On July 24, Service members rolled up their sleeves to donate blood and save lives at the Canadian Blood Service’s (CBS) Sirens for Life campaign launch.
Parking Enforcement Officer Everilda Ratnakumar is assigned to the Strategy Management team headed by Staff Sergeant David Ecklund, who had a bone marrow transplant at age 12. He was told that he has six months to live if he didn’t get the transplant and during his time in hospital, he was given dozens of blood transfusions.
“When I heard about David’s story and how blood donations helped to save his life, I was more than motivated to do this,” said Ratnakumar, who is also the president of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Toronto chapter. “This is for a good cause and I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to do it.”
Ecklund’s wife – Jessica – has been donating blood consistently for the last five years.
“David can’t donate, so I am doing it for him,” she said. “Before I met him, I had never donated blood.”
Her husband is unable to donate blood because the cause of the aplastic anemia he had was never found.
Sirens for Life is an annual competition among Toronto Police, Toronto Fire and Toronto Paramedic Services on which organization can give the most blood donations over the summer.
Established in 2008, the program helps to sustain blood donations during the summer when donations are typically lower as regular donors are often on vacation.
Deputy Chief Barbara McLean made her first blood donation in eight years.
As a cancer survivor, a period of time had to elapse before she could donate.
“Everyday, someone benefits from a donation,” McLean said. “It’s also so easy to give. If anyone in our city wants to do something to honour the victims of collisions, crimes or mass casualties, this is an amazing way to do it.”
In 2011, Ecklund and Detective Sergeant. Joyce Schertzer were on the winning Homicide Unit team that took part in a challenge supported by then Homicide Unit Commander Mark Saunders who is now the Chief of Police.
“For me, that event helped put a face to the need and I have never stopped giving,” said Schertzer. “This is a good way to show that we are Toronto strong.”
Ecklund has been an active CBS volunteer since 2001.
“As a police officer and primary responder, I have seen the importance of blood donations,” he said. “It’s obvious when you go to a shooting scene or a mass casualty like the incident on the Danforth Ave.”