Vt. Woman Asks for Blood Donations as 100th Birthday Gift: ‘I Can't Think of Anything More Important'

Mary Ojala is asking people to support the Rutland area’s Gift of Life Marathon, or a blood donation effort near them.

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A Vermont woman who just turned 100 years old is asking community members for a birthday present that doesn’t even cost a penny.

“It’s such a nice time to be giving,” said Mary Ojala, of Rutland, who is asking folks to roll up their sleeves for the Gift of Life Marathon—a four-day blood drive in and around Rutland. 

Ojala, who turned 100 on Nov. 22, was a longtime volunteer at the event.

“When you think of what a pint of blood will do for someone, I can’t think of anything more important,” Ojala said in an interview Wednesday with NECN.

Steve Costello volunteers with a team of others to put on the Gift of Life Marathon, and said Mrs. Ojala is one of the most thoughtful people he knows.

“At 100 years old, she is still working to try to help others,” Costello said. “What a great example for all of us.”

Costello called Ojala “spunky” and “outgoing,” and said she is someone who deeply cares about the Rutland community.

“What a great tribute to her it will be to go out and give blood in her name,” Costello said.

Mary Brant with the American Red Cross told NECN the hundredth birthday wish comes at a really important time.

Blood donations always tend to dip during the holidays, and the coronavirus pandemic forced a lot of cancellations of drives, Brant noted.

Brant is encouraging Gift of Life Marathon donors to pre-register by visiting or by calling 800-RED-CROSS. Brant said she is confident COVID-19 prevention steps make participating safe.

“We need people coming out,” Brant said. “The need for blood is constant.”

The Rutland area’s Gift of Life Marathon is happening this year on the following dates:

  • Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Fair Haven American Legion
  • Dec. 16 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Rutland American Legion
  • Dec. 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rutland American Legion
  • Dec. 18 from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Rutland Recreation Community Center, on the former College of St. Joseph campus

As for people elsewhere, Mary Ojala—at a century young—said she hopes they’ll seek out a blood donation center or drive near their homes.

“I would consider that a very wonderful birthday,” she said.

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