As a teenager, Cindy Kabler had a question for the father of one of her friends, a local firefighter. "Why do you rush in when everyone else rushes out?" she asked. The firefighter smiled and said "someone has to do it and it's a way to give back to my community. Why don't you give back to yours?" he inquired. Cindy thought for a moment and asked, at the age of seventeen, what she could possibly do. The suggestion - donate blood.
It was Christmas time and there was a holiday blood drive held at a local television station. "I thought it would be a good Christmas present for someone, that it might help someone out," Cindy said. As she sat down and waited for her turn, she watched others go through the process. When it was her turn, and the technician swabbed her arm, it dawned on Cindy what she was about to do. "I was afraid of needles, and the woman was very nice and told me to simply watch something else and not pay any attention. She made it painless. I didn't even know I had started and I was almost done already!"
Several weeks later, the Red Cross called and asked Cindy to donate again. She remembered thinking it wasn't too bad the first time around and agreed to donate again. "Pretty soon, I became a regular blood donor, and before I knew it, I was awarded my one gallon pin. I remember thinking 'this is a good way to give back to my community.' "
The Red Cross staff told Cindy that with each blood donation, she could help up to three people. Giving blood became clockwork for her, every 56 days, and she realized it was just something she wanted to do.
When Cindy gave her 30th gallon, the local Red Cross wanted to do something special to recognize her achievement. When she walked into the room, she noticed 30 gallon-sized jugs sitting there – each filled with cool-aid and water to make the gallons look like blood. The local television, newspaper and radio crews came by and Cindy shared her story during the interviews.
"I told them it was just my way of helping people. I'd like to think I've helped save a baby that was born prematurely, or a mother who is now alive to watch her baby grow up. Or maybe the life of a grandparent who witnesses her first grandchild walk for the very first time. It's truly amazing - what your blood can do."
Last summer, Cindy heard about Red Cross Racing, a program designed to encourage loyal NASCAR fans to become dedicated Red Cross blood donors and to raise awareness about the ongoing need for blood donations. Cindy officially registered at redcrossracing.com and has logged each of her blood donations since the program began.
"Blood is the easiest and most valuable gift you can give someone, because you really are giving the gift of life," she says. "That little needle prick is nothing compared to the pain the recipient must be going through. If your child needed blood, would you be afraid of the needle then?"
Cindy encourages others to donate blood and to volunteer with the Red Cross whenever the opportunity presents itself. In addition to the many blood donations she has given, Cindy also volunteers at her local chapter, is a trained Red Cross instructor for CPR/First Aid and volunteers to serve on disaster assignments.
She often shares her personal story, as well as the story of her mother, a 20-year cancer survivor who needed blood products during her treatments. "I wouldn't have had my mother as long as I did without the Red Cross and its blood program."
Cindy says if you want to do something positive and you want to make a difference, consider donating a pint of blood. "To give somebody a chance to live again, wouldn't you want that?"
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.