On July 28, 2017, the PVH and MCR Foundation [renamed in 2019 to UCHealth Northern Colorado Foundation] celebrated the dedication of two brand-new mobile blood donation buses for the Garth Englund Blood Center. The buses were made possible by a tremendous outpouring of community support and a first gift that started it all…
Back in late 2015 the Don and May Wilkins Charitable Trust stepped forward with a very special holiday gift to the PVH and MCR Foundation. The donation was intended to help the Garth Englund Blood Center purchase a new mobile blood donation bus. Their “Hero Bus,” then 14 years old and in need of frequent repairs, was increasingly unreliable and getting close to retirement. The gift from the Wilkins Trust was made so that the blood center could continue to provide our community with the critical, life-saving blood that is acquired through mobile drives. Currently 75% of all blood collected in our region is through mobile blood drives.
That generous lead donation was matched by UCHealth and inspired the PVH and MCR Foundation and leaders at the Garth Englund Blood Center to think beyond solely replacing the old Hero Bus. Each year our northern Colorado community is faced with an increased demand for more blood products to respond to a broad range of medical situations; and our region is growing. The need is growing. We thought: what if we were able to expand the fleet to two buses? With two buses we could increase local donations to serve nearly 22,000 people, 2,500 more than before.
The response to our call to action was beyond any predictions. Thanks to the visionary support of our donors, we now have the Don and May Wilkins Charitable Trust Bus and the O. Rex Story Bus, or “Will” and “Rex” as they have affectionately come to be known. This pair of buses allows the blood center to serve two locations simultaneously, provides flexibility in the types of locations they can travel to, and helps diversify the types of businesses and community sites with which they partner. This expanded fleet also increases visibility in the community and draws attention to the blood donation needs of northern Colorado. We’re already experiencing the impact: this past May, the Garth Englund Blood Center didn’t have to purchase a single drop of supplemental blood supply to meet the needs in our communities. Through the blood buses’ expanded reach, they were able to secure enough blood products to care for each and every patient in need.
The Don and May Wilkins Charitable Trust Bus is named for the lead donor who spurred this project into action. Don and May Wilkins moved to Fort Collins in 1937. May contributed to the war effort as both a Certified Air Raid Warden — responsible for leading the citizens of Fort Collins in blackouts and air raid drills — and more meaningfully as a Red Cross Volunteer Nurse’s Aide and part-time director of the County’s Hospital Volunteer Nurses program. Don was a newspaper editor, and between this role and May’s passion for caring for others and love of music, they were involved in the life blood of our community.
The O. Rex Story Bus is named for Mr. O. Rex Story who had a rare blood disease and survived for many years because of the life-sustaining blood transfusions he received from family and friends donating at the Garth Englund Blood Center. During his 12-year illness, the Fort Collins realtor received blood as often as every two weeks. Rex was just 58 years old when he passed away in 1992. Rex’s surviving family and friends embraced the opportunity to support the mobile blood bus campaign as a way to say thank you to the community of physicians, the blood center team, and the selfless blood donors whose service and generosity meant so much to Rex and his family. To read more about this amazing story of giving click here.
At the dedication event on July 28, the foundation and the blood center celebrated the tremendous generosity and visionary support from our health system leadership that made this project such a gift to our community.
We honor the commitment of the leadership gifts which made these buses possible:
- Don and May Wilkins Charitable Trust
- Rodney and Jamie Rice and friends and family of O. Rex Story
- Advanced Medical Imaging Consultants
- John and Sally Conway
- Houska Automotive
- Advance Tank & Construction Company
- Northern Colorado Anesthesia Professionals
- Dr. Robert Marschke and Diane Marschke
- Wayne and Phyllis Schrader
- Larry and Kay Edwards
- Employees of UCHealth
- Hospital Couriers of Denver
- SuperVac, for the exterior wrap on the buses
And the many other contributions made in support of the blood buses.