A group of autoworkers in Windsor, Ont., has spent more than two decades in a unique tradition — donating blood together.
On Friday, as they rolled up their sleeves to give, they hit a milestone: a group total of 600 donations.
"It's the right thing to do. Not too many people do donate, and there's always a plea for it," said Ted Rocheleau, who first came up with the idea and has donated blood personally more than 160 times.
There are eight members of the group, and they donate every two months. Each member's donations tallied up make up the 600 figure.
"We're healthy enough that we can commit to it, and we're getting to retire in a couple of years, and I think we're just going to continue it, even after we retire," said Rocheleau. "We're going to be that old group that gets together and, you know, have coffee, but this time, we're going out to give blood."
The friends work together at Stellantis's Windsor Assembly Plant, and the company pays for two hours of time for employees to donate blood.
At first, they'd do it after their midnight shift and go out for breakfast together afterward. But since the plant's third shift was eliminated, it's become a lunch-time thing, with a different person picking up the tab each time.
Members of the group even wear T-shirts on donation day that spell out their mission: "Blood, burgers, beers."
"We give blood, have a couple of burgers and beers, and nowadays, the price is even more than breakfast, right?" said Rocheleau. "Your bill is like $200-something for six to eight of us, and so we know that you're on the hook, and you're going to come back for the next donation, because you want your free lunch, and your free burger and free beer."
"It's just good to give back and help out, feel good about it," group member William Burke said as he was giving blood on Friday. "And I've had some family members who have had circumstances where they needed blood, so it feels good to reciprocate."
LISTEN | Ted Rocheleau joins Windsor Morning to share how autoworkers are making a difference:
Mary Lynn Morgan is a registered nurse who has been working at Canadian Blood Services for nearly 25 years.
"It's great. We love having these guys — they always bring positivity to the clinic and 600 donations ... is pretty fantastic," she said.
Morgan said there is always a "tremendous need" for blood, but donations tend to slow during the summer as people take vacations.
"If you haven't donated in a while or you've never donated, it really is an easy thing to do, an hour of your time once every couple of months, or once every three months depending on your sex," she said.