Rutland tries to break blood drive record - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Rutland tries to break blood drive record

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Susan Snitker says donating blood is something that is close to her heart.

"My mother going through cancer treatment and more than once, several times, needed blood," Snitker said. "I really see the need."

Snitker and more than 2000 others signed up to donate blood at the annual Gift-of-Life blood donation marathon at the Paramount Theatre and other locations in the city. They were setting out to break the national record of 1,969 pints of blood collected in one day. Organizer Dave Wolk, the president of Castleton College, said it wasn't just about the numbers.

"It's about thinking outside yourself. It's about doing the right thing, helping other people, and it's a way that everyone here can be a hero," Wolk said.

The Gift-of-Life marathon has become a holiday-time phenomenon over the last 10 years, inspiring a documentary, "The Blood in this Town." Organizers say it is the big-hearted community in Rutland that makes it all happen.

"We can only get it from donors; that is the only source," said Ellen Russell of the American Red Cross Blood Services. "If people didn't donate blood, like the people here do, people would have to go without."

Organizers also said that sometimes there are misconceptions about who can donate due to health or other restrictions, but it is always best for people to come out and take the health screening to see if they can be a part of the experience. Almost anyone can donate. To donate you just need to be 17 or older. Even 16-year-olds can donate with parental consent.

Those who participated say it wasn't just about doing the right thing, but also having fun as a community.

"And it's a party," donor Mary Crowley said. "I mean, you see people you haven't seen in years."

And those in the community say that although the population of Rutland is less than 16,000, they are strong for their size.

"You know, it's a little town in Vermont that can get 10 percent of the population to donate blood; it's an amazing thing," Snitker said.

Organizers also say this will be the last year that the famed event takes place and they are giving the last go around their all.

Officials were still counting the donations when this story was published.

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