Troy donor Leo Grilliot made his 175th lifetime blood donation Thursday, April 7 at the downtown Dayton Community Blood Center, but he wasn’t ready to celebrate it as a milestone. To Leo, he’s still one donation away from his 22-gallon achievement – and a new license plate.
Leo arrived at CBC in his red Ford Taurus, sporting a custom Ohio license plate that reads “21 GALL N.” For anyone who doesn’t immediately get the message, the plate is held in place by a CBC “Blood Donors – Save Lives” license plate frame.
Leo is a “Donor for Life” who strives to donate whole blood as soon as he is eligible for an average six donations a year. To stay on schedule he gladly goes from town to town, donating at familiar blood drives like Troy Church of the Brethren, the Senior Center of Sidney-Shelby County, or the Knights of St. John in Piqua.
There are also days like Thursday, when he hops in the Taurus and drives to the Dayton Donor Center.
“I’m from the old school,” he said. “You give, and it keeps you healthy because your body is always making new blood.” It’s not a scientific fact, but it seems to work for Leo. Illness has been rare, but when a health problem forced him stop donating for a brief period, he couldn’t wait to get back on track.
Leo remembers very well how his journey to nearly 22 gallons of blood donations began. “When our oldest son was born he needed to have a complete blood transfusion,” he said. “That was in 1974. At the time they asked if we could arrange for four donations. I donated twice and we had a couple of friends who donated.”
Leo and his wife Mary will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary in July. They raised three children and now have five great grandchildren. Leo ran his own insurance agency and is now retired. It gives him more time to spend with the grandkids, and supporting blood donations.
“If I had donated more often, I’d have at least 25 gallons now,” he said. “I don’t know why I didn’t.”
Leo traditionally kept track of his donation with the gallon pins he received from CBC. He wears his most recent gallon pin on his CBC Dayton Dragons ball cap. He has promised a friend he will give him his five gallon pin when the friend reaches five gallons in donations.
When donor recognition shifted to “lifetime donations” Leo came up with the idea of signaling his gallon milestones on his license plate.
“I started at 19 gallons,” he said. “I put on the 21 gallon plate in April of last year, right about when I made my 21 gallons. On June 2nd, I’m going to be ordering new plates and it will be on that day when I donate for my 22 gallons.”
Leo’s “Donor for Life” achievement is always a work in progress, and that means he can’t keep the same license plate very long. “A new plate costs me just shy of 100 bucks,” he said. After cookies and juice in the Donor Café he had one addition to make before driving away in the Taurus.
As it turns out, there is a reason Leo orders his custom plate with a space between “GALL” and the letter “N.” He deliberately leaves out the “O” so he can use a CBC blood drop magnet to further “customize” his custom plate. “I have a space for this right there,” he said, using the blood drop to form the “O” in gallon. For Leo, more gallon milestones, and more license plates, are still to come.