Nearly 2 dozen fire departments compete in blood drive challenge
The two-month campaign is a way for firehouses and neighbors to showcase their community spirit and bolster local blood supplies
By Martin Espinoza
The Press Democrat
ROHNERT PARK, Calif. — It was a noble effort Saturday, but Rohnert Park firefighters came up just shy of their bid to pull ahead of Lakeport and Middletown in this year's Bucket Bridage Blood Drive Challenge, an annual competition that pits nearly two dozen fire departments in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties.
Saturday's event, organized by Blood Centers of the Pacific, was held at Rohnert Park Fire Station 2 on Country Club Drive. The firehouse drew 51 donors and collected 45 units of live-saving plasma.
That puts Rohnert Park in third place so far in the annual competition, held in December and January. Lakeport Fire Protection District currently has the lead with 58 donors and 53 units of blood, followed by South Lake County Fire Protection District in Middletown, with 52 donors and 41 units of blood.
Firehouses are ranked by the number of donors they bring in.
The two-month campaign is a way for North Bay firehouses and neighbors to showcase their community spirit and bolster local blood supplies. Firefighters also enjoy the competition.
"Anything between fire departments is competitive," said Rohnert Park Fire Marshal Jim Thompson. "That's why they call it a challenge."
Thompson said he did a significant amount of "marketing" to promote the blood drive and encourage local residents to come out and donate. He said he got a lot of support from Rohnert Park city officials, who listed the drive on the city's website. He also put out flyers and mailers announcing the event.
Andrea Casson, who manages donor recruitment for Blood Centers of the Pacific, was at the Rohnert Park fire station Saturday welcoming donors as they walked into the firehouse. Casson and another colleague started the blood drive 12 years ago as a way to generate blood donations during the slow winter months, when there are few opportunities for school and corporate blood drives.
In the winter, BCP relies more heavily on community drives like the Bucket Brigade, Casson said.
A competition among fire departments seemed like a perfect opportunity to generate excitement about blood donation, she said.
"We were already working with other fire departments and knew they had a competitive spirit and a giving spirit," said Casson.
Smaller communities such as Geyserville, Windsor, Lakeport and Sebastopol often come out on top in the challenge, she said.
Some of the people who donated blood Saturday are frequent donors.
Benedict Condon, 58, a Rohnert Park resident for 30 years, said he's been giving blood for the past 40 years. He started back when he was 18 and in the U.S. Air Force. Condon, a second-grade teacher, said he usually gives blood every 16 weeks, and estimates he's given more than 5 gallons of blood in the time he's been living in the North Bay.
"It's something I can do. It's a service," he said.
Aidan Humrich, 36, of Rohnert Park is also a frequent donor, giving sometimes twice a year. On Saturday, Humrich was donating whole blood with her husband, James Panco, 38.
"It's such an easy way to help people and you get an excuse to sit around and eat snacks all day -- what's better than that," she said.
Blood Centers of the Pacific is a little more than halfway through its Bucket Brigade events. Nine more are scheduled this month.
The next one is Tuesday, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue station, 630 Second St. West, Sonoma.
The following day, the Santa Rosa Fire Department will host its challenge at its training tower on 2126 W. College Ave., from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
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