Blood drive reflects the best of Rutland County

Blood drive reflects the best of Rutland County
Blood drive reflects best of region

This note of appreciation is a little overdue, as I wanted to await the final, official count from the Red Cross for the Gift-of-Life Marathon, but I am writing to thank everyone involved with the blood drive’s record-breaking success. To say it was a collaborative effort of the community would be to say Mount Everest is a big hill.

Last week we received the final, official, count from the Red Cross, and as expected, the number increased a little bit from the original, unofficial count of 2,337 pints. The new national record is 2,350 pints!

Rutland and Rutland County — the whole state, really — should be proud of the accomplishment, which almost seems inconceivable given our size, knowing that thousands of families across the region have benefited. We talk a lot about records and numbers to try to motivate people to participate in the GOLM, and the psychological value of success for the community is a big part of my motivation, but in the end, the GOLM is all about saving lives.

This year’s success could never have been achieved without an incredible partnership between the Red Cross, WJJR, Castleton College and Green Mountain Power, and hundreds of people within these organizations. It has been a thrill to work with these teams and key leaders, including Mike Kempesty, Terry Jaye, Dave Wolk and Mary Powell, who each put their hearts and souls into the effort.

I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of people over the past 30 years, and this small group encompasses some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Each modeled a tremendous amount of commitment, enthusiasm and hard work, much of it behind the scenes, to make the GOLM a success.

But the entire community of Rutland, Rutland County and beyond, made this happen:

More than 600 students and adults donated blood for the first time — almost twice as many as donated in total at the first GOLM 11 years ago.

More than 320 people donated their time at the drive, and about 100 other volunteers helped with preparation.

More than 2,800 presenting donors turned out. (Some were deferred for various reasons.)

More than 50 businesses and organizations donated gift bag items or made other in-kind donations.

Staff from five organizations — the Paramount Theatre, Elks Club, American Legion, Holiday Inn and College of St. Joseph — committed themselves to the event and turned their facilities over to the Red Cross for the day.

Media outlets throughout the region supported the drive through news coverage, public service announcements and advertising discounts.

Hundreds of businesses and about a dozen schools gave staff and students time off from work or classes to attend, and they often turned out in droves to donate together.

Mayor Louras, Dave Allaire and members of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, other state and local political leaders and local organizations too numerous to mention, but ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to Rutland Young Professionals, helped spread the word in a geometric progression that ensured everyone was aware of the GOLM.

Every one of these people and organizations served like a thread in a beautiful tapestry.

As in past years, when Rutland set New England records repeatedly and came within a whisker of the national record, I’ve been asked dozens of times how this community can do what it has done. I think the answer, taken from the title of Art Jones’ documentary film about Rutland, is simple: There is something special in the blood in this town.

Steve Costello of Rutland Town was co-organizer of the Gift-of-Life Marathon.