Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
In 1983 a 17-year-old was determined she had to give blood. Her pregnant sister needed blood, and although Sonya Binns was one year shy of the required age, she was resolute to do her part to save her sibling.
After realising how safe and painless the procedure was, she began making regular donations.
Some 30 years later, Binns is being honoured as the leading voluntary blood donor in Jamaica, making her 80th donation.
"To know that I am helping to save the life of someone compels me to keep giving," stated Binns, who is now the phlebotomy technician supervisor at the Central Medical Lab in St Andrew.
Today, in celebration of World Blood Donor Day, the Ministry of Health, the National Blood Transfusion Service, Pan American Health Organisation, and the World Health Organisation, will be honouring Binns as the top voluntary blood donor at a ceremony at the Emancipation Park in St Andrew.
"I feel really humbled to be getting this recognition," the 47-year-old told The Gleaner. "I encourage everyone to give and to realise that giving today may be saving your own life or the life of a loved one tomorrow."
Fifty-year-old Eric Wilson will also be honoured as a primary voluntary donor, making 75 donations since he first began in 1980.
"It feels good knowing I can help someone, that I am helping to save a life, and as long as God gives me breath, I will continue to donate," said Wilson.
"I look forward to going in every three months to make my donation. It's not about any award or expectation, it is just about helping someone in need."
He added, "We really appreciate the award because we as blood donors are known as the unsung heroes. We just go in, do our thing and no one knows. I really wish more people would come on-board and give."
For taking the charge for the younger generation, 21-year-old Dane Gutzmer and 22-year-old Kimberley West have been selected as the top youth voluntary donors.
Now making his 10th donation every three months since 2010, Gutzmer has religiously played his part in saving a life.
"I always had a genuine need to help. Saving three lives each time I give is the least I can do to help. Nothing can compete with that. I really feel good to know I am making a difference," said Gutzmer.
"People keep worrying about it, but they need to know it is a very safe procedure, so there is nothing to worry about. And it doesn't affect you physically. Your body recuperates very fast from giving."
Donating blood since she was in high school at Dinthill, West said she was compelled to first give because she saw the need.
Now on her eighth donation, she shared, "It gives me a feeling of happiness knowing that I can help someone and give them a chance to live."