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Appointments lag for Gift-of-Life Marathon

Organizers urge donors to make appointments for national-record effort

With fewer than 1,000 appointments in the books three weeks before the 10th annual Gift-of-Life Marathon, organizers are urging donors to sign up to take part in the Rutland-area's last chance to set the one-day record for a community blood drive.

"We had hoped to be further along with appointments at this point, but we're sensing a lot of concern over the wait times last year, and we think that is hurting the numbers," said Steve Costello, vice president for generation and energy innovation at Green Mountain Power, one of the organizers. "We know there were problems in 2011, but we want to reassure the community that the Red Cross is geared up for this, and that by making an appointment, folks will help dramatically reduce any waiting."

Regional Red Cross officials say the drive, and one in Manchester, N.H., that set the current record, grew so quickly that they stretched their resources thin - but they do have the staff to make one last record-breaking attempt in Rutland.

"We will do everything in our power to help Rutland break the record this year," said Mike Kempesty, chief executive officer for the Red Cross in New England.

Catamount Radio Operations Manager Terry Jaye said he feared problems last year had cut enthusiasm for the event, but urged donors to give the drive one more try.

"We can do this. I know the community can do it, and I truly believe the Red Cross can do it," Jaye said. "Who would have thought we could collect 1000 pints in a day? Or 1500? Or the 1,855 collected last year?  If we can capture the spirit this community has shown year after year, which is tremendous, I know we can do this together," Jaye said.

Organizers reiterated that there will be two major changes to help improve the event:
•    The drive will expand from three to four sites, including the Paramount Theatre, the American Legion, the Elks Club and the College of St. Joseph's gym, which will spread donors across more square footage; and
•    The Red Cross has committed to an increase of nearly 50 percent in staffing.
"We are convinced that these two changes will help ensure a much smoother process and keep wait times for those who make appointments to a minimum," Costello said.

The GOLM collected 368 pints in 2003, and has grown steadily ever since.  For three straight years, the GOLM broke the New England record for a one-day community blood drive.  Boston held the record of 772 pints until Rutland collected 856 in 2008 and 1,024 in 2009.  In September 2010, Boston collected 1,177 pints to reclaim the New England record, but Rutland took it back that December, with 1,400 pints.  Manchester, N.H., broke that record - and the national record - last year, with 1,968 pints. The GOLM collected 1,855 pints last year, making it the second-largest one day drive in the country, the largest per-capita in the nation.

The event is organized by WJJR and Green Mountain Power, with lead support from the Paramount Theatre and Small Dog Electronics. While supplies last, donors will receive gift bags stuffed with items from dozens of local businesses and organizations.
For an appointment for the Dec. 18 event, call 800-RED-CROSS or visit www.giftoflifemarathon.com. Potential donors are also encouraged to visit www.redcrossblood.org for eligibility requirements.