The Gift-of-Life Marathon—12 Days of Giving began Dec. 2 and will run through Dec. 16 at locations throughout Rutland County. But before it even began, one local volunteer had was up and running in order ot help ensure its success. Bobby Poquette, a longtime Red Cross and GOLM volunteer, was honored today as Gift-of-Life Marathon Volunteer of the Year for his unflagging commitment to the drive and his community. The award was presented to a surprised Poquette while he was talking about the GOLM on the air with WJJR’s Terry Jaye on Nov. 26.
Poquette is a lifelong Rutland resident who volunteers countless hours for the Red Cross and other nonprofits each year, and goes into overdrive each fall to support the GOLM. Poquette, who has volunteered for the GOLM since its inception, also began donating blood at the 2009 GOLM—when he helped the drive surpass the 1,000-pint mark for the first time. In recent weeks, Poquette has gone from one end of Rutland to the other, walking mile after mile, day after day, to provide posters to schools, businesses, clubs and nonprofit organizations.
“Bobby is one of the unsung heroes of the Gift-of-Life Marathon,” said Green Mountain Power’s vice president Steve Costello, one of the organizers. “Starting weeks before the drive each year, Bobby ensures that we get posters everywhere–hundreds of them each year–and on the day of the drive, he is there from early morning to late night, doing everything he can to ensure a smooth process.”
Jaye, program manager at Catamount Radio, said Poquette routinely trains first-time volunteers who work as donor aides, using years of experience to explain how to safely handle blood and paperwork as each donor completes his or her donation. He also runs a tight ship, helping ensure every available bed is filled as quickly as it becomes vacant.
“Bobby plays a key role in managing the volunteers and donors on the stage at the Paramount Theatre,” Jaye said. “He’s often signaling for the next donor before the last one is even out of the seat, because he wants to help maximize the efficiency of the process and keep wait times down. He’s amazing.”
Castleton College president Dave Wolk said the idea for the award was to recognize some of the hundreds of people who play important roles in the GOLM’s success.
“This is an entire community working together to make this blood drive a success, and there are dozens of people in the community who do extraordinary things,” Wolk said. “Bobby is one of them–quietly devoting hundreds of hours to the event, always with a smile and a what-else-can-I-do attitude.”
The revamped Gift-of-Life Marathon—12 Days of Giving will run from Dec. 2 to 16 at sites throughout the Rutland region, and will be the longest blood drive in U.S. history. It starts at Castleton College and ends at the Paramount.
Appointments, which are strongly encouraged, may be made by calling 800-RED-CROSS or by visitingwww.giftoflifemarathon.com. While supplies last, donors will receive gifts from Killington Resort and The Vermont Country Store.
The Gift-of-Life Marathon collected 368 pints in its first year, 2003, and it quickly grew. The drive collected 1,024 pints in 2009, setting the New England record, when New York filmmaker Art Jones filmed the event for the documentary “The Blood in This Town.” In 2013, after two previous attempts to break the national record of 1,968 pints, the GOLM collected a whopping 2,350 pints of blood and shattered the old mark. Rutland has now held three of the four largest blood drives in American history.