Coralville fire beat police in 8th annual ‘Battle of the Badges’ blood drive

The Coralville fire and police departments and their supporters donated 36 pints of blood to the University of Iowa DeGowin Blood Center, following the eighth annual showdown to see which department could receive the most support from the community.


Jeff Sigmund

Asst. Fire Chief Nic Pruter left and Lt. William (Bill) Erb of the Coralville Fire Department stopped by to lend support to Sgt. Kyle Nicholson of the Coralville police Department on Thursday, July 22, 2021. At the time, Nicholson was donating blood during the Battle of the Badges Blood Drive.(Jeff Sigmund/Daily Iowan)

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

During the eighth annual “Battle of the Badges” blood drive, the Coralville fire and police departments and their supporters donated over 30 pints of blood to the University of Iowa DeGowin Blood Center.

During the summer, the departments are more likely to respond to severe traffic fatalities, resulting in injuries that need blood donations.

This year, the fire department beat the police in a showdown to see who could donate the most blood based on community support. The blood drive ran from July 21-23.

The “Battle of the Badges” blood drive started in 2013 under the leadership of Sgt. Mike Barney, who worked for the Coralville Police Department for 20 years before retiring in 2020.

“This was a big thing for Sgt. Barney because he was involved in a motorcycle accident off duty and he needed blood,” Sgt. Kyle Nicholson, patrol supervisor and community relations officer for the Coralville Police Department, said. “This became something that our department took to heart, and we’ve continued it over the past eight years.”

The goal of the blood drive is to promote healthy competition between the two departments to support the greater cause of donating blood, Nicholson said.

“We have a camaraderie between ourselves and the fire department — we joke back and forth all the time,” Nicholson said.

Aside from the competition, the “Battle of the Badges” promotes giving blood at a time of the year when donations are low, he said.

“It’s important for us to help out in any way that we can — getting donations into DeGowin is the biggest part of why we do this blood drive,” Nicholson said.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the need for blood donations doesn’t go away. The summer is an especially critical time due to more accidents and an increase in traumas.

RELATED: Local blood shortage inspires family to host community blood drives

Nicholson said the police and fire departments notice this critical need as they respond to accidents.

“Summer seems to be a time when we handle a majority of accidents, and they can be a little more severe than other accidents,” Nicholson said. “During the summer, we have bicyclists, motorcyclists, and people who are on their phone or distracted, so these accidents tend to have injuries involved that require blood donations.”

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, traffic fatalities increase during the summer months. Last year, June through August crash-related fatalities accounted for 35 percent of the year’s total.

As of July 23, there have been 26 more crash-related fatalities in 2021 than in 2020.

According to The Cedar Rapids Gazette, blood centers in Iowa have seen an increase in donation numbers in recent weeks. Despite this increase, blood centers expect to fall behind in their donations around Labor Day and as school starts.

Blood donations remain critically low, with some parts of the state only having one-to-two days’ worth of blood supply left.

Assistant Fire Chief for the Coralville Fire Department Nic Pruter said the departments’ competition prompted a donation of 36 pints of blood this year to the UI DeGowin Blood Center, which collects blood for UI Hospitals and Clinics and Stead Family Children’s Hospital patients.

Over the past eight years, the departments have donated 326 units of blood during their competition, with 2018 having the most donations — 49 pints of blood.

RELATED: Iowa blood-donation centers call for donations after canceled blood drives

Iowa City resident Suzanne Harney-Wright said she donated her blood to support the fire department.

“My son used to be a volunteer firefighter at the Coralville Fire Department, so I supported them,” she said. “I am also a nurse, so I see the people that need blood.”

Coralville resident John Fisher said he attended the event to support both departments.

“I came out to donate because of the police and fire departments — I have placed people under arrest in my earlier days, but I also fought a fire,” he said. “I put a blue marble in to support the police.”

This year, the fire department beat the police department by 30 votes, Pruter said. Despite this landslide win, this is only the third year that the fire department won against the police department, he said.

“This is extremely rewarding, and it feels great to have support from the community and get that traveling trophy,” Pruter said. “The event is all in good fun and there’s good support for both departments in the community.”

In the future, both departments hope to expand this event, Pruter said. He said they want a bigger turnout and have a goal of donating 50 pints of blood next year.

Even if the community doesn’t show up to donate blood to support the fire or police departments, Pruter said they encourage everyone to donate blood when and if they can.

“I think a lot of people are scared to donate blood, but it’s a super easy process and the benefits far outweigh the discomfort of getting your blood drawn,” Pruter said. “We are always looking for donations even if it’s not during our event — donate blood any time during the year.”

To learn how you can donate blood, contact the UI DeGowin Blood Center by phone at (319) 356-2058 or online at

Jeff Sigmund contributed to this report.

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