BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
It takes 96 donations of one pint of blood each time to reach 12 gallons worth of blood donations.
And at noon Wednesday, nine people hit that mark at Houchin Community Blood Bank. The blood bank organized their milestone donations to all take place in honor of Dec. 12, 2012, or 12/12/12, the kind of date that only occurs once in a century.
"It says to us how committed they are to the donation process," said Greg Gallion, president and chief executive officer of Houchin.
Though only nine people donated right at noon, 12 people in total donated their 12th gallon for the celebration. Two went Tuesday and one on Wednesday morning.
Less than 3 percent of a given population are usually blood donors, Gallion said. But for those who do donate, it's not terribly uncommon to reach the 12-gallon mark. Houchin's walls are lined with photos of those who have donated 10 gallons, and Gallion said he believes many of them have already given much more.
But, he said, he felt is was important to honor those who have committed to giving blood two to four times a year for years. To mark the occasion, donors received a Houchin license plate frame, a shirt and the chance to win a $500 Walmart gift card.
Candace Tiede, 60, started donating blood in 1988. Her dad was having open heart surgery, and she donated in case he needed it during surgery. She kept giving after that, she said, because she wanted to give back to the community.
Unfortunately, she couldn't give her last pint to make it to 12 gallons. She has cancer and won't be able to donate again until she is cancer-free for five years.
"I wanted to give until I couldn't, not knowing that would come so early," Tiede said.
Tiede made sure that last pint did get donated, though. She brought a friend from work at Laurelglen Bible Church who was making her first-ever donation.
And when Tiede is able to give again, she will, she said.
"It feels good to give blood to the community," she said.
Pat Lynch, 52, first donated blood as an extra credit assignment in high school in 1979. Since that first time, she's donated almost every eight weeks, the minimum amount of time required to wait between donations. She's only waited longer if she wasn't feeling well or her iron level was too low to donate, she said.
Most of Lynch's family has been in the military. She donates blood, she said, as her form of patriotic duty since she was never in the military.
And after so many donations, the process doesn't make her nervous, she said.
"It's amazing how easy it is," she said. "The pain of a little stick, a needle stick, doesn't matter that much when you're saving a life."
Charlene Scharpenberg, 78, first donated in 1974 when her mother-in-law was in the hospital. She hasn't been able to consistently donate since because she enjoys traveling, she said. After visiting some countries, a three-year wait is required before donating blood again.
"I could be at 18 or 20 gallons by now, but everybody has their priorities," she said.
Still, giving blood is important to her because it helps the community, she said. She plans to continue donating until she's too old to do so, she said.
"I hope everybody considers doing this," she said.