We caught up with Russ and his wife, Kathy, during his milestone 100-gallon donation.
How does it feel to reach this remarkable milestone?
It feels great! I thank God for getting me this far because for a while there—I had to fight cancer and I had a kidney taken out—so I had some delays, but I came back. And look where I’m at today!
What makes today such a special day for your donation?
Today [November 10th] is the U.S. Marine Corps birthday. They turn 248 years today.
I started donating blood when I was 17 in boot camp with the Marines. In fact, I was scared of needles. The drill instructor said, “Everybody that wants to donate, take one step forward.” I was the only one that stood there—frozen. Then he yelled, right up to my ear, “I said, anybody that wants to volunteer, one step forward!” I leaped forward—and I’ve been giving ever since!
In addition to being a regular blood donor, Russ has also volunteered for a long list of causes and organizations throughout his life. In fact, he has done so much for the community that several years ago he was even recognized by a very famous someone, well-known for their “favorite things”—Oprah!
Russ was invited to attend one of “Oprah's Favorite Things” television episodes. He was one of three people she called onto the stage during the show to honor for their remarkable community service and volunteer achievements. “She said I was one of her favorite volunteers,” says Russ. “She gave me a red Beetle. I love it! I drive it all the time.”
As a platelet donor, Russ continues to serve his community, but on a whole other level. His platelet donation every couple of weeks goes directly to a patient in a hospital within a few days. Many of those who receive his donations are cancer patients that depend on it to survive.
Have you thought about how your blood donation is impacting someone’s life or even saving someone’s life?
I didn’t think too much about it until one day, when I was giving platelets, a young boy came up to me. He handed me something. His mother said, “That’s a cookie, he made it himself. I apologize it’s burnt. He had leukemia and platelet donors helped get him into remission.”
I ate that cookie and I just smiled at him. He looked at me and I said, “That’s the best cookie I’ve ever had.” And he hugged me… That experience made me want to do it every two weeks. That’s why I kept doing it.