by 465 in 2004, 522 in 2005, and 672 last year. If this years goal is met, it would push the total past 300 gallons. First-time blood donors are particularly needed. Donating blood is virtually painless. The entire process takes about an hour, but the actual donation process takes just 10 minutes. Everyone who attends will receive a gift bag containing a jar of Salsa from the Gut, a box of Westminster Crackers, a special Gift-of-Life Marathon T-shirt, and other treats. Family, friends and co-workers are urged to sign up together. This event has become an incredible morale and bond builder for the community, families, local businesses, and for the Red Cross, Frenette said. Its a life-affirming event, and people leave knowing theyve been part of something really special. Donors who choose can expand the impact of the Gift-of-Life Marathon by participating in a simultaneous Rutland Regional Medical Center bone marrow drive at the theater. By pairing with the blood drive, the bone marrow program got nearly 200 new bone marrow donor candidates into the system last year, said Kerry Ellis, who coordinates the program. The process for becoming a potential marrow donor is simple: just fill out a health screening and consent form and swab the inside of your cheek. There is a critical need for additional potential donors, particularly from different ethnic groups. Madeline Veysey, an 8-year-old from Mt Holly who will be at the drive, is alive today because of the generosity of a stranger who joined the National Registry. By giving blood and registering as a potential marrow donor, you may be giving someone the best gift of the holiday season, the gift of life, Ellis said.