In 1979, the Chargers’ Rolf Benirschke fell ill on the team’s flight back to San Diego. He underwent multiple surgeries due to complications with ulcerative colitis, and needed 80 pints of blood. The team didn’t have enough people in the organization to replace that blood, so they contacted the San Diego Blood Bank and the very first Chargers Blood Drive was born. Now in its 35th iteration, it is still going strong and still saving lives.
Photo Gallery: Chargers Blood Drive XXXV | More Photos
“It’s just amazing to me how year after year, whether the team wins or loses, thousands of people come out,” said Benirschke. “It’s fun to see the people, and many of them are the same. They’ll come up to me and say how they’ve been doing it for 33 years. One guy just came up to me and told me he is a 32 gallon giver. Think about that. He gives platelets every two weeks. He’s been touched by this event, so it’s fun to come back and see what this has grown into. It’s really very special.”
Droves of patients, including many children, who need to receive blood transfusions were on hand to thank those donating as well. That included Brianna, a young girl with sickle cell anemia who receives monthly blood transfusions. She handed out special cards thanking those who donated, and her story touched the hearts of the Chargers on hand.
This year, over 1,000 pints of blood were expected to be donated on this day alone, with many donating in the days leading up to the event as well. One of those giving blood for the very first time was Lamika Chandler. Although nervous, she knew it was for a good cause and was determined to pitch in.
“With so many people in need, I thought it was a good reason to come and give blood,” she said as Darrell Stuckey came up to greet her. “I’m a little nervous, but of course the Chargers are here so that is really cool. They are humble enough to come speak with us and take time out of their day to meet with people who are giving back for a great cause, coming to see us to make sure we are happy.”
Nearly the entire team came over the course of the day. Here is what a handful of them had to say about the event:
Antonio Gates: “Anytime we can make any contribution to any human being on this earth, it’s always a pleasure. Seeing people giving up their own blood and doing something to make a difference, this is always a phenomenal day to be a part of.”
Nick Hardwick: “This is a really awesome event because you know you are saving lives. There are a lot of people out there that need blood donated just so they can survive. Their bodies depend on other people being kind to them and taking care of them. So for us to come out and be an attraction and have people come out to get autographs but at the same time donate blood, it’s a great thing for us to be able to do.”
Cam Thomas: “I tip my cap to all these people because they are pretty brave. Me and needles, we don’t get along! This is for a good cause, and anything that helps people like this, it’s just great. This is really, really wonderful.”
D.J. Fluker: “This is very cool to be here giving back to the community. Helping save kids’ lives and adults’ lives, that’s special. Wherever the blood goes, we’re appreciative.”
Danny Woodhead: “I think this is great to have all my teammates here together supporting a cause like this. It’s great to see all the people who are coming out to donate, so it’s pretty special.”
Kendall Reyes: “This event is really awesome. Just knowing where all this blood is going and the people it’s going to help out, that’s huge. Just knowing we can be a little part of what is going on, that’s awesome.”
Manti Te'o: “It’s good for us as a team to be a part of this. Just to be here and bring awareness to this need, it’s important.”
Ryan Mathews: “This is awesome. Guys come out to sign a bunch of autographs for the fans and go back to the back giving blood, so that’s great. I like to get back there and thank everybody for giving blood."
The Bolts return to Qualcomm Stadium on Dec. 1 for the first of four home games in the month of December when they take on Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals. Make sure you are here to cheer on the Chargers. Click here to purchase!