It is an event in Pierre and Fort Pierre fourteen years strong: the Tyler Wilcox Memorial Guns N' Hoses Blood Drive pitting law enforcement against firefighters and the community as a whole in a friendly competition while keeping the memory alive of a life lost in 2005.
"I like giving blood because I give back to the community that may need it. My mother had cancer and needed blood so this is my way of giving back what she used," Blood donor and Fort Pierre Volunteer Firefighter Tacy Kennison said. "I didn't know him personally but every year, I donate."
Tyler Wilcox died of cancer after a three-year battle in 2005. He was 19 years-old.
"His dad was a Ft Pierre firefighter and we want to always help our fellow firefighters. He was a member of our community and a young kid that didn't get to go on with his life because cancer took over and he needed blood because of the type of cancer," Kennison said.
His mom Jeri Wilcox said Tyler was a 'wonderful, sports-loving, great kid'.
"During that time, he had three or four surgeries and had numerous treatments, chemotherapy, often needed blood, in particular platelets," Wilcox said.
She says Tyler was the mastermind behind this blood drive event.
"He said 'how can I pay back, give back the kindness given to me?' So, his dad, with help from Fort Pierre Fire Department started the first blood drive in 2005," Wilcox said.
It was not long after Tyler died that this event was born. Year after year, it kept growing and became the 'Guns N' Hoses' memorial competition.
"These people are his friends, some that are his classmates, friends of ours and total strangers who give because it's the right thing to do," Wilcox said. "We think, if he was alive today, what would he be doing? We believe he'd be affecting the world in a positive way and he is."
Organizers collected 125 total units of blood for day one. They hope to collect 365 total donations by the end of the competition on Wednesday.
Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Pierre Faith Lutheran Church 11:30 to 6:00
Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Pierre Faith Lutheran Church 8:00 – 2:30
The event has collected 2,023 units of blood in Tyler's memory since 2005 and have had 323 first time donors! Donors can just walk-in or they can schedule an appointment by calling Vitalant at 1-800-996-3688 or they can go to www.vitalant.org to schedule their own.
o Donors must be at least 16 years old. 16 & 17 yr. old donors will need a signed parental consent form that you can get at the blood drive or at www.vitalant.org, donor forms, bottom of the page under RESOURCES
o Valid picture ID
o Donors must be in good health and cannot have a cold or be on antibiotics
o Tattoos are OK if they were done in a licensed facility
o Many cancer survivors are able to donate
o If you have eligibility questions please call 1-800-996-3688