Donate blood at the 15th annual Tyler Wilcox Memorial Guns n’ Hoses Blood Drive.

This special blood drive began in 2005 when Tyler told his parents he wanted to pay pack all the kindness and generosity shown to him by blood donors. Tyler had needed over 250 units of blood products during his battle with cancer. Although he passed away before the first designated blood drive, the annual event continues in his memory.

The three-day blood drive starts Monday, Dec. 2, at the Fort Pierre Fire Station, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The next day, Tuesday, Dec. 3, is at the Pierre Faith Lutheran Church, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, is again at the church but from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. While supplies last, every donor receives a free T-shirt. There is also great food available each day.

Donors must be at least 16 years old (16 yr. old donors need a signed parental consent form, available at the drive locations or contacts). Donors need to have a valid picture ID, be in good health (no cold or on antibiotics. Tattoos are ok if they were done in a licensed facility. Many cancer survivors are able to donate. For more information, call 605-225-7732.

“Since 2005, we have collected 2,459 units of blood in Tyler’s memory, and have had 385 first time donors,” said Abbie Arneson with Vitalant blood services. “When you sign in to donate, you get to choose if you are donating for Team GUNS (law enforcement organizations) or Team HOSES (firefighters organizations). Bragging rights and a large trophy are up for grabs. Last year the Guns came out victorious, beating the Hoses 226 to 195. Last year we set a Guns n’ Hoses record by collecting 420 units of blood and had 65 first time donors.”

This year’s goal is 400 units of blood. “But, I know we can set another record. Let’s bring in 440 units,” said Arneson. Donors can just walk-in, or they can schedule an appointment by calling Vitalant at 605-225-7732 or visiting www.vitalant.org.

Tyler Wilcox, an athletic sophomore, was diagnosed at 16 with osteosarcoma in his left tibia. This drastically altered his life, though he kept a positive attitude. He had written in a senior essay, “Keep a positive attitude or be miserable; to never take anything for granted … to make the best of even the worst situation.”

According to family and Vitalant, Wilcox received blood continually as he endured seven surgeries, and during chemotherapy when his platelets would fall dangerously low. The estimate is that Wilcox received approximately 189 units of platelets and red blood cells. When you add the blood products he received during his combined 32 hours of surgeries, it puts the number over 250. It was actually Tyler’s idea to hold a blood drive to help replenish the blood he had used. His father was a volunteer fireman for the Fort Pierre Fire Department. Tyler passed away 14 days before the first blood drive was held in December 2005.

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