The American Red Cross and Charlotte Motor Speedway are proud to announce hundreds of people came out to give the Gift of Life on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 for the “LAPS FOR LIFE” blood drive. The Red Cross collected 255 units of lifesaving blood, which is more than two and half times last year’s collection of 96 pints.

Gary and Renee Eldridge, of Charlotte, were both first time blood donors at the 9/11 drive. Their son, Gavan, was born March 30, three months premature. He needed a blood transfusion to survive. That is why Gary and Renee decided to donate blood.

“We saw what Gavan went through and how blood helped him,” said Renee Eldridge. “Now, we truly understand the meaning of what it is to give blood.”

Presenting donors got the “ride” of their lives as well, getting the rare chance to drive their personal vehicles on the speedway for three laps. They also received a pair of Bojangles’ Pole Night tickets and a “LAPS FOR LIFE” commemorative t-shirt. Presenting donors who scheduled appointments online were treated to a pair of Dollar General 300 Miles of Courage tickets.

The event kicked off with a special and emotional opening ceremony, as two New York City firefighters and a New York City police officer served as guests. Musical group “Beyond the Walls” and Trooper Eddie Digh, with the North Carolina Highway Patrol, performed patriotic music. Local first responders were honored throughout the day.

For a gallery pf photos from the event, click here.

People who could not attend the 9/11 blood drive can call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit www.redcrossblood.org to schedule a lifesaving appointment.

The Red Cross Carolinas Blood Services Region provides lifesaving blood to 103 hospitals and must have 1,600 people give blood and platelets each weekday to meet hospital demand. Accident victims as well as patients with cancer, sickle cell disease, blood disorders and other illnesses receive lifesaving transfusions every day. There is no substitute for blood and volunteer donors are the only source.

Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be safely given every two weeks, up to 24 times a year. Most healthy people age 17 and older, 16 with parental consent, who weigh at least 110 pounds, are eligible to donate blood and platelets. Donors who are 18 and younger must also meet specific height and weight requirements.