HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Dozens came out on Christmas Eve to fill a critical need. They gave the gift of life. There’s perhaps no more appropriate gift in this season of giving.
Blood is critically low at many hospitals this time of year.
If you think about, there's nothing more festive. Empty bags next to beds, waiting to be filled with the blood of donors like Audrey McClay.
"When you leave, you just feel good," she said.
They may not be gifts literally given from the heart, but it is blood that was just there a minute or two earlier. The Red Cross, red blood, all seem fitting in a season of red and green.
"You know in your heart you've done something that's eventually going to help someone,” said McClay. “You may not meet that person, but I feel like it's a good Christmas gift."
Each unit of blood can be used to save up to three lives.
With a long stint in the hospital as a teen, Steve Swann learned firsthand the need for blood.
"It makes you feel good. I'm definitely helping somebody out here today, everybody here is," he said.
But this is Christmas Eve, full of travel and hustle and bustle for many.
"I didn't find the time, I just came,” said McClay. “I just came and when I get home, I'll get the other stuff done."
Ben Wilson, Huntington District Manager for the American Red Cross said winter can be slow for donations, which is why this is an important effort.
"Hospital patients don't get a holiday," said Wilson.
The goal district wide Monday at donation sites in Huntington, Charleston, Parkersburg and Ashland, Kentucky, a combined 100 units.
"It's the giving season right? So being able to give the gift of life is pretty awesome," said Wilson.
Because, as Swann points out, you never know who's going to need it.
"It could be a family member," he said.
While the Red Cross is taking Tuesday off for Christmas, they'll be right back at in on Wednesday.
Hope Moody is a universal donor and tries to give every two months as soon as she is eligible again.
"It's not just a Christmas thing, it's an everyday thing. People need this every day,” said Moody. “Hope is the most important emotion of the season and I'm giving hope. You give of yourself and that's the most important gift of all."
So if you missed your opportunity Monday, you can give the gift of life later this week as a post- Christmas gift to a stranger. And while you may never find out the identity of the person who received your blood, if you download the Red Cross app, you can track your blood and find out the location where it's used. While many stay local, one person showed me his went to Virginia Beach right after Hurricane Florence came through.
The Red Cross beat their goal Monday, collecting 107 units of blood. Almost half, 47 units, came from the Huntington location.