SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Every year, in the hustle and bustle of Comic-Con panels and off-site events, several attendees set aside time to roll up their sleeves and donate blood.
The tradition was inspired by renowned science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, though he rarely attended conventions. In the early 1970s, he had a life-threatening illness that required many pints of a rare blood type. He felt that he owed his life to donors, so when he agreed to attend the 1976 World Con, he would only sign autographs for people who donated blood.
Longtime SDCC committee member Jackie Estrada consulted with Heinlein to hold a blood drive if he would attend, and he agreed, beginning the longstanding tradition at the convention.
WHAT TO KNOW: San Diego Comic-Con Special Edition
"David Scroggy [who went onto be a VP at Dark Horse Comics before he retired] was the first blood drive coordinator," Estrada says of the drive on SDCC's website. "We also had Theodore Sturgeon there signing his book, Some of Your Blood, which he gave to all of the blood donors. We also had entertainment for the people while they were [donating blood]. I remember that Leslie Cabarga played the piano, C. C. Beck played the guitar. It was a very fun event and Robert was delighted. We've had the blood drive every year since."
And despite this year's convention being a smaller, special edition, the drive will go on.
The San Diego Blood Bank will hold the drive each day of the convention — from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday — at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.
Those who donate blood will receive a 4-pack of Comic-Con pins and a special-edition Comic-Con T-shirt, while availability lasts.
According to the San Diego Blood Bank, Comic-Con attendees, staff, professionals, and volunteers have donated 47,716 pints of blood over the years. Just this year, during the summer's SDCC@Home virtual event, the bank says 12,894 pints of blood were collected. The bank estimates that Comic-Con's blood donations have impacted more than 143,000 lives over 45 years.
For more information, visit the San Diego Blood Bank's website.