SPEARFISH — It was the first — and hopefully not the last — Battle of the Badges blood drive Tuesday at the Spearfish rec center. The drive provided a friendly competition for the Spearfish Emergency Ambulance Service, Spearfish Fire Department, and Spearfish Police Department, in addition to blood donations.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Elizabeth Verhey, paramedic with Spearfish Emergency Ambulance Service and one of the organizers of the event, said of the response, describing that the schedule filled in earlier than she has experienced in previous blood drives.

Verhey said the idea for the Battle of the Badges blood drive came from the Guns and Hoses blood drive that takes place in Rapid City, which pits the police department against the fire department, which provides emergency medical services, as well, in Rapid City. In Spearfish, there are three entities — ambulance, fire, and police — so the Battle of the Badges allowed donors to “choose” their favorite department to support, meaning that their donation would count toward the total number of pints for that department. 

“We’ve had great response from the community, both members and businesses alike,” Verhey said, describing that local businesses donated food, drinks, and T-shirts. “It’s been awesome.”

Verhey said that the 81 appointment slots were filled, with walk-ins showing up to donate blood, as well, and her hope was to hit triple digits of more than 100 pints of blood from the drive.  

“Giving blood anytime of the year is important and needed. There’s a little bit of increased need for blood this time of the year with the Sturgis Rally coming to our area because unfortunately, that does mean that there is an increase in population, so yes, there’s an increase in accidents, but there’s also an increase in illnesses that may require blood transfusions on top of our local population that needs blood on a regular basis,” Verhey said. “So there’s an increased need around this time, and we generally see a decrease in donorship around this time because people are out having fun in the sun, taking vacations, going out with their families, so this was kind of a way to combat that just before the Rally comes to town.”

Verhey thanked all of the departments, businesses, and donors involved and added that the organizers hope to make the Battle of the Badges blood drive an annual event.

“Judging by the community turnout this year, we expect it will be,” she said. 

At the end of the day, Team Police had collected 44 pints of blood; Team EMS, 42; and Team Fire, 20 — for a total of 106, exceeding the goal.

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