First responders out for blood

By Kevin Beese Staff writer

Alexandra Shadday and phlebotomist Joseph Peshel share a laugh during a blood drive in Henry, IL. Bloomington and Normal first responders will conduct blood drives in August as part of the Battle of the Badges competition. (American Red Cross photo)

Normal fire inspector Matt Swaney likes that his department will have the final area blood drive in the Battle of the Badges event, pitting local first responders against one another.

“We have the last slot of five agencies. We may know what we have to beat,” Swaney chuckled about the battle for bragging rights among local first responders.

While Swaney would love for the most people to donate at the Normal fire station or give their donation of behalf of the Normal firefighters’ total, if donating somewhere else, he said bragging rights pale in comparison to the importance of increasing the area’s blood donations.

“We want to get as many people as we can to donate,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you donate, just donate. It is a good thing.”

This is the first time that the friendly Battle of the Badges competition has been held since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five blood drives will be held in August at first responders’ stations to assist the American Red Cross’ blood-supply program.

“It’s a collaboration between the American Red Cross and first responders,” said Red Cross spokesman Brian Williamson. “It’s been met with a lot of enthusiasm. It is all to help get people to donate blood.”

Williamson noted that the emergency services department that gets the most donations will get a trophy, but more importantly, bragging rights over their fellow first responders.

“Donors can decide who they want to support. They can support whichever department they want to with lifesaving blood,” Williamson said.

Frank Friend, public information officer for the Bloomington Fire Department, said having people donate blood is such a vital step to ensure there is an adequate blood supply.

“We see on almost a daily basis the need for it,” Friend said. “We take people to the hospital emergency departments. We work with the Red Cross on disaster relief.

“We have a front-row seat to some of the things the Red Cross provides.”

Friend said anything individuals can do to share the message about the need to donate blood is appreciated.

“We see it from the actual people who need it,” Friend said. “And it so easy to do. It is really easy to give blood.”

Red Cross statistics show that every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.

Appointments are needed for the Battle of the Badges drive. Sign up by using the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Blood drives will be:

  • Bloomington Police Department — 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9 in the Osborn Room at the Police Department, 305 S. East St.
  • Normal Police Department —11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17 in the gym at the Community Activity Center, 1110 Douglas St.
  • McLean County Sheriff’s Department — 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18 in the Bud Light Lounge at Grossinger Motors Arena, 101 S. Madison St., Bloomington
  • Bloomington Fire Department — 1-5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24 in the Training Room at Station 2, 1911 Hamilton Road
  • Normal Fire Department – 12:30-6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25 in the Training Room at the department, 1300 E. College Ave.

All donors will be given a $10 e-gift card to a movie theater and a Battle of the Badges T-shirt.

“This is a fun way to get community partners involved,” the Red Cross’ Williamson said.

He said summer months are normally a slower time for blood donations.

“We need blood constantly, but this time of year, with people on vacation, does result in a lower amount of blood donations,” Williamson said. “We love to see events like this.”