Marshall proved to be the victor again, for the third consecutive year, winning the annual MASH BASH blood drive by 23 donations, against neighboring rival, Carthage.

The friendly competition between the two cities kicked off on Wednesday and ended 7 p.m. Thursday, with Marshall collecting a total of 159 donations of blood to Carthage’s 136.

“It’s been a grueling two days,” said Tim Huff with the Greater Marshall Chamber of Commerce and Marshall HomeCare & Hospice, one of the sponsors. “Carthage was a worthy opponent; but bottom line is we’re helping save lives.

“I can’t say enough about the people of Marshall coming out, not only to donate blood, but the businesses who donated door prizes (too),” he added. “The donors, the ones that won the prizes, they’ve been really appreciative.”

Huff said Sheriff Tom McCool, who brought a crew and cooked hot dogs for the event, was very thrilled of the outcome.

“It’s a great cause,” said Huff. “We’ve now three-peated.

“We’re going to do a fourth-peat next year,” he anticipates. “We’re looking forward to it. It’s been a busy two days, but it’s been a great two days. Victory is very sweet.”

Huff said the annual competition is necessary this time of year to replenish the blood supply, which often sees shortages during the summer.

“The community has really pitched in to make this a successful blood drive,” he said. “It makes a person feel good to know the community cares about its residents.”

Huff said as a competition, of course, Marshall wants to win.

“It’s a friendly competition between Marshall and Carthage, but there is nothing friendly about it,” he teased. “If we’re going to play, we’re going to play to win.”

To accomplish the feat, Huff along with Chamber ambassador Tracy Jackson, also of sponsor Genesis Primecare, heavily worked the phones and promoted the drive on social media, calling on all who could to come down and give blood.

“Tracy and I are the ‘T&T Express’,” Huff joked. “We have been on Facebook; we’ve been on radio.

“We’ve been everywhere we can be to promote this,” he said.

“We don’t like seeing empty beds and empty chairs. We need people giving blood,” said Huff after 2 p.m. Thursday. “Bottom line is one donation can save up to three lives; and that’s what this is all about, but it’s also about winning.”

Belinda Murphy, from Carter BloodCare, was keeping tally at the Carthage donation center. Around lunchtime on Thursday, she said Wednesday’s tallies were 74 Carthage, 81 Marshall. Combine that with the six donations Carthage received Thursday and the seven Marshall had received by that point, it was neck and neck.

“That puts us at this point eight behind, which is very doable,” she said. “We can do it; I know we can.”

Melinda Gaulden, of Meadowbrook Funeral Home, and daughter, Charlie Mitchell, came to support the cause in Marshall in memory of Jackson’s son, 20-year-old Tristen Jackson, who died about four months ago, following a car wreck that occurred near Jefferson.

“We just wanted to donate,” said Gaulden. “Tracy lost his son Tristen in March of this year and he required blood transfusions before his death, and so we just wanted to give back.

“Everybody needs to come donate, if they can,” she said.

Reflecting on his son, Jackson said the blood drive has a special place in his heart, which is why he decided to get involved in the cause.

“They did have to do some blood transfusion for him, but he was an organ donor and this meant a lot to him,” Jackson said of blood drives. “So, as my personal thanks from our family… this means a lot to us. We believe in donating blood.

“We’ve always been blood donors and organ donors, so this has always had a special place in all of my family’s heart,” said Jackson.

Huff expressed his thanks to all donors who came to support the drive.

“Bottom line is there is no excuse for anyone to not donate unless they have a medical reason. You can’t let fear do it,” Huff said. “This guy just walked by and he’s got a cast on his foot. That didn’t keep him from coming and giving.

“The impact it can have, you and I may not understand it, but Tracy saw it whenever they were in need,” Huff continued. “And no family should have to go through hearing: ‘There’s a blood shortage; I’m sorry, we’re out. They shouldn’t have to do that.”

“It’s for a great purpose — making a difference,” he said.

In Carthage, Nicole Stillwell, from Tenaha, said she gave blood to help others.

“As much as I don’t really care about needles, I know this is a good thing to do. I know that there’s a need for it, and it’s expendable, so we can run out of this. The more I give, the more we can save lives.”

Panola Watchman Editor Meredith Shamburger contributed to this report.