Don't forget the injured and ill: Give blood to honor hero

As I sat down to write this column, lots of catchy phrases raced through my mind, vying for attention as a clever way to begin.

There were word plays on gift giving, allusions to Scrooge and even the color red. But I realized they were all cliché, cringe-worthy and inappropriate ways to introduce this topic.

The topic is the need for blood donors at this time of year. We're all so busy during the holidays - shopping, wrapping, baking, celebrating and playing - that we forget about the patients who can't take time off. Accidents and illnesses don't stop for the holidays, so the need for blood, and blood donors, is constant.

To encourage folks to remember and to donate this holiday season, the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas is holding a blood drive today in memory of a local hero.

Officer Jeff Shelton of Locust was killed in the line of duty in 2007. Today the Officer Jeff Shelton Memorial Christmas Blood Drive will be in the Locust Elementary School gym, next to beside the memorial park that bears his name.

Meredith Morgan is coordinating the blood drive, and she's hoping for a great turnout. She says the people of Locust are a close-knit community who care about each other and are good blood donors.

Walk-in donors are welcome for today's drive, which begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.

As an added incentive, everyone who donates blood today will be asked to sign their name on a Christmas gift tag. The Community Blood Center of the Carolinas will take those tags and put them on stuffed puppies, which will then be given to children in local hospitals.

This Puppies for Patients program would have pleased Shelton. He loved dogs and was known to pick up strays while on duty. The Officer Jeff Shelton Memorial Park even features a special dog park for the animals he loved so much.

Blood donation really is a gift. One pint of blood, broken into its three components - plasma, platelets and red cells - can save three local lives.

So I hope it won't sound too cliché for me to encourage you to give this very special gift; you'll be saving lives, providing cheer to a hospitalized child and honoring the memory of a fallen officer.

You certainly can't find a gift like that at the mall.