Rutland soars past previous high with 2,337 pints of donated blood

Article published Dec 18, 2013
Rutland soars past previous high with 2,337 pints of donated blood
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer
Rutland roared into the record books Tuesday with a new national mark for blood collected in a single community in one day — more than 2,300 pints.

The previous record was 1,968 pints, held by Manchester, N.H.

The total collected in the Gift of Life Marathon blood drive at five locations in Rutland was finalized at about 10:30 p.m., and the 2,337 pints put Rutland comfortably in the lead for the new national mark.

“That's pretty good — I'll take that,” said event co-organizer Steve Costello, lying on a couch and giving one of the last pints of blood as victory was declared.

“I'm thrilled for Rutland,” he said. “This community has just done something no one else in this country has even done. Rutland can do anything it sets its mind to.”

Last year's drive was supposed to be Rutland's last record attempt, as American Red Cross officials no longer wanted to devote the staff necessary for such marathon blood drives. 

Green Mountain Power President Mary Powell convinced the organization otherwise, so more than 200 Red Cross staffers joined more than 300 volunteers at five locations Tuesday — The Paramount Theatre, the College of St. Joseph, the Elks Lodge and the American Legion in the city, and the Holiday Inn in Rutland Town.

The drive also made use of equipment that effectively doubled what one donor could give by using a centrifuge to separate red cells from the rest of the blood. 

Organizers believed they could step up outreach and cut down wait times, though waits were still lengthy. A donor who walked into the Paramount Theatre at 4:30 p.m. did not make it onto the stage until after 8 p.m. 

While there was some grousing, the waits were largely greeted with good humor. 

“It doesn't bother me,” Rachel Radaker, 29, of Pittsford said at the 90-minute mark. “I'll wait as long as I need to.” 

Radaker said she tries to donate every two months, inspired by a friend who needs extensive blood transfusions due to leukemia. She was passing the time by reading her Kindle and chatting with the folks around her. 

“I'm meeting people,” she said. “I just like to come to help. It's something I can do.” 

First-time donor Lyndsay Squier, 17, of Wallingford said she tried to donate last year but didn't have a parental permission slip. 

“I'm ready,” she said. “I'm excited to help someone who needs blood in the future. ... My grandfather has been donating blood for, I don't know, 20 years? If I know I can make a difference, I'll make a difference.” 

Katye Munger oversaw the drive's social media presence, running its Twitter and Facebook feeds. 

“We are able to give pretty much up-to-the-minute updates of what's happening, where people should go, get the numbers out there,” she said. 

“In the days before social media, it was hard to know what the numbers were during the day,” Munger said.

Social media was also used to summon walk-ins, though it was unclear how many people on Twitter were motivated to become donors at the last minute. 

“I'm hoping a lot,” Munger said late in the afternoon. “I think there's probably more on Facebook. There were people that not only saw us on Facebook, but also heard on the radio and said 'That's happening — I'm going to drop what I'm doing and go there.” 

Donors came from near and far. Organizer Terry Jaye described a woman driving from Vergennes because she did not want to be responsible for falling one pint short of the record. 

“When people say this is just a Rutland thing, they are mistaken,” he said. “Christmas begins here.” 

The drive's position in local culture was largely due to Art Jones, whose documentary “The Blood in this Town” tied the Gift of Life Marathon to local revitalization efforts. The Brooklyn filmmaker, who came to Rutland to volunteer at the drive Tuesday, said he keeps getting asked when he will film “the next chapter.” 

Jones said that wasn't up to him, but to local people. 

“Fifty new storytellers are out there writing a new story for Rutland,” he said. “That's powerful.” 

Jones said he still thought he had a role to play, and that he was looking for his own business opportunity in Rutland, though he was not sure what form it would take. 

“Creating some type of a business link between Rutland and New York, I think that would be important,” he said. “It's a link I'd like to work on. I'm trying to put something together.”