Sirens Sound For Gift of Life

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 1:20 p.m. June 25, 2015

Had it not being for blood transfusions he received while he waiting for a bone marrow transplant, Detective Sergeant Dave Ecklund wouldn’t be alive today.

A nurse attends to a seated man
Constable Pietro Grande rolls up his sleeves to donate to Canadian Blood Services

Since being diagnosed with aplastic anemia and obtaining a bone marrow from younger brother Mike that saved his life, the  43 Division officer has been a  Canadian Blood Services(CBS) supporter.

So too is his older brother Andy, a Staff Sergeant at  42 Division who joined fellow officers in donating blood on June 25 to launch this year’s Sirens for Life Campaign – a competition among Toronto Police Service (TPS), 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 months, when donations are typically lower as regular donors are often on vacation.

“Our family knows the significance of the donations and how they benefitted Dave,” said Andy Ecklund. “Ever since that time, we are big supporters of Canadian Blood Services and their attempts to recruit donors.”

Andy Ecklund met four of the six requirements to donate blood to his younger brother.

Three men, two in TPS uniform, stand beside Canadian Blood Services signage
Michael Betel, of Canadian Blood Services, with Staff Superintendent Tom Russell and Detective Sergeant Dave Ecklund

“Mike met all six conditions, so he was the perfect match,” he said.

For Constable Sandra Gillman, of 43 Division, this was the first time she donated blood.

“I have a family member who is ill and has had several blood transfusions in the last year,” said the officer who has been with the Service for a decade. “This is my way of honouring her.”

Constable Pietro Grande has been a regular contributor.

“It is our way of giving back to the community and to those in need,” said the 43 Division officer.

Senior Superintendent Tom Russell and Michael Betel, the CBS donor relations director for south central Ontario, helped kick-off this year’s “Sirens for Life” campaign.

“We get between 2,500 and 3,000 units of blood from our first responders during the campaign each year,” noted Betel. “This is their way to compete against each other and get more donors to come out to our clinics.”

Russell said he’s extremely proud of the officers and civilians who donate blood during the campaign.

“This is a very important cause and and I am real happy with the way in which our people have approached this initiative yearly,” he added.

The Sirens for Life program was launched on the same day that another challenge involving TPS members was wrapping up.

While speaking on behalf of TPS at a CBS event last January honouring Partners for Life teams within Canadian companies and other organizations for their commitment to saving lives by donating blood, platelets and plasma, he met KPMG senior manager Blair Cameron who threw out a blood donor challenge to Ecklund.

“Basically, he challenged me to see which of our companies would get the most blood donations during the month of June,” said Ecklund.

On Thursday, June 25 starting at 11 p.m., TPS members are encouraged to attend CBS at 67 College St. to donate blood. The clinic runs up until 7 p.m. and donors are requested to provide a code (TORO009312) so that clinic staff will know that the donations are for the TPS/KPMG challenge.

Ecklund has been an active CBS volunteer for the last 14 years.

“I required a bone marrow transplant to cure me,” he said. “If I didn’t get this transplant, I was told I had six months live…During my several months in hospital, I was given dozens of blood transfusions to keep me alive. In high school and university, I attempted to donate blood to give back what I had used. Unfortunately, I was unable to do so because the cause of the aplastic anemia I had was never found. So in 2001, I applied and started volunteering my time with CBS.”

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