Heroes Behind the Badges drive

A local rivalry continues.

In less than two weeks, local law enforcement officers and firefighters will have a friendly competition in which they will find out who can donate the most blood.

The sixth annual Heroes Behind the Badges Blood Drive will take place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:30-6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan 14 at the Sanford Vermillion Medical Center.

"This time of the year, blood supplies tend to get very low," said Layne Stewart, director of Clay County Emergency Management. "Donations tend to drop, but also … accidents and people in need of blood products usually increases, as well. You kind of get hit with a double-edged sword there."

To help ease this burden, local law enforcement and firefighters try to recruit as many donors as possible.

Last year, there were 104 participants, who donated 78 units of blood.

This year, they hope to come away with 100 units of blood.

"As far as taking part, there's a great response by the local law enforcement agencies," said Detective Robin Hower of the Vermillion Police Department.

"The firefighters have supported it pretty well, too," Stewart added. "A lot of them work in places during the day where they're not able to donate, but I have run into parents and grandparents of firefighters who are there because the firefighter asked them donated in their name."

Other members of the community have done their part as well by making donations on behalf of the department of their choice, Hower said.

"We try to contact people, get it out through fellow officers," he said. "We have fliers that we post, we try to get it out through the local papers. …

"We try and get it out through the community so they are aware of it when the date arrives," he said.

To reach the goal of 100 units, both men said approximately 125-130 donors would be needed.

"Historically, we have a very high refusal rate," Stewart said. "We've been running about 25 percent denial."

Hower said that while this may sound strange, a number of potential donors are turned away because they recently were sick, while others are refused for other reasons, such as having recently acquired a tattoo.

"There are certain requirements that prohibit them from donating," he said.

The drive started six years ago when Community Blood Bank of Sioux Falls contacted Stewart and Detective Lowell Oswald.

"They had done (similar competitions) in other places, and decided to do it here as well," Stewart said. "Just a lighthearted competition between law enforcement and fire, just a way to create a little excitement and try and help get more and more people to donate blood."

In that time, Heroes Behind the Badges has become the biggest single blood drive in Vermillion.

It's an important drive, Hower said, because Community Blood Bank is the solve provider of blood and blood products to Sanford Vermillion Hospital.

"The blood that is donated actually stays here in Vermillion," he said. "When you have an accident where a person is injured and they need blood, it could take up to several units. So it's important we have this supply on-hand."

For the record, the local police have won the competition the most.

However, Stewart said that's not the important thing.

"In the whole scheme of things, it doesn't really matter who wins as long as we get people out and donating," he said. "This year, I hope we have a very large turnout and make it the biggest one ever."

Donors must be at least 17 years old – or 16 years old with a signed parental consent form found at www.cbblifeblood.org – and weigh more than 110 pounds.

For more information, call 624-2611.

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