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Gift-of-Life Marathon organizers appeal to first-time donors


RUTLAND - With just three weeks until the Gift-of-Life Marathon, organizers are appealing for blood donors - especially first-timers - to sign up for the national-record effort on Dec. 17.
"We are getting into crunch time, and we have a long way to go to even think about breaking the national record," said Steve Costello, vice president for generation and energy innovation at Green Mountain Power, and one of the organizers. "We are making steady progress, but we still need over 1,000 people to commit to the drive to have a shot at the record."
Students as young as 16 can donate blood in Vermont, though 16-year-olds must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, or have a signed consent form available on the Red Cross website.
Terry Jaye, program manager at Catamount Radio, said first-time donors would be critical to reaching the goal of 1,969 pints, which would break the record held by Manchester, N.H.
"If you have never donated blood before, this is the drive to do it," Jaye said. "It's an amazing atmosphere and sense of community, and with a little luck, you'll be part of a national record."
Reed Wilcox, who moved here from St. Louis in June, signed up to donate for the first time.
"Before I moved here, I hadn't really been exposed to a place where it was such a focal point," Wilcox said. "It just seems easier to do in this town - in the past I wouldn't have even known where to go to give blood."
Allison Gillette will also be donating for the first time.
"It's such a huge community effort, I felt compelled to get involved," Gillette said. "I am really passionate about helping Rutland become the greatest place it can be, and I see the blood drive as a part of that. I feel like I have to be a part of it.
"I've been surrounded by heroes in my life - my Mom was a single parent, my grandmother overcame cancer three times, and my boyfriend was a Marine and is now a police officer," she said. "I don't have the opportunity to do heroic things like them every day, but this is my opportunity to do it for the first time."
Korinne Rodrigue, another first-timer who has been involved in Rutland's VISION campaign, said she signed up for similar reasons. "I love this community, and that alone is enough reason to get involved," Rodrigue said. "Add in the fact that one pint of blood can help save up to three lives, and I can't imagine not being part of it."
Dave Wolk, president of Castleton College, said students at the college are signing up for a lot of reasons, including the most obvious: there is no substitute for human blood.
"The drive and the record attempt are amazing in and of themselves, but ultimately this is about helping save the lives of friends, neighbors and strangers throughout the region," Wolk said. "Our students, including many first-time donors, relish that opportunity."
The Gift-of-Life Marathon, which is Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., is organized by Castleton College, 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.
There will be five locations in which participants can give blood: Paramount Theatre, Elks Club, College of St. Joseph, Holiday Inn and American Legion.
For an appointment, call 800-RED-CROSS or visit www.giftoflifemarathon.com.