On January 7, 2016

Blood drive represents best in Rutland County

By Steve Costello

With war, terrorism and violence topping the news pages and newscasts on an almost daily basis, social media and ordinary conversation of late has been rife with disillusionment. For anyone discouraged by national and world affairs, one need look no further than the recently completed Gift-of-Life Marathon for a homegrown antidote.

Tuesday’s completion of the GOLM–12 Days of Giving marked the end of the longest blood drive in American history, and the 13th chapter of a unique life-giving and life-affirming annual event. For those who have the privilege to be part of it from beginning to end, it’s an annual infusion of goodwill, compassion and celebration of the greater-Rutland area.

First and foremost, the GOLM collects hundreds of pints of blood desperately needed by patients of all kinds. Look around your school, workplace or social club, and you’ll no doubt see people whose lives were saved or dramatically improved by a blood donor’s selfless act. That’s why the GOLM is held.

Beyond saving lives, the GOLM’s significance is multiplied by the fact that it helps feed and demonstrate community spirit, reveals the good that’s in people of all walks of life, and builds bonds that benefit the region in countless ways.

Local Red Cross officials revel in the fact that Vermont, and specifically Rutland County, holds the national record for a one-day blood drive. They are routinely asked by their colleagues in other states how a city of Rutland’s size could set the record, let alone keep it for the past two years.

The answer is simple: the extraordinary spirit of the community.

On Tuesday’s final day, that spirit and the good in GOLM participants were epitomized by two anecdotes.

Early in the day, we posted a photo of Vermont State Police Lt. Chuck Cacciatore as he prepared to donate blood with a colleague. In the next several hours, 25 people and organizations shared the picture and dozens made positive comments about the lieutenant, the drive, and the VSP, exposing the GOLM to nearly 20,000 people and helping bring in donors.

Around the same time, as carpenters and lawyers and firefighters and teachers were rolling up their sleeves, a phalanx of college students poured in to volunteer and donate blood. Two of them were interviewed and asked on the radio about their motivation, and they gave a simple answer that spoke volumes about their character: it’s simply the right thing to do.

The bonds born at the GOLM continue to provide benefits well after each drive is completed. Emme O’Rourke and Regina Kohlhepp, for instance, met at the GOLM and went on to plan this past fall’s extraordinary Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Romances have begun and blossomed at the GOLM, at least one resulting in marriage.

Those kinds of bonds, with Castleton President Dave Wolk, WJJR’s Terry Jaye, officials in host communities, high school and college leaders, local media, and the community at large, create the lifeblood of the blood drive. And they provide a dash of hope and light that reminds us that, for all the trouble in the world, we don’t have to look far to see selflessness, honor and love.

Steve Costello, a GMP vice president, is co-organizer of the Gift-of-Life Marathon along with WJJR’s Terry Jaye and Castleton University’s Dave Wolk. He lives in Rutland Town.

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