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National Champions

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Blood Donor Team Wins Red Cross Racing Challenge

When you hear about a team winning a national
championship, you assume some type of athletic competition was involved, right?

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    Maybe football, basketball or baseball.
    Ever heard of a team winning a national championship for donating blood?
    That’s exactly what a
300-member team captained by Glenwood dentist Bob Lothrop and his son Brian accomplished in 2011. The Lothrops’ We Do Dewey team was the first-place finisher in the large-group division of the “Red Cross Racing” challenge, a NASCAR-themed promotion put on by the American Red Cross designed to promote the donation of blood products.
    When the checkered flag was waived on the competition in January, We Do Dewey was standing alone in first place with over 896,000 points, 120,000 more than the runner-up from Santa Ana, Calif., had accumulated.
    The Pasadena Power House, Maine Donor Team, Mighty Michiganders, Missouri Bruiserz, Salt Lake Aphereis Donors and Buckeye Fans were some of the other teams from around the country that achieved a top 10 finish in 2011, but none were close to challenging We Do Dewey, a team named after the American Red Cross Blood Services center on Dewey Street in Omaha. Hundreds of teams were entered in the national competition.
     Donors registered in the Red Cross Racing program racked up points for their respective teams each time a blood product donation was made - 250 points for platelets, 500 for whole blood and 1,000 for double red cells. In addition to adding to their team’s total score, the points were also deposited into the individual donor’s Red Cross Racing account and could be cashed in for a variety of NASCAR / Red Cross Racing-themed prizes, ranging from ballcaps and T-shirts to poker chips and golf balls. Lothrop said the Red Cross Racing program was established as a fun way to promote and stimulate blood product donations. He participated in the program for four years, including the last two as a team captain.
    “You’re giving blood to save lives, but most people have a competitive spirit so you think about it even more when you’re trying to help the team,” Lothrop said. “We got out early and recruited some team members and the nurses at the donor center helped recruit members as well.”
    Lothrop, his wife Rhonda, son Brian and daughter Lisa were among 10 Glenwood-area people on the national championship team, along with Russ Finken, Larry Raabe, Dave and Margo Young and Joe and Mary Foreman. The majority of team members were from the Omaha area, but some signed up from states as far away as Colorado, Ohio, Georgia and California. Team members could donate at any blood collection site in their local community and earn points for the We Do Dewey team.
    April Oppliger, communications and program manager for the American Red Cross Blood Services’ Midwest Region in Omaha, said her office takes pride in having the No. 1 donor team in the nation, but said the credit goes to Lothrop and the donors who were committed to a life-saving cause.
    “They (Bob and Brian) were not only leaders of the team, but role model donors,” Oppliger said. “Through regular e-mails, Bob was cheering his team on and encouraging them all year to continue their donations. He even did some silly things to keep the interest up.”
    As impressed as Oppliger is in Lothrop’s team management and motivational skills, she’s even more appreciative of his commitment as a platelet donor.
     After spending about 15 years donating whole blood, Lothrop started giving platelets on a regular basis in July 1992. As of this week, he’s given 795 units, ranking him third in the Midwest Region. He was the sixth person in the Midwest Region to join the “500 Club.” Almost as amazing as his donation numbers is the fact Lothrop and his son Brian regularly make their platelet donations on Sundays at 6:30 a.m. Lothrop said that time just happens to fit his and Brian’s schedules and they prefer to donate at the same time.
    “We’re kind of partners at it,” he said.
     Lothrop believes giving blood products, whether it’s whole blood, platelets or double red cells, is a meaningful way to give back to one’s community.
    “To me, it’s a donation I know is going to benefit somebody,” Lothrop said. “I’m giving it to save lives and to people who need it. You donate money to (Hurricane) Katrina or the tsunamis, you have no idea where that money’s going. You have no idea if 90 percent or 1 percent actually gets there. If I donate blood or blood products, it’s going to somebody. There’s nobody drinking it in the back room. Even if they sell it to somebody else, it’s still saving a life somewhere.”
    Shortly after the 2011 Red Cross Racing standings were finalized, the American Red Cross announced the program was ending. Oppliger said she expects other donor incentives to be implemented in the future, but she knows the special programs aren’t necessary to keep the old reliables like Bob and Brian Lothrop from making their regular visits to their local donation centers.
    “For donors like Bob, they just keep continuing to donate,” Oppliger said. “This program was just something fun to go with it.”