Local News

New Gift-of-Life hit its marks

By Steve Costello

With a national record set last year and a lack of a specific goal at the 2014 Gift-of-Life Marathon – 12 Days of Giving, a black-and-white definition of success seems elusive to a lot of observers.

Since the GOLM wrapped up, I’ve been asked at least 100 times if the new GOLM was a success.

Having spent the previous 11 Decembers chasing what at times seemed to be impossible goals, only to have the greater Rutland community surpass them, I too wanted to have some measure to determine if the new model was indeed successful.

We listed a handful of goals when we announced the new GOLM format in October: Continue and expand the community-building aspects of the drive; collect a significant amount of blood during the normally slow holiday season; give new communities and sites an opportunity to more fully participate; and improve the donor experience by reducing logistical challenges and wait times.

To give up the old model, which was exciting, challenging and ultimately community-building for the region, was no small thing.  But the enormous logistical challenges of a one-day mega drive and the opportunity to share the GOLM much more broadly made the 12 Days of Giving a logical and fun GOLM 2.0.

With 12 days planned, Castleton College, WJJR, Green Mountain Power and the Red Cross reached out to the Army Reserve, Rutland High, Diamond Run Mall, Rutland Regional Medical Center, American Legion, Holiday Inn, College of St. Joseph, Burr & Burton Academy, Elks Club, Fair Haven Union High, Paramount Theatre, Killington Resort and the Vermont Country Store – and all of them stepped forward as partners.

So how’d the GOLM do on the goals we outlined?

1,316 pints of blood were collected, an average of about 110 pints per day – despite overlapping with one of the worst and longest snowstorms in memory. A typical American blood drive collects as little at 30 to 40 pints.

131 first-time donors rolled up their sleeves – 10 percent of the total –starting what for many will become a lifetime habit of generosity.

Rather than just one, five communities – Rutland City, Rutland Town, Castleton, Fair Haven and Manchester – hosted part of the GOLM, building on their own sense of community and a greater connection region-wide.

Students at three high schools organized drives that demonstrated their leadership, organizational skills and commitment to civic responsibility.

Castleton College and CSJ did much the same thing, while Castleton held what many Red Cross staff believe to be the first large-scale drive ever held in a home – President Dave Wolk’s campus residence.

Wait times at most of the drives were nonexistent, with most donors getting in and out in barely an hour.  To some it felt boring after the sometimes-chaotic nature of previous GOLMs, but boring is good when someone is sticking a needle in your arm.

After a dozen years, the GOLM is now part of the region’s psyche, a tradition that generations of residents look forward to each year.  That in itself is a measure of the GOLM’s success – along with the literally thousands of lives and families who benefit from the community’s annual gift to New England.

Thank you to everyone who made this new drive a success. The spirit of giving is alive and well in our community. And that is a true measure of success.

 Steve Costello of Rutland Town is a GMP vice president and co-organizer of the Gift-of-Life Marathon.

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