At 17 years old, John Sheppard went off to college while a classmate joined the marines.
“In the big rush down the peninsula in Korea, that was in early 1951, he was wounded and nearly died and bled to death.”
John saw his friend when he returned, and made a personal vow that would span the next 60 years.
“When I came out of there I sat down on the bench and began to cry and I went over and gave a pint of blood.”
He kept a faithful routine the next six decades. This year, John Sheppard earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for donating 315 pints, almost 40 gallons of blood. The result of his private pledge.
“Every time since that time when I lay down to give a pint of blood I think about my friend Gene Prevaad.”
But people like John are a dying breed.
“The older generations are the ones that have stepped up to the plate forever.
They believed that that was a community service that they did for their town and that is instilled in the older generation,” says Nancy Hendrick with Lee Memorial Blood Center.
It takes eight donations at a pint each to make up a single gallon, giving every 56 days that adds up to a year and a half, of rolling up the sleeves.
Nationally, the American Red Cross tracks blood giving and found that older Americans make up the bulk of repeat donors.
“We have donors that come in every eight weeks when we send out the post card reminder they’re right here on time,” says Nancy.
A nine-year survey found repeat donors 50 and older increased 1.4% while the effective number of donors ages 25 to 49 decreased more than 10%. At the same time, the need for blood continues to rise.
“Those donations are always needing to come in, we need 800 units a week just to sustain the health system needs,” says Hendrick.
They hope the John Sheppards of the world will inspire a new generation. Willing to share their life’s blood to someone in need.
“Was an honor for me to give blood each time in honor of what he did for his country,” says John.