Today is the final day of the 17th annual Battle of the Badges blood drive, sponsored by the American Red Cross.
The drive is a competition between the Wichita Fire Department and Wichita Police Department to see which group can donate more pints, collecting “votes.”
Members of the public may donate to one of the teams today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross Donor Center, 707 N. Main. The goal of the drive is to collect 953 pints of blood and 250 platelet donations. The drive started Dec. 15.
As of Wednesday, Fire was leading Police 474-388.
“We’re looking forward to beating the police,” said Fire Chief Ron Blackwell, who gave blood Friday at a west Wichita fire station. “We’ve won it back-to-back now; we’re hoping for a three-peat.”
Though the Fire Department has won more times over the years, Wichita police Sgt. Jeff Davis said that is not a surprise.
“When you think about it, we write tickets and put people in jail,” Davis said. “Firefighters save your life and put your fires out. We just don’t have the public support the Fire Department has.”
Davis is familiar with fire officials because he serves as the Police Department’s board representative for the drive.
“It doesn’t matter who wins or loses,” Davis said. “It’s fun to poke fun at the Fire Department because I know they’ll poke fun at us back.”
Friendly competition aside, both departments agree that the most important thing is simply donating blood to people in need.
“The true winners are the people in the community who will receive this blood,” fire Capt. Steve Schowalter said. “Whether it’s from a car wreck or a cancerous illness, this is our community we’re saving.”
The drive has gone well so far, said Red Cross Communications Manager Jennifer Keller. She said the drive is beneficial this time of year.
“The winter months are a difficult time for us,” Keller said. “People get busy, but people still need blood. Our supply is pretty low.”
In addition to blood, the drive is looking for platelet donations. Keller said that less than 10 percent of people can donate platelets, so she encourages anyone who is able to donate to do so.
“It’s the easiest way to volunteer,” Keller said. “You go and an hour later, you’ve saved up to three lives.”