Three years ago at Carter BloodCare’s annual 50 Gallon Challenge at Tyler Junior College (TJC) in Tyler, Caitlin Campbell rolled up her sleeve to give blood. She was seated across from Lathan Pilcher, truck driver and lieutenant at the Gladewater Fire Department. The two hit it off right away, talking and laughing together while the phlebotomists worked.
As it turns out, Caitlin and Lathan didn’t just give blood that day – they stole each other’s hearts, too.
“We were in the right place at the right time,” says Caitlin, an MRI technologist at East Texas Medical Center Tyler. There’s a smile in her voice as she shares the story.
The Pilchers were married at Lathan’s parent’s home in Tyler on October 21, 2017. In lieu of wedding gifts, the couple challenged their friends and family to donate blood to celebrate the cause that brought them together.
Lathan and Caitlin teamed up with Carter BloodCare to host their Wedding Challenge. They created a Facebook page to spread the word, and from September 18th to October 31st, the challenge took off in their community as donors gave to support the bride and groom’s wishes. In total, 69 people participated to raise 10 gallons of blood, platelets and plasma. Needless to say, the Pilchers’ Wedding Challenge made a lasting difference in the community.
“We were trying to see how big of an impact we could make. Even strangers took part in our challenge, and that meant so much to us,” said Caitlin.
Lathan and Caitlin think that many of their friends – and friends of friends – who participated in their challenge will continue giving blood. “We only got 10 gallons this time, but we might get three to four more every time someone donates,” says Lathan.
Many of the Pilchers’ friends, family members and co-workers made their first-ever blood donations in support of the Wedding Challenge. It meant a lot to Lathan that his fire captain, Nathan Hamilton, posted a video of his first experience in the donor seat on the Wedding Challenge Facebook page.
“I wanted to do a short video just to show the Pilchers I cared about their cause and hopefully get other people motivated,” Nathan says. “I think giving blood is important because it’s a way to help people in need. That’s why I chose my career and will continue to give back in any way I can.”
The couple has made it a tradition to donate at Carter BloodCare every year on the anniversary of the day they met. They see blood as something they can give that everyone in the community needs.
“You never know when you’re going to need it yourself,” says Caitlin. “I would hope that there’s not a shortage. I would hope that someone would do the same thing for me.”
The Pilchers hope to host a 50 Gallon Challenge on their 50th wedding anniversary with their grandkids. For now, the Pilchers are going to enjoy giving back to their community together for years to come.