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The Gift of Life

The New England chapter of the American Red Cross Blood Services is responsible for providing 170 hospitals across the region with life-saving supplies of blood. To satisfy the demand, nearly 1,400 pints of blood must be collected every day.

On Tuesday, Bob's Discount Furniture celebrated the launch of its High School Heroes Scholarship Program with an American Red Cross blood drive at Gillette Stadium. The scholarship program recognizes outstanding high school seniors in Massachusetts and Connecticut who have made exceptional contributions to their schools' volunteer blood donor programs.

Guanah Davis, CEO of the American Red Cross, Massachusetts Region, said the event not only provided a boost in blood donation, it also helped to encourage people to get in the habit of donating regularly.

"Only about five percent of the population donates blood and there are shortages at different times, even here in Massachusetts. We'll collect about 190,000 units a year, but we'll usually have to import another 100,000 units. So events like this are great to create awareness and bring in new donors, as well as attracting people to become repeat donors.

Robin Chamberlain, of Franklin, Mass., donated blood at Tuesday's drive. She began donating regularly around seven years ago, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

"That was my incentive to start," Chamberlain said. "Now, it's so that others can benefit from it, too."

While her mother is now in full remission, Chamberlain appreciated the "gift" that complete strangers had provided to her mother while she was in treatment and receiving precious blood transfusions.

"I try to donate every three months, or so," Chamberlain said. "I have a rarer blood type, so the Red Cross will call me often to ask if I can donate. I'm always happy to. It takes 10 minutes and it saves a life. What other incentive would you need?"

Actually, there was another.

"This is my first time at Gillette Stadium," she added. "This is a great event. This was my way to get in, and it's a great incentive to come."

In addition, Patriots tight end Chris Baker and alumni Joe Andruzzi, Peter Brock, Roland James and Steve Nelson made appearances along with members of the Patriots Cheerleaders squad.

Andruzzi, a cancer survivor, himself, stressed the importance of blood donation.

"Thanks to the generosity of volunteer blood donors, I was able to triumph in my fight against cancer and I am now able to spend precious time with my wife and family. I applaud the high school students who are making a difference in the lives of others by sponsoring blood drives at their schools."

Students in Connecticut and Massachusetts who host at least two high school blood drives per year and achieve an annual participation rate of at least 30 percent of the age-eligible student population will be eligible to win a base scholarship of $250. Schools will also be eligible to win additional scholarships, including a $10,000 grand-prize scholarship.

"Working with the Kraft family and the New England Patriots has been tremendous because they have been very supportive of the American Red Cross," Davis said, "understanding the need for blood and our responsibility as a community to make sure those needs are met."

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