The annual Brenda Riggins Memorial Blood Drive has an even deeper meaning this year. That’s because one of the key members of the Brenda’s Butterflies blood-donor team, Teddy Martin Sr., recently received platelets during a hospital stay.
Teddy Martin II expressed profound gratitude to the donor of those platelets, stating that the gift extended his father’s life. Now, Teddy Sr.’s daughter, Taylor Martin, said she plans to make her first-ever blood donation in her father’s honor at the memorial drive this Saturday at Patrick Henry Community College.
It’s a similar story to Teddy Martin II’s first donation, which he made in honor of his aunt, Brenda Riggins, the namesake of the drive. His decision came after his aunt’s cancer diagnosis, when she shared her thoughts with the nephew she called a grandson.
“Brenda’s first thought when she was told she had cancer was she was not eligible to donate anymore. I told her that while she may not be able to, I could,” Teddy Martin II said. “After I donated, I compared my one donation to her lifetime of donations and her driving others to donate with her.
“I realized having drives in her memory and her story could inspire others to donate to help save others’ lives.”
The idea for the memorial blood drive came shortly after Riggins’ passing in July 2014. She had donated blood 128 times, totaling approximately 16 gallons of lifesaving liquid. The family also found it fitting to have this drive at Christmastime, because the holidays were Riggins’ favorite time of year.
Since the first Christmastime blood drive in January 2015, more and more donors have made rolling up their sleeves part of their holiday tradition.
“More than 400 donations – 50 gallons – have been made in Brenda’s memory in the past five years,” Teddy Martin II said. “The Red Cross refers to donations as units, but their units are equal to pints.”
Donors elect to give either one or two pints, and the drive averages approximately 40 donations. His personal goal is 50 donations. The group’s best drive collected 51 donations.
Riggins’ family also has a summer blood drive, but it connects to Christmas, too.
“Brenda loved Christmas. When she was told she only had weeks to live, one of her last wishes was to celebrate Christmas one more time, since she knew she wouldn’t make it to December, Teddy Martin II said. “Therefore, we have drives twice a year to honor her wish – July’s ‘Christmas in July’ and December.
“Both drives are Christmas-themed, with some of her Christmas decorations, her Red Cross memorabilia, her favorite music and her memory reel playing.”
Saturday’s event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at PHCC’s Frith Building, located at 645 Patriot Ave in Martinsville, and event organizers say they anticipate a big crowd of donors.
To streamline the process donors can use the Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767) to schedule a time to donate.
Brenda’s Butterflies has 10 available slots, and although appointments have priority, walk-ins also are welcome.
Teddy Martin II noted that slots typically become available during the day because of life events such as illness. He said walk-ins help the group achieve their goals and save lives.
A Red Cross customer service representative encouraged donors to drink plenty of water before giving blood and to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
A donor should bring a photo identification card, such as a driver’s license, to each appointment. If donors have given in the past, they may also bring their Red Cross donor cards.
Blood donations typically take an hour, from the time someone checks in, fills out any necessary paperwork, completes testing before the prick, has their blood drawn and leaves.
“PHCC has been an excellent host as our drives have moved a few times to accommodate more donors,” Teddy Martin II said. “Each donation is able to save up to three lives and has an immeasurable impact in our community.
“She [his Aunt Brenda] was a truly selfless person; always thinking of helping others and how she was happy, happy, happy.”