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Eagles and Red Cross team up at Lehigh for 2nd Annual Blood Drive

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By Dennis Bakay and Joe Vallee

When you take the long trek up Route 309 towards the nether regions of Pennsylvania Blood Driveto the land known as "Lehigh" you normally think of one thing; football. Thousands upon thousands of Eagles fans embark on this long journey every year to see their favorite players and newcomers in training camp.

It's a right of passage for Philadelphia sports fans. You haven't fully experienced Eagles culture until you've been there.

Today hundreds of people embarked on another mission besides watching their favorite team hit the field at Lehigh Unversity, and that was to give blood.

The American Red Cross set up shop in Stabler Arena Saturday from 6:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

When our team arrived there at 8:30 in the morning on Saturday they  already had 500 people show up to the blood drive. And, they fully  expect to receive 1,200 units of blood, which is a remarkable leap from last year, which was the first year of this joint effort between the Eagles and the American Red Cross.

Everybody we spoke to was enthralled with the turnout and in a tough  economy like this it's never easy to ask people to give money.

"Everybody gives something back in their own little way," says Bob Ready, an American Red Cross Supervisor for twenty three years. Even though you may not directly know these people, you feel like you've helped them. For me, that's the satisfaction I get. Knowing that the blood somebody needed was there for them. Then, everybody walks out to the field and feels a little better about things in general."

What compels people to give blood you may wonder? After all, you are asking people to essentially give a part of themselves with no reward other than giving the gift of "life."

Blood DriveSome people donate just for the sake of donating. "I do it every year, including last year," says Nadine Derencis of Bangor, PA. "I do it just to help whoever needs it." The same can be said for William Danyluk from Telford, PA. William has been donating blood for  thirty one years, starting in high school. "I've done some volunteer  work for the fire company, and it always seemed like the right thing to do."

We found through our conversations with donors that several of them are impacted earlier in life and they donate for 10, 20, or even 30  years. Some are motivated to help after witnessing a national tragedy. This is the case of Maggie Barber, a volunteer at the event and a retired second grade school teacher. Maggie was inspired to join the American Red Cross after watching the citizens of New Orleans suffer devastating losses at the hands of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "I just felt I had to be there for some reason and I don't know why," mentions Barber. Even though specialists were only allowed to assist the victims by the time she was done training, Barber participates in numerous events for the American Red Cross. "I've had a sister-in law in a severe car accident. I've had several major surgeries and I'm sure I've had some blood given to me. These kind of events are amazing for the number of people who come out and volunteer. It's good fun."

Rick Paul and his nine year-old son Zack from Emmaus, PA also came to donate. However, Zack was really looking forward to seeing the Eagles practice after donating.

"A lot of fans are here," said Zack. "I wanna watch Brian Westbrook because I like seeing a running back score touchdowns."

The amount of blood donated this year surpassed the 700 units of blood donated at last year's blood drive. Anthony Tornetta, Regional Communications Manager at American Red Cross Blood Services (Penn-Jersey Region), couldn't be more pleased. "We finished with 956 units of blood for the day," said Tornetta. "Each unit can help save up to three lives, so that is a total of 2,868 lives that can be potentially helped by Saturday's donations." 

I think it's safe to say that everyone involved with the event scored a touchdown.

Zack would be very pleased.

Check out Aileen Bannon's complete photo gallery of the Blood Drive at:  http://philly2philly.com/culture/lens