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Red Cross honors Rutland, Gift-of-Life Marathon

For Immediate release: Oct. 23, 2014

Contact: Steve Costello - (802) 793-4031

Red Cross honors Rutland, Gift-of-Life Marathon

BEDFORD, N.H. – With plans for the 2014 Gift-of-Life Marathon just announced and preparation under way, the American Red Cross honored Rutland, Vt., today for the record-breaking 2013 event.

On behalf of the greater Rutland community, the city was presented with an award from the Red Cross of Northern New England, commemorating the national record of 2,350 pints of blood collected in a single day, set Dec. 17.

“We are honored to work with the greater Rutland community, which is unique in its support of blood donation,” said Mike Kempesty, the Red Cross CEO for Northern New England, at the organization’s annual meeting.  “The Gift-of-Life Marathon is the envy of Red Cross recruiters across the country, and the community’s spirit is the fuel that has made the drive such a success.  We could never have dreamed that we’d enjoy a partnership with a community like what has developed in Rutland.

“The Red Cross and the thousands of patients who have benefited from the community’s generosity are eternally grateful for that partnership and support,” Kempesty said.

Mayor Chris Louras said the drive has done as much for Rutland as it has done for the Red Cross.

“I am proud of what the greater Rutland community has done to bolster the blood supply during the holiday season, and I’m equally pleased about what that meant to the community,” Louras said.  “The Gift-of-Life Marathon has brought together people from every possible walk of life, and built bridges across every possible divide.

“The Gift-of-Life Marathon, and the national record, is an enormous point of pride for the entire region, and a source of inspiration,” Louras said.  “We’ve received as much as we have given.”

WJJR and Program Manager Terry Jaye and Green Mountain Power and Vice President Steve Costello, who have co-organized the drive for the past 11 years, were also honored.

The revamped “Gift-of-Life Marathon - 12 Days of Giving” will run from Dec. 2 to 16 at sites throughout the Rutland region, and will be the longest blood drive in U.S. history. It begins at Castleton College at the home of President Dave Wolk, and ends at the Paramount Theatre. Castleton joined GMP and WJJR as organizers and sponsors of the GOLM last year.

The new format is designed to give donors more times and places to participate, and reduce the logistical challenges of a one-day mega drive.  Appointments are strongly encouraged and may be made by calling 800-RED-CROSS or by visiting www.giftoflifemarathon.com.  While supplies last, donors will receive gifts from Killington Resort and The Vermont Country Store.

The Gift-of-Life Marathon collected 368 pints in its first year, 2003.  The drive collected 1,024 pints in 2009, when New York filmmaker Art Jones filmed the event for the documentary “The Blood in This Town.”  Kempesty showed a clip from the film at today’s ceremony.

Jones, who has become a regular visitor to Rutland since making the film, was among the few observers not surprised by Rutland’s record-breaking effort, or an ongoing Rutland revival. 

“What I’ve seen over the past five years is a force of will growing and multiplying in the community, and it’s affected everything from the blood drive to the downtown,” Jones said.  “The empty storefronts and the self-doubt I saw in 2009 are disappearing, and there’s a sense that anything is possible now.  For me, today’s award feels like recognition not just of shattering a record, but of shattering a yoke that previously held back the community.”