Super blood donor has a simple message for why he gives

Fifty states. Fifty-eight years. For more than a half century, Al Whitney has been giving blood and platelets around the country. He just gave platelets in Michigan for the third time, and has one message for potential blood donors – why do it?

“To save a life,” Whitney said. “It helps people. It could be anyone in need, and you are helping them,”

At age 86 Whitney gives wherever and whenever he can.

“I don’t play favorites,” Whitney laughed, referring to the states he visits. “I love every blood bank, and I love every person who works in them. They make you so comfortable and relaxed.”

Whitney’s journey to give lifesaving blood started in 1965. He said that he saw a sign to give blood and he stopped at the blood bank to donate his first pint. After he left something unexplainable happened when he was stopped at a traffic light.

“I heard a voice that said, ‘Al, you can do more than this.’ True story,” Whitney said. “I’ve heard that again since, but it was what moved me.”

Whitney said he thought about what he could do and called up a local blood bank to see if he could run a blood drive. That blood drive was the first of many. Over time he would run 56 blood drives a year.

“They called me Count Dracula because I counted all the blood. The more the better,” Whitney said.

Given his prolific donation record, Whitney offers this advice for the night before giving blood.

“Drink plenty of water, and enjoy a little dark chocolate,” Whitney smiled.

Sign up to donate near you today at or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

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