Melbourne’s Mike Cowart was 17 years old when he went to donate blood for the first time.
He was turned away because he had a cold.
Two weeks later, Cowart received a call saying there had been a bad accident and that blood donations were needed. Off he went, even though it made him late
Now, 54 years and more than a few hundred donations later, Cowart has reached an incredible milestone.
The 71-year-old has donated 100 gallons, putting him in the select company of some 300 Floridians who have reached that level since blood banking began during World War II, according to OneBlood, a donation center serving most of Florida and other surrounding states.
“It wasn’t a goal,” Cowart said of reaching 100 gallons.
“I couldn’t even imagine giving that much. But when I hit the 40- to 50-gallon mark and saw the possibility of hitting 100, that’s when I started going for it.”
After working for 25 years at Publix, followed by a career in sales (Gatorade was one of his products) that took him around the Southeast, Cowart and his wife are now touring the country in a motor home.
Over the years, he has gone to the donor center whenever he could, including on his lunch breaks from work.
After reaching the 30-gallon mark, he noticed people were donating platelets and asked about the process. Having B positive blood, and being a committed donor made him the perfect candidate. He has been doing it ever since.
Cowart’s donations have saved countless lives over the years.
“Giving blood makes me feel good, knowing you’re helping others, plus you’re helping yourself,” he said.
Blood donors are screened for their blood pressure, temperature, iron count, pulse and cholesterol levels.
“You’re getting a mini well checkup every visit,” he said.
The initial inspiration to donate came from Cowart’s father, who was a regular blood donor.
Cowart also referred to an awards banquet that used to be held every year to honor those who had given 10 gallons or more as something that motivated him.
“You see a room full of people that are donating. … They call up the people (who have donated) 20 gallons to 100,” he said. “That was an inspiration to see the people in the room who had given 50 to 100 gallons. I said, one of these days, I’m going to be up there.”
Although none of his five children have become blood donors, Cowart is proud to say four of his 17 grandchildren have donated.
As for Cowart, he has no plans to stop giving blood.
“(I’ll do it) as long as I’m able,” he said. “I don’t have a goal set now.”