The Denison Fire and Police departments will be facing off this week in a friendly rivalry in support of the Texoma Regional Blood Center. The departments will be competing in the annual Battle of the Badges blood drive to see which department can raise the most blood donations.


The annual event comes during what is traditionally a lull and shortage in blood donations for the center during the summer months. Officials with the blood center said this year’s donations have been hindered further by the COVID-19 pandemic.


"We see a great decrease in blood supply typically during those summer months," said Melanie Robertson, donor recruiter for Texoma Regional Blood Center. "It is a way to activate the community to give."


Robertson said the annual event was started years ago as a way of maintaining stock of blood during a period of high demand and low donation. On average, the center sees about 80 donors each day.


During the donation drive members of each department and the community donate in support of one of the departments. In the end, a winner is declared based on which department had the most donations.


"It’s really about the bragging rights," Denison Police Lt. Mike Eppler said. "That’s the big part of it."


While he hopes the police will win this year, Eppler said he sees the event as just a friendly rivalry for the departments aimed at supporting a good cause.


"We always want to be the department on top," he said. "Sometimes we are sometimes we aren’t, but it all is a part of that friendly rivalry."


Eppler said aside from the bragging rights, the real goal of the event is to save lives, something he sees as a part of public service that comes with being a police officer or firefighter.


"The most important part of it is it saves lives and each donation could save three," he said.


This year’s battle of the badges comes during a difficult year for the blood center as donations have been low and drives have been complicated by the ongoing pandemic. In recent weeks, Robertson said she has seen a 30 percent decrease in donations.


"One of the things I’ve noticed with the pandemic is that most blood drives that are scheduled have about 10 donors come in," she said noting that some drives have had no donors. "There is a significant donor drop off. To have a two day event with 80 people is a significant turnout for us."


Part of the decrease in donations has come from businesses who normally support the center canceling annual drives due to the pandemic keeping most employees working remotely.


As an answer, Robertson said organizers with the blood center are looking to expand the Battle of the Badges drive to other cities.


Traditionally, the center has held the event in Sherman, Denison and Bonham to great success. Organizers plan to hold events in Howe, Van Alstyne and other area cities to give the community another chance to donate.


The blood drive is schedule to be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Morton Street Fire Station in Denison. For more information, please visit https://www.texomablood.org.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.