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Donation Heart Ribbon

More Than 2,000 Donate At San Diego Chargers Annual Blood Drive

Evening Edition

Aired 11/26/13 on KPBS News.

The 35th annual Chargers Blood Drive drew close to 2,500 people to the Town & Country Convention Center in Mission Valley on Tuesday.

The 35th annual Chargers Blood Drive drew close to 2,500 people to the Town & Country Convention Center in Mission Valley on Tuesday. The event is one of the largest of its kind, and has information booths, food and live entertainment. The biggest attraction, however, is the San Diego Chargers football players and cheerleaders, who sign autographs and take pictures with people who come to donate.

The event began in 1979 to get blood donations for a Chargers player. Rolf Benirschke was a popular kicker and needed 80 pints of blood to undergo surgeries. The Chargers called the San Diego Blood Bank because they didn’t have enough employees to donate blood, and they asked the public to help. An impromptu blood drive was held the next day.

"It really started around the love affair that the city had with the team,'' Benirschke said at the 2011 blood drive, when more than 1,000 pints were collected. "I just happened to be the one that was sick. Some people waited four hours to give blood.''

Lynn Stedd of the San Diego Blood Bank said the large turnout at that first blood drive was an indicator that an annual event would be successful.

“Thousands of people showed up, we could only take 289 pints that day because we weren’t prepared, but now we are. And that's why it's such a big event, and such a life-saving event right before the holidays,” Stedd said.

The Chargers Blood Drive set a Guinness World Record in 1997 for the most blood collected at a single location in one day. Over the past 34 years, the blood drive has collected more than 70,000 pints of blood.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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