By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- It was early in the morning on Nov. 14, when all of St. Lucie County was waking up, getting ready for work and school and getting their blood pumping.
Which was exactly what Scott Van Duzer was hoping for.
"It's pretty cool to see the community come out and come together to make a difference," he said.
By the end of the day-long event, 1,036 pints of blood were donated to help local blood banks and hospitals. More than 3,000 people will benefit from the donations.
Nov. 14 was the annual "Be a Hero Day," held county-wide to raise awareness for the need to donate blood. The event is organized and put on every year by the Van Duzer Foundation, Mr. Van Duzer's nonprofit. Now in its fourth year, the event has grown in size and become a multi-team event involving hundreds of donors in both Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie.
"This has grown so much," Mr. Van Duzer said. "The first year we had 10 sponsors. Last year we had more than 40."
In Fort Pierce, more than a dozen bloodmobiles were lined up at Mr. Van Duzer's business, Big Apple Pizza. Volunteers were working hard setting up the registration sites and a line of donors had already begun to form.
It all began when Mr. Van Duzer learned that two children needed blood to help combat cancer. Because of a blood shortage, one of the children had to wait hours before receiving a donation. Since then, blood donation buses have been regular sights at the pizza parlor.
Since it's beginning in 2008, the annual blood drive has collected more than 1,000 pints of blood, and led to friendly competitions between the cities of Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie, as well as St. Lucie County employees and employees of local businesses.
Already in line at 8 a.m. was Brenda Stokes, who had donated before.
"I think it's a great cause," she said.
For others, it was their first time giving blood.
Diana Chaves sat quietly waiting for her iron to be tested. A first-time donor, the Indian River State College student was excited about giving blood.
"I walked over," she said. "I think it's something good you have to do. So many people need it."