MTSU proudly accepted the annual “blood battle” challenge trophy for the sixth time in its eight-year competition with Conference USA rival Western Kentucky University, but once again, the true winners are the 3,000-plus neighbors across several states whose lives may be saved by the 1,015 total pints of blood donated this year by the universities’ supporters.
MTSU donors rolled up their sleeves to give 603 pints of whole blood Oct. 29-31, beating the university’s self-imposed three-day goal by 141 pints. WKU beat its 2018 donation goal by 18 much-needed units, collecting 412 pints on the Bowling Green campus over the same three-day period.
This 2018 MTSU tally is nearly a record-breaker, second only to its 2012 collection of 618 pints of blood. WKU set its own record in 2012 to win the challenge trophy with 637 units of donated blood.
“We were hoping that MTSU wins this year, but really we know it’s the community that wins in this blood drive,” said Kathy Ferrell, executive director for the Murfreesboro-based American Red Cross Heart of Tennessee chapter.
“We are so excited to have so many people donating. For this chapter, the campus is really at the center of our community, so we’re thrilled for students to be engaging in our Red Cross mission and helping move that mission forward. It’s been particularly close to our hearts this time of year because of the Salute to Veterans (football) game.”
MTSU supporters are now six-time champs in the “Bleed Blue, Beat WKU” challenge, helping to collect almost 8,705 total pints of blood — more than 1,088 gallons —with WKU since 2010. Because each unit of blood can aid three different patients, the competition has helped more than 26,115 people across Tennessee and parts of Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri.
In effect, MTSU and WKU donors have saved almost the equivalent of the city of Bristol, Tennessee, in Sullivan County. Bristol’s current population is 26,842, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
The annual challenge trophy was presented at the MTSU vs. WKU football game in Floyd Stadium Nov. 2, and Keith Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives at MTSU and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, accepted for the university. Huber helped to encourage donors with his personal story of lifesaving blood on battlefields and in operating rooms.
“I saw the value of blood to the men and women in uniform that I served and during the most dire circumstances of injuries or combat-related incidents,” he said of his 38-year military career, “and also to my family as I watch blood being provided by others.
“I would pray that the public doesn’t need to face those life-and-death situations and the trauma associated with it to recognize that blood collection is essential.”
Ferrell noted that the “blood battle” success will help local Red Cross organizations rebuild supplies already decimated in the wake of blood-drive cancellations forced by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. She added that the need for blood is constant and increases during holiday travel.
“The need is great, and MTSU is leading efforts to meet that need,” she said.
Those who were unable to donate during MTSU’s blood drive can visit http://www.redcrossblood.org anytime and type in their ZIP code to make an appointment at another local drive or blood donation center.