Appointments Down For Gift Of Life Marathon Blood Drive

12/10/12 7:29AM By Nina Keck
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VPR/Nina Keck
Chittenden resident and Rutland City MIddle School principal Wil Cunningham donating blood at a past Gift of Life Marathon blood drive at Rutland's Paramount Theatre.

Organizers of Rutland's Gift of Life Marathon say appointments for the upcoming blood drive on December 18th are lower than expected.

They say that may be due to long wait times last year.  

But the Red Cross says it's pulling out all the stops to ensure Rutland has one last shot at setting a national record.

Rutland's big holiday blood drive is the stuff movies are made of. Really. 

"If nothing else, the blood drive is serving as a yearly reminder that we can do pretty much anything we set our minds to," Steve Costello said in The Blood in this Town, a 2010 documentary by New York film maker Art Jones that chronicles both Rutland's attempts to host a record setting blood drive and the city's efforts to improve overall.

In 2003, the first Gift of Life Marathon brought in 365 pints of blood. Six years later, when the documentary was filmed, nearly three times that much was collected.

Last year in a push to capture Manchester, New Hampshire's, national one-day record, Rutland fell just 168 pints short.  It was especially frustrating because many who showed up to donate couldn't because of long wait times. The Red Cross's Chris Frenette says this year, that won't be a problem.

"Last year we were going through some mandatory training that happened in late November before the Gift of Life. So we did lose some staff throughout that training. But this year we are up on staff and the commitment is there to take care of our donors."

Frenette says the Red Cross will bring in 180 staff members from four states to work the event, a 50 percent increase over last year. She says four different locations in Rutland, including the Paramount Theatre, will be used. 

"We are actually starting on Sunday before the Tuesday drive where we have to make deliveries to all sites. Then early Monday morning we head down with all our equipment for the four sites. So as you can see, it's quite the challenge for our staff," Frenette said.

Green Mountain Power's Steve Costello, one of the lead organizers of the event, says the competition that's grown over the years between Rutland, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Boston has driven these blood drives to proportions no one expected.

"And it's gotten really frankly beyond a reasonable size for the Red Cross to manage and do safely. So we've agreed that this will be the last major event like this. That said, this year they really are pulling out all the stops to try to make this happen," Costello said.

So far, Costello says, over 1,400 have signed up to donate. But he says more are needed if Rutland wants to finally capture the national record. 

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