A fan giving blood at a Chargers annual blood drive. Photo courtesy of San Diego Chargers

The Chargers’ annual blood drive Tuesday at the Town & Country Resort came at a great time for the San Diego Blood Bank, offsetting the typical holiday dip in donations, the head of the blood collection agency said.

The 36th edition of the blood drive included appearances by Chargers players, musical entertainment and a walk-through exhibit on the human heart.

Blood Bank CEO David Wellis told City News Service that the annual event is well-timed.

“It’s a critical time of year, not just here in San Diego but across the country,” Wellis said. “What happens is people go visit their families … and colleges and universities are closed, so donations go down.”

Meanwhile, demand goes up because a lot of elective surgeries take place during this time of year, and “things happen during the holidays,” Wellis said.

The mismatch between supply and demand isn’t as bad as last year, however, when a nationwide shortage of saline — which is used during the donation process — reduced the Blood Bank’s ability to draw blood, said Wellis, who has been in charge of the organization for about a year and a half.

He said the event is also playing a role in moving toward what he calls “Blood Bank 2.0,” in which the group will concentrate more on heath and wellness issues.

The blood drive included a wellness zone in which people could get screenings and learn from UC San Diego scientists how donations also help with their research.

Wellis said that “a tube of blood could save thousands or millions of lives” through a medical breakthrough.

The drive started in 1979 when Rolf Benirschke, a popular Chargers kicker 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.

The event is now touted as one of the nation’s largest annual blood drives.

Admission to the blood drive, which runs through 6 p.m., is $5. Donors can have the entry fee refunded and their parking validated.

—City News Service

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