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Let the blood battle begin

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

As holiday activities kick into high gear and people can lose focus on some elemental community needs, the 10th annual Battle of the Badges is an event designed to keep life-giving resources at an optimum level.

Battle of the Badges, a community-wide blood drive, involves the Hays Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services as they compete to see who can influence the most people to donate blood. The battle started Dec. 11 and will continue through Dec. 31.

Mayor Troy Hickman was on hand at the Hays donation center Tuesday morning to read a proclamation designating Dec. 11 to 31 as Battle of the Badges Blood Drive Days.

"December is a really tough month to get donations because of the holidays," said Cathy Younger, American Red Cross donor recruitment representative for the Central Plains Region. "Everybody is so busy.

"Actually, it's one of the months we need more blood than any other because a lot happens health-wise with people. That's one of the main reasons we hold (Battle of the Badges) in December because we see a decrease in donations."

EMS Director Kerry McCue returned the event's much-sought-after trophy to the American Red Cross donation center Tuesday morning as the battle got started. EMS won not only the distinction of accumulating the most votes last year, but also the honor of displaying the trophy five of the last 10 years.

Law enforcement and firefighters each have won the honor two of the past 10 years.

"It's a little friendly competition," McCue said.

Although he joked about his department's popularity as he visited with firefighters and law enforcement officers in the donation center, he said much of EMS success during previous blood drives could be attributed to the fact they provide a lot of services in the community.

"These guys give tickets," he said, laughing as he indicated a law enforcement officer. "We're the good guys."

Beyond just the friendly ribbing, McCue said, the event serves a vital community function.

"What a worthwhile cause," he said of donating blood. "What a wonderful gift to your friends and neighbors."

All blood types are needed, with one donation helping to save up to three lives. Educating potential donors on the necessity of adequate blood supplies is a constant struggle, Younger said.

"People just don't realize how big the need for it is," Younger said. "(A total of) 44,000 pints of blood a day in the U.S. is what we need."

Leading the way in the Battle of the Badges, first donor Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler said he tries to give blood each year during the Battle.

"But I just got a lecture for not giving more," he said.

As she prepared to draw blood from Scheibler's arm, Amy Patterson, employee of the local Red Cross, told Scheibler he should donate every 56 days.

Donors should be at least 17 years old, or 16 with parental consent.

The blood services location at 208 E. Eighth is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays. Younger suggested donors make an appointment by calling 800-RED-CROSS prior to arrival at the site.

In addition to voting rights and daily prize drawings, donors also are eligible to win a Traeger grill donated by Crawford Supply.

In addition to the American Red Cross donation site, local drives will be at nine local businesses in December.