JACKSONVILLE — In response to an urgent appeal by Carter BloodCare regarding a dangerously low blood supply leading into Thanksgiving, Jacksonville first responders squared off Friday in an inaugural Battle of the Badges blood drive.

The Jacksonville Police Department took on the Jacksonville Fire Department in the friendly competition, sponsored by Whataburger, to see who could recruit the most eligible donors.

First responders recruited blood donors and donated themselves. Donors were asked to vote for one department or the other after their blood donations.

Carter BloodCare works with more than 200 medical facilities in over 50 counties throughout North, Central and East Texas. Each year, they provide more than 300,000 units of blood products to meet patient treatment requirements.

“We all expect blood to be there for us if we ever need it,” said Jacque Decker, Carter BloodCare Manager of Field Recruitment. “But nationally, only 10% of the population donates blood and in Texas, only 4% of the population actually donates blood for the entire population to use.”

This time of year is particularly hard.

“Holiday times are toughest for collections,” Decker said. “Thanksgiving through Christmas, and even through the first two weeks of January are tough until schools come back into session. Our schools make up roughly 30% of the blood supply in East Texas and when they are on break or busy with lots of activities, the blood supply suffers.

“Carter BloodCare as a system (DFW, East Texas and Central Texas) needs to see 1,100 donors a day to supply all of our area hospitals. In East Texas, we need to see 250 to 300 people a day on our mobile blood drives and at our 3 local donor centers (Paris, Longview and Tyler) to meet the needs of our local patients,” Decker said.

When asked why Whataburger sponsored the event, Whataburger Marketing Director Shelly Lipe said “Whataburger believes in supporting the community and this is a way to have fun while helping save lives.”

The drive took place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Jacksonville Whataburger, 627 S. Jackson St. Donors received a free T-shirt and Whataburger while the winner of the battle received a trophy and bragging rights.

For more information on donating blood or blood drives, call 1-800-Donate 4.

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