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It’s on! Gift-of-Life Marathon gets last shot at national record in December

Organizers hope to 'grow' momentum with Mini-Marathon this past Tuesday
RUTLAND - Organizers of Rutland's two major blood drives are hoping blood donors this week help "grow" momentum toward a national-record-breaking blood drive in December with the Gift-of-Life Mini Marathon, held Tuesday, July 16.

On July 10, organizers announced that they and the American Red Cross have agreed to make one more attempt at the national one-day blood drive record on Dec. 17, and set out two challenges to the greater Rutland Community: If 400 pints of blood are collected at the Mini Marathon at the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday, Rutland Mayor Chris Louras, WJJR's Terry Jaye and Green Mountain Power's Steve Costello will stop shaving and grow their beards, untrimmed, until the GOLM.  If Rutland breaks the national record of 1,968 pints in December, they will get Red Cross tattoos to commemorate the record.

"Assuming we make the goal on Tuesday, our scraggy beards will be reminders of the upcoming GOLM for every person we encounter," Mayor Louras said. "This will definitely be Rutland's last shot at the national record, so we wanted to come up with an idea that would keep the drive on people's minds every day until December."

Last year's GOLM, which collected 1,955 pints, just short of the national record of 1,968, was supposed to be the last "mega-drive" in New England due to the resources required to manage such events, which require about 200 Red Cross workers, many traveling from distant states.  The Red Cross agreed to give Rutland one more attempt at the record after discussions over several months with Costello and GMP President and CEO Mary Powell.

"The 2011 drive was plagued with long waits, which had an effect on turnout last year," Costello said. "Last year's drive went incredibly smoothly, and convinced us that the record was achievable, and that Rutland deserved another shot."

"It is amazing that a community the size of Rutland is even part of the national-record discussion," Powell said. "Given the spirit and drive the community has shown, I just couldn't see the GOLM shrinking or changing without finishing what the community set out to do, which is set the national record. So we will do everything we can to help Rutland achieve that goal."

For now, attention will turn to Tuesday's Mini Marathon, which ran from 12-noon to 6 p.m.

"The need is always there, but supplies are low, and we want to help fill that void on Tuesday," said Terry Jaye, program manager at WJJR, which co-organizes the blood drives with GMP.  "If we meet the goal, I look forward to being a walking, bearded reminder that Rutland will get one last shot at the national record in December."