Chargers cornerback Jahleel Addae with donor at last year’s Chargers blood drive.
Chargers cornerback Jahleel Addae with donor at last year’s Chargers blood drive. Courtesy photo

On the eve of the 37th annual Chargers Blood Drive, there isn’t much concern about whether there will be a 38th edition next year just because the local National Football League team is thinking of moving, the head of the San Diego Blood Bank said Monday.

The blood drive is one of the country’s largest of its kind, thanks to the involvement of current and former players.

Chargers executives have been trying to get a new stadium built in San Diego for around 15 years, and have acquired land in Carson, in Los Angeles County, on which they could build a facility in concert with the Oakland Raiders. Meanwhile, city of San Diego officials are trying to get the team to negotiate over a planned stadium in Mission Valley.

With the St. Louis Rams also wanting to move to the potentially lucrative Los Angeles market, NFL owners could decide early next year which team, or teams, get to go.

San Diego Blood Bank CEO David Wellis told City News Service that it won’t matter if the Chargers are playing in San Diego or L.A. next year, because his organization has growing operations to the north.

“We’ve enjoyed a 37-year relationship (with the Chargers) and look forward to many years to come,” Wellis said.

He said it’s not well-known, but the San Diego Blood Bank has been serving hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange County for many years. Neither location has its own blood bank, he said.

The SDBB operates a distribution center in Buena Park and plans to open one in Los Angeles County early next year, according to Wellis. The blood bank also has a donation facility at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach.

Chargers Blood Drive XXXVII will open Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Town & Country Convention Center in Mission Valley. As usual, Chargers players and alumni will be on hand, along with musical entertainment and the Chargers Girls.

New this year, Illumina Inc. will host the Genome Zone, an interactive exhibit with information on DNA sequencing and how genetics play a role in human health. An extra tube of blood will be drawn from 100 pre-selected donors to provide DNA for sequencing, which will be available for research.

Nearly 1,100 pints were collected at last year’s blood drive. Wellis said the goal this year is 1,200 pints.

The blood drive started in 1979 when Rolf Benirschke, a popular Chargers placekicker at the time, developed ulcerative colitis and underwent two surgeries to remove his large intestine, which required about 80 pints of blood.

Team officials called the San Diego Blood Bank and asked if they could collect donations, and the next day, about 1,000 fans showed up at the stadium and donated nearly 300 pints of blood. More than 72,000 pints have been collected in the years since then.

Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for children ages 2 to 12. Blood donors can request a refund after they give blood, or they can donate their fee to the blood bank.

Parking is free only for blood donors. Parking cost at the hotel for other attendees is $4 per hour, to $8 maximum.

Donors must be at least 15 years old and weigh at least 114 pounds, and those 15 and 16 years old must have parental consent.

— City News Service