Battle of the Badges boosts blood banks in the Black Hills

The third annual Battle of the Badges blood drive in the Northern Hills collected 132 units of blood, which will be used to help keep local banks stocked during what has already been a busy summer. Pioneer photo by Alex Portal

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SPEARFISH — In it’s third year, the Battle of the Badges blood drive, which pits the Spearfish Ambulance Service, Spearfish Police Department, and the Spearfish Fire Department against each other in a friendly competition to see whose supporters can spill the most blood.

Folks willing to share their sanguine fluid were asked to vote for which department they want their donation to count towards and at the end of the day, the one with the most votes gets bragging rights for the rest of the year.

“We’re stocking the banks to get ready for Rally and just generally our local needs that we have. It’s a critical need this year,” explained Elizabeth Verhey, a paramedic with the Spearfish Ambulance Service and coordinator of the event.

“Typically, donations do drop (in the summer) as a rule, it’s just that this year it’s been more dramatic,” added Jennifer Ash, a donor recruitment representative with Vitalant, the company hired to facilitate the bloodletting.

“Blood usage by patients has increased as people seek medical care they put off during the height of the pandemic and as people resume activities that can lead to more traumas,” Verhey said. “Right now, Vitalant has an urgent need for blood and platelet donors of all blood types to make an appointment in the coming days and weeks to help save lives.”

Ash said it’s speculation, but she thinks the increased need for blood could be caused by the uptick in activity after lower travel numbers during the pandemic.

“They’re feeling safer now to get out and resume their normal activities,” she said. “I think, maybe, blood donation has kind of fallen off the ‘things to do’ list.”

She also said that the need for blood never stopped for cancer patients and those suffering from blood disorders, and with the moratorium on elective surgeries lifted, the demand to keep shelves stocked is even greater.

“So we want to have extra blood for those critical times when it’s unexpected and we just need to have it on the shelf,” she said.

Verhey said the donation event is always very well attended by donors, both of blood and resources.

“We’ve had sponsorship every year that’s been wonderful to have we have door-prize drawings, food and we usually have a pretty good turnout,” she said. “The blood that is drawn here by Vitalant, stays in the Black Hills region.”

Verhey said the police won in the inaugural year, and EMS took the lead last year. This year, the event collected 132 units of blood from 115 eligible donors, which Verhey said is slightly less than 2020. As for the battle of the badges, the fire department pulled 33 votes, the police department had 42, and the EMS took home the prize once again with 59 votes.

To find a blood drive or make an appointment through Vitalant, visit, donors.vitalant.org, or call (877) 258-4825.

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