GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — What would motivate you to visit all 50 states? A man from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is rolling up his sleeves and saving lives as he marks each state off the list.
“Every two seconds in the United States someone is in need of life-saving blood,” said Lisa Landis of the Greater Pennsylvania Region of the American Red Cross.
Vinton Smith of Gettysburg has been donating blood every 56 days for decades.
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“The very first donation I made was in high school over 34 years ago,” said Smith. “I was inspired by my dad’s commitment to give blood regularly, and both my parents’ commitment to help others in the community.”
Smith’s community, however, is larger than you might think.
“My quest now is to donate at least one unit in all 50 states,” Smith added.
Smith’s goal of donating a unit of blood in every state is sending shockwaves through blood donation services nationwide.
“I’m not even sure our team at national headquarters has heard of someone undertaking such a journey,” said Landis.
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Smith’s journey started 14 years ago when he got a new job that required lots of travel.
“The first time I was away from home and I was eligible, I thought, ‘I guess I can give blood here.’ And I was in Florida so I donated blood in Florida,” said Smith.
Now, Smith has donated blood in 46 states. Only Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii remain on Smith’s list.
“I think Hawaii would be a great place to cap it all off,” Smith said.
Smith knows that his blood is saving lives, but he wonders which lives specifically.
“Who’s going to be on the receiving end of that? Who’s going to benefit from that? Of course, I’ll never meet them, I’ll never know who they are, but that’s ok. But that mystery to me is inspiring to think about, those who are benefitting from an act of kindness not just myself or everyone who donates blood,” Smith said.
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Smith isn’t only focused on human lives either, he takes grafts and creates saplings of “witness trees.”
“That tree witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg and provided aid and comfort to soldiers waiting to come into the church where they cared for some who may have lost their limb or lost their life, and that tree was one of the last things that gave them comfort,” Smith added.
Smith’s blood donations give him comfort, even if the focus is on family trees instead of actual trees.
“The chance for a mother to see her son graduate, a father to walk his daughter down the aisle during her wedding, the chance for a grandparent to hold their grandchildren and get to know them,” said Smith. “There are few things that somebody can do that have such a big impact on people’s lives.”
Smith hopes that his story can inspire others to donate blood as well.
“A few minutes of time to save their life and enable them to have more moments with family and loved ones that will have impacts that transcend generations with their families,” Smith concluded.
Smith already has a new goal of donating platelets in all 50 states. He has donated platelets in more than 20 states already.