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San Antonio’s 120-gallon-plus blood donors encourage others to give

All-star trio has given 372 gallons through the years at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center – and they’re still donating 

Every blood donor has a story about why they started giving, and the three blood donation superstars who recently gathered at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center to encourage others to donate are no exception. 

Ron White, Marcos Perez and Gerald Perkins were honored as blood donation all-stars at a thank-you event at the center’s Donor Pavilion. 

White, who started giving at the age of 17, has donated 131 gallons. Perkins, who first gave blood in 1950, is at 121 gallons just at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. Perez was featured in news reports around the world recently after reaching 120 gallons. All three have donated a combination of whole blood and platelets. 

“It’s not every day you get to meet true heroes, but these three men are true heroes,” said Adrienne Mendoza, Vice President for Blood Operations at the center, which is a subsidiary of San Antonio-based nonprofit BioBridge Global. 

All three all-star donors encouraged the community to follow their lead, especially as the blood supply is battered by canceled blood drives during the COVID-19 pandemic and growing needs from the 100 hospitals and clinics the center serves in Texas. Platelet donors can give every two weeks, up to 24 times a year, and whole blood donors can give every 56 days. 

“If people in this town can back the Spurs, they can back the blood bank, too,” said Perez. “They need to pay it forward – one donation saved my life, and that means thousands of people are alive today.” 

Perez, who was born prematurely, received a transfusion as a baby. When he became eligible, he started giving platelets on a regular basis at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. He visits every two weeks, and even after his recent retirement from the U.S. Postal Service, he plans to keep donating. 

White first gave blood as a teenager, but he began regularly donating platelets after meeting a girl at his church who needed blood as she struggled with leukemia. He hadn’t seen her in nearly 15 years – until the all-star donation event, where she came to thank him in person. 

“It’s because of donors like you that I’m here today,” said Arden Cantwell, who now is in college. 

White, who like Perez is retired, also makes regular platelet donations. He doesn’t mind forcefully encouraging people to donate as well. 

“People ask me why I donate all the time,” he said. “I say, ‘Why in the hell don’t you donate, too?’” 

Perkins, who at 90 is one of the center’s oldest regular donors, started giving when a blood drive came to the International Harvester factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1950, when he was 20 years old. 

“They told me you didn’t have to do any heavy lifting the rest of the day if you gave blood,” Perkins said with a chuckle. “Sounded good to me.” 

Perkins, who was drafted soon after his first donation and then made the U.S. Army a 30-year career, worked hard to find places to give blood while in the service. 

“When I was stationed in Hawaii, they didn’t collect blood at the base,” he said. “I had to take a bus to the blood center in Honolulu to donate.” 

Perkins also found ways to give while stationed at Heidelberg, Germany, Washington, D.C., and other places he said he just can’t remember anymore. None of those donations count toward his total of 121 gallons at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. 

His final assignment was at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he started donating at the base’s blood center. He began giving at the local blood center – which opened in 1974 – when he retired from the military in the 1980s. 

“It’s a wonderful way to be able to help people,” he said. 

At the end of the thank-you event, which featured a stack of five-gallon buckets representing the 372 gallons the men have given at the center, all three walked to the nearby donor room and added to their totals. 

“It’s the least we can do,” White said.