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2 camp out on PMC hospital roof during blood drive

Robert White has been religiously donating blood every 56 days for more years than he can count.

The father, grandfather and community relations director for Piedmont Medical Center's EMS was first in line Wednesday for a blood drive at the hospital.

While the process was no different from the countless times he has donated, White's 1 p.m. appointment was emotional.

That's because he knows Reid Douglass, the child whose cancer treatment sparked the drive - remembering the time he helped the boy's parents install their first car seat, remembering the times the boy bounded down Piedmont's halls besides his mother.

"I have a passion for children," said White, who described himself as a "big kid in an old man's body."

"When I see them suffer, I want to do everything in my power to help. Donating blood was the least I could do."

Buford Compton, Piedmont's assistant director for security, said if Reid has the courage to face cancer treatments, he could have the courage to donate blood. It was the least he could do, Compton said.

On Wednesday night, White and Compton camped out on the hospital's roof to call attention to the blood drive, appropriately titled, "Reid's Race to the Top."

Reid is the 4-year-old son of Jay and Claudia Douglass, Piedmont's chief operating officer. Reid has acute lymphoblastic lymphoma, a cancer of the bone marrow and blood that strikes children between the ages of 1 and 7. He has recently completed the first six months of a treatment protocol that should take more than three years.

"Reid's Race to the Top" collected blood for six hours Wednesday at Piedmont and continues from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. The goal is to collect 117 pints of blood in two days - beating the hospital's three-day donation record of 116 pints.

White and Compton say they will stay on the roof until the record falls. They have sleeping bags, cots, crackers and drinks and an extension cord to power their computers. They are using the hospital's Wi-Fi network to broadcast their messages about "Reid's Race" online.

Each donor is giving about a pint of blood, said Amanda Ballog, sponsorship developer for the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas. Organizers estimate they will need between 130 and 150 donors to meet their goal.

All of the donated blood will be used locally, she said. The blood center provides blood for Piedmont and hospitals in the Carolinas HealthCare System - including Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, where Reid is getting his cancer treatments.

On average, Ballog said, Piedmont and the Carolinas System hospitals need 400 pints of blood a day.

While the blood being collected won't necessary go to Reid, she said, it will go to someone in need. One pint of blood can save up to three people, she said.

Reid is among a number of people who have become the "face" for local blood drives. Earlier this year 9-year-old Brooklyn Channell, who has ovarian cancer, was selected by the hospital blood drive committee - which includes White and Compton.

Brooklyn is the daughter of Chris Channell, a Rock Hill fire captain who also works on an ambulance for Piedmont EMS.

Claudia Douglass said her son has some awareness that his illness is being used to motivate people to help others.

"I'm happy my son can be the face of the blood drive, affect so many people," she said.

Nonetheless, the outpouring of kindness has overwhelmed her.

"It is difficult to comprehend all the love," Douglass said. "We have an amazing team here, a strong culture. Piedmont pride is definitely showing."

Douglass said her son is in good spirits despite the cancer treatments.

The blood drive is just one way to honor Reid.

At tonight's "Light the Night Walk" at Cherry Park, people who are walking for Reid can wear red T-shirts emblazoned with "Reid's Racers." Bracelets inscribed with "Reid's Racers" are for sale for $5 at the hospital administration desk.

Want to help?

The "Reid's Race to the Top" blood drive continues from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at Women's Center tower at Piedmont Medical Center. The drive's goal is to collect 117 pints of blood, beating the hospital's record of 116.

The "Light the Night Walk," sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, is at 7 tonight at Cherry Park. For information, go to lightthenight.org.

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