The Red Cross Battle of the Badges brought Santa Cruz Police and the Fire Department out to donate blood in a big way. With the help of other community members the blood drive surpassed its goal of 40 donations'-worth of blood. Photo by Prescott Watson.

Forty-six units of blood were donated in Santa Cruz’s first ever Red Cross Battle of the Badges blood drive, six more than the Red Cross’ original 40-unit goal. The competition, held between the city’s police and fire departments, took place in the Freight House at Depot Park on Saturday, Jan. 14.

The departments and various members of the Santa Cruz public turned out to donate blood for the cause. The fire department won both awards against the police department, the first for most recruited 22-21, and the second for most employees present at the drive 5-3.

Sgt. Michael Harms, police officer with the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) Community Services Division, helped with the organization of the drive. Harms said holding the drive in the beginning of the year was important.

“This time of the year blood banks are historically low, right after holidays,” he said. “We wanted to bring more awareness to blood drives with the battle.”

Harms coordinated the event with Patti Childress, account manager at the Red Cross Northern California Blood Services Region, and Rob Oatey, president of Santa Cruz Fire Fighters Association Local 1716. The planning began between four and five months prior to Saturday.

Community blood drives on a smaller scale happen much more frequently, said Mary Woodill, a Red Cross Volunteer Coordinator who helped manage volunteer participation at the event.

Usually the goals for community blood drives are lower than the standard used at the Battle of the Badges blood drive, Woodill said. The goal for the Battle of the Badges drive was an ambitious 40 units, and by the end of the day that goal was surpassed at 46 units. One unit can save up to three lives.

However, Woodill said, sometimes not enough blood is gathered for the region to sustain its hospitals’ needs.

“Four hundred and fifty units are needed in our region daily,” Woodill said. “When we can’t get that, we sometimes purchase units from Stanford or other areas with a surplus. When we have a surplus, we export our units. Not one unit is wasted.”

Childress said while the Battle of the Badges blood drive is a first for Santa Cruz, the Red Cross in Southern California has been doing it for years. She said she hopes it will become a yearly event in Santa Cruz as well.

“It was a huge success,” Childress said. “We were really excited about that. This was our first time doing it, so it was really exciting for us to have it not just happen, but happen well.”

Childress said she the idea of organizing the Battle of the Badges drive in Santa Cruz was in the back of her mind for two years. She finally made contact with Harms last year, and Harms was on board as well.

“Once you get the right people involved who really want to make it happen then it’s just getting all the logistics down, and everything falls into place,” Childress said. “It was just perfect. You couldn’t have asked for better.”

Childress said the hardest part of any blood drive is getting the location. Typically, the location has to be secured three months prior to the event.

This can make coordinating with UC Santa Cruz in the organization of blood drives difficult, because students who organize a drive would have to approach the Red Cross a full quarter before the event would be held. Childress said her personal goal would be to have a blood drive scheduled at UCSC every month.

Richard Smith, owner of auto repair shop Santa Cruz Motorsports Inc., participated in the Battle of the Badges blood drive on Saturday.

“For four years, I’ve had my blood drawn probably hundreds of times, but I’ve never donated before,” Smith said. “I figured if I could have blood drawn and not pass out, I could deal with it.”

Smith said he was also donating blood for personal reasons.

“[California Shock Trauma Air Rescue] helped save my life four years ago,” Smith said. California Shock Trauma Air Rescue (CalSTAR) is a nonprofit regional air ambulance service. “I had a traumatic brain injury and it was because of [a flight nurse with CalSTAR] that I decided to do this. [Donating blood] just seemed like an ideal thing to do.”


 The next scheduled Red Cross blood drive is scheduled for Jan. 26, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Health Services Agency and Public Health Department in Santa Cruz County.