Wayne Carpenter knows how to give blood. The Adrian, Mich., native has been giving blood since 1958, donating regularly at various blood drives throughout the area.
The volunteer at the Spirit of America 800 blood drive at Michigan International Speedway on Tuesday, said he has donated over 24 gallons of blood in his lifetime - a staggering number by blood donation standards.
"I really enjoy giving blood. I remember when my dad gave blood when I was younger and it just stuck with me," Carpenter, 70, said. "When I was going to college at Western Washington you had to give blood in order to march in the ROTC parade. That's where things got started for me. I really enjoy donating blood and my time to the American Red Cross. Being able to talk with donors and socialize with them at this event is special for me."
Carpenter's story is not an unusual one. Many of the expected 1,100 people who made appointments for Tuesday's blood drive have attended the sixth annual event in the past.
Still, others found the event a chance to donate blood for the first time.
Jenny Hill, a 17-year-old from Tecumseh, Mich., gave blood early during the 12-hour blood drive. She said she always wanted to donate blood, but Red Cross policies wouldn't allow it until she turned 17 in July. So this was her first opportunity to be involved with the Spirit of America 800.
"My history teacher asked us if we wanted to participate and of course I said yes because I've always wanted to donate blood," the Tecumseh High School senior said. "It definitely wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Hopefully, I'll be able to give regularly from now on."
Whether it was a longtime donor like Carpenter or a first-time donor like Hill, people of all ages have come to the event and don't mind taking time out of their busy schedules to support a good cause and remember the tragedies of 9-11.
Now in its sixth year, the "Spirit of America," one of the nation's largest 9-11 blood drives, collected 789 units of blood over a 12-hour period in 2006. Because of its accomplishments, blood drive organizers have raised the stakes by announcing a goal of 800 units collected for the 2007 event, thus renaming it the "Spirit of America 800."
The Great Lakes Region of the American Red Cross collects blood from volunteer donors in 63 Michigan counties and provides blood products to patients in 70 hospitals statewide. In the past year, the Red Cross has experienced frequent and severe blood shortages. In the past 12 months, supplies have been as low as six hours but rarely higher than two days. The Red Cross considers a three-day supply of all blood types to be safe and adequate for meeting emergency and ongoing medical needs.
The blood drive at Michigan International Speedway is special as it grew out of remembrance of victims of 9-11. The drive has been so successful that the NASCAR Foundation, the charitable arm for NASCAR, asked all tracks to conduct similar blood drives.
"I can't tell you how pleased I am that the Spirit of America blood drive has led to the tremendous undertaking by the NASCAR Foundation to help in this effort," MIS Director of Guest Services and Spirit of America founder Tim Booth said. "We should receive thousands of donations for this drive, which will be a wonderful help to the American Red Cross. It will be truly a special day."
While some donated blood, others simply walked through Unity Field, a tribute of 3,000 American flags placed at Michigan International Speedway by the Brooklyn chapter of the American Legion. Each flag represents victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Currently one of the largest 9-11 blood drive in the nation and largest single-day blood drive in Michigan, the Spirit of America 800 has collected more than 2,778 units of blood, enough to help save the lives of over 8,300 people. With each unit of blood having the potential to be transfused to up to three people, this year's blood drive could benefit
nearly 2,400 individuals.
The Great Lakes Region of the American Red Cross collects blood from volunteer donors in 65 Michigan counties and helps provides blood products to patients in 129 hospitals statewide. In the past 12 months, the American Red Cross has experienced frequent and severe blood shortages. Supplies of critical blood types have been as low as six hours but rarely higher than two days. The Red Cross considers a three-day supply of all blood types to be safe and adequate for meeting emergency and ongoing medical needs.