It's a battle for blood between Sioux Falls fire rescue and the city's police department. The 18th annual "Heroes Behind the Badges" kicks off Wednesday and it couldn’t come at a better time.
A strong cold and flu season has dropped the number of blood donations down 18 percent, during a time of year that is especially difficult for the Community Blood Bank.
"We need about 550 unites every week just to meet the demands here in this area," Blood Bank Donor Recruiter Rita Nelson said.
"Heroes Behind the Badges" is aiming to exceed that with a friendly competition beginning Wednesday. The fire department and the police department work to recruit the most blood donors for the community's blood supply.
"All the members that can, will donate, recruit their own family members, friends, people in the community, it's real friendly but we want to win," Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Division Chief Jeff Helm said.
The annual event comes during a key time this holiday season. Nelson said is important to ensure the availability of blood because Christmas and New Years are positioned mid-week and there is no way to collect blood during the extended holiday weekends. And while the blood donations decrease, the need does not.
"The patients here in the hospital from surgeries, to accidents, cancer patients who all need blood every day for parts of their treatments," Nelson said.
More than 1,000 units of blood were donated in 2012, a new record. And don't let them fool you, the competition between departments is fierce. Last year, it was the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue taking home the victory.
"We're competitive so we're hoping for another win," Helm said. "Back to back wins would be great."
"Last year, I think we scared them, that's why they really kicked it up a notch, which was great to see," Sioux Falls Police Officer Rose Barker said.
And while both want to come out on top in 2013, the sick and injured are the biggest beneficiaries.
"There aren't any winners and losers, people benefit from this competition and we are happy that we can do it. We want to give back and have everybody give," Officer Barker said.
The department with the most donations will give $350 to a charity of their choice. The police have chosen the Special Olympics of South Dakota. The fire rescue has designated Children's Home Society.