35th annual Chargers Blood Drive held Tuesday in Mission Valley

Drive started in 1979

SAN DIEGO - More than 1,000 pints of blood were collected Tuesday at the 35th annual Chargers Blood Drive in Mission Valley.

The San Diego Blood Bank says more than 2,500 people visited the blood drive. Donors at the event -- touted as one of the largest of its kind -- met current and former Chargers, joined a bone marrow registry and enjoyed live entertainment. A new Honda CRV was given away at 5 p.m.

A wellness zone offered screenings for high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes and body mass index. Experts on genome sequencing were also on hand, and a fashion show featured Chargers players and their families, including receiver Keenan Allen, cornerback Derek Cox, tackle D.J. Fluker and linebacker Manti Te'o.

The players attending the event included running back Ryan Mathews, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, defensive end Kendall Reyes, safety Eric Weddle and kicker Nick Novak.

"You know, it's a blessing with Thanksgiving around the corner. I'm just really thankful to be able to be here and represent the Chargers -- put the jersey on, get to be here for such a great cause," Novak told a local media outlet.

The drive started in 1979 when Benirschke, a popular placekicker at the time, developed ulcerative colitis and underwent two surgeries to remove his large intestine, which required about 80 pints of blood.

Team officials called the San Diego Blood Bank and asked if they could collect donations, and the next day, about 1,000 fans showed up at the stadium and donated nearly 300 pints of blood.

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