LIVERMORE -- It's no secret this area is known for great cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, but wine isn't the only red stuff being produced in abundance in this city.
It turns out that more blood is collected each year in Livermore than in almost any other area locale.
Contributing to that honorable statistic will be the 80th Livermore Community Blood Drive, set for 1 to 7 p.m. Aug 15 at Asbury United Methodist Church, 4743 East Ave., Livermore. The "Make 'Em Bleed" drive is sponsored by the Quad City Derby Bombshells roller derby team, and team members (most from the Tri-Valley and nearby areas) will be on hand to donate blood, pose for photos and sign pictures.
The community drive began in December 2002, when Livermore resident Thomas Petty, now president of WSI Smart Solutions, was working at Chevron, which routinely sponsored company blood drives. When he left the company, he had trouble finding a convenient place to continue the donations. He eventually asked the American Red Cross if he could organize his own drive.
"On Dec. 30 of 2002 we had a small blood drive at our church," he recalled. "We then began running a drive every other month for several years, until 2012. In February of 2013 (the Red Cross) said, 'You're doing so well, how about moving to blood drives every month rather than every other month?' So we started doing that. And we've been running the drives ever since."
Red Cross officials eventually asked Petty to join its board of directors for the Northern California Blood Services Region. He is currently chairman of that board.
The Red Cross depends on frequent and multiple blood drives to collect the 300 units of blood needed each day at approximately 30 Bay Area hospitals, said Red Cross spokeswoman Sara O'Brien. Each unit of whole blood can be broken down into red blood cells, platelets and plasma. This means the 4,000-plus units collected in Livermore since 2002 likely helped almost 12,000 patients, including premature babies, cancer patients, trauma victims and those with bleeding disorders.
The Red Cross relies heavily on drives at high schools and colleges, O'Brien said, but those sources, as well as drives held at businesses, tend to peter out during the summer vacation months when regular donors are away. A routine drive as successful as Livermore's is rare, as is a sponsor, or organizer, as committed as Petty.
"As an example, we had 51 blood drives in July with churches all over the Bay Area," O'Brien said. "Between them all, we collected almost 2,100 units. Tom -- one person -- has already put together 4,000 pints.
"As far as sponsors go, Tom is most likely one in a million," she said. "For the Bay Area, he's an angel."
Petty, who estimates he's donated 80 pints of his own blood over the years, tries to guarantee the success of the drives by constantly reminding potential donors of the need for blood. Statistically, only about 38 percent of the Bay Area's population is eligible to donate blood, he said. Of that number, only about 3 percent actually donate. This means needed blood must often be imported to the Bay Area from other areas of the country.
"I'm always beating the drum," he explained. "Years ago I'd actually get on the phone and call people. Now, it's via email and social media."
Petty often partners with other organizations to sponsor the drives, including Team KC, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping pediatric cancer patients. It was established in memory of Granada High School freshman Korrine Croghan, who died in 2008. She received many transfusions in her battle with choriocarcinoma.
"Her platelets would go down, and she needed plasma, platelets and whole blood," recalled her father, Matt Croghan. "It was pretty constant; there wasn't more than a 2-3-week period in 10 months when she didn't need some kind of transfusion."
During that time, Croghan would send out pleas for blood donation to family and friends. While their donations may not have reached Korrine directly, they were desperately needed to replace the blood stock she was using.
Petty hopes the regular Livermore blood drives will attract new donors who'd like to contribute to the community in a much-needed way. After all, he said, you never know when you'll be the one needing the blood; Petty's wife was recently hospitalized for 35 days, and received 15 liters of plasma while she was there.
"She's my new poster child for blood donation," Petty said.
Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are recommended and may be made by calling 1-800-733-2767 or online at www.redcrossblood.org. A blood donor card or driver's license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health.