The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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May 11, 2013

Rolling up his sleeves for 14-plus gallons

MANKATO — How long has Arlo Sandvig been donating blood?

Well, when they drew the first pint out of his farm-boy, Army-strong arm, President Eisenhower was giving his “domino theory” speech and Bill Haley and the Comets had just recorded “Rock Around the Clock.”

It was 1954. Fourteen and a half gallons later, Sandvig hasn’t missed a beat.

“It’s just like an oil change,” Sandvig said, enjoying a cup of hot joe after his most recent donation Friday morning. “And I can help somebody else out.”

Sandvig, born and raised on a farm just north of Lake Crystal, is a well-known presence at the Red Cross. He’s a true regular, giving nearly all of his blood at the Mankato Red Cross’ Homestead Drive headquarters.

That first pint, though, was given across the river.

Seems Sandvig’s boss (he worked at the Marigold Dairy on Belgrade Avenue) and the mayor of North Mankato were good buddies. When the mayor scheduled a blood drive at the municipal building — which is the Brandt building today — he wanted a good turnout. The dairy boss was happy to oblige the mayor, and Sandvig was happy to oblige his boss.

Things were different back then, he says.

“They didn’t take any samples,” he says of the quick checks the Red Cross does now to make sure hemoglobin levels are where they should be. “There wasn’t any of this AIDS and crap like that.”

He donates every 56 days. People know his face pretty well by now.

“Arlo’s been coming here for 100 years,” a fellow donor says.

Arlo laughs.

“Not quite,” he says. “But if I live that long ...”

Sandvig’s doctor has given him the green light to donate blood for as long as he feels up to it. And Sandvig can think of no reason to stop.

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