The Right Thing To Do

It was at a lifeguard seasonal supervisor’s meeting in the Summer of 1998 that someone came up with the question. Would the lifeguards as a group be interested and willing to host a district-wide blood drive? Norm Chapman, then the Angeles District Lifeguard Supervisor, put the idea to the group of a dozen or so seasonal lifeguards. There was more discussion than debate, the emphasis mostly on the humanitarian nature of a blood drive and the parallel humanitarian role of lifeguards.

Norm, who including being Lifeguard Chief, was responsible for district-wide dispatch service, including law enforcement, and all special rescue operations, listened attentively. Being leader of the fiercely independent Mugu Lifeguards Norm was also the check and balance on the sometimes over-enthusiastic schemes that his charges entertained. The final proposal was two-fold: All blood-drive participants would be welcome to a Malibu Coast Surf Lifesaving Association (the off-duty fraternal arm of the lifeguard service, or M.C.S.L.A.) barbecue and social hour immediately following.

Norm considered deeply for some time when discussion ended. Finally he spoke: “I think it’s the right thing to do–” he said.

This Summer marks the twenty-second uninterrupted iteration of the M.C.S.L.A. blood drive held in western Malibu. For many years from its inception the blood drive was hosted at the Lifeguard Headquarters at Sycamore Cove, fondly known as “the Cove House”, in Point Mugu State Park. This was an ideal location, able to accommodate dozens of participants, the Red Cross staff and their hygienic needs, Before the ubiquity of bloodmobiles the Red Cross would set up three donating stations in the main assembly area, plastic-covered cots with diminutive privacy screens, donators clenching their fists in sometimes eighty-degree airless heat, young guards turning progressive shades of grey, nurses proffering brown bags to discourage hyper-ventilation.

After the Red Cross could secure a bloodmobile regularly the inconveniences of heat and lack of privacy were allayed and the Cove House with its large outside deck played host to the barbecue and social get-together. Unfortunately for the Mugu lifeguards and the community at large the idyll wasn’t to last. In the Summer of 2014 a huge south swell generated by Hurricane Marie swept the Cove House off its pilings and into the sea. As of today the Lifeguard Headquarters at Sycamore has not been reconstructed.

The M.C.S.L.A. scrambled in the years after, firstly convening to decide whether to hold the blood drive at all (they voted in favor unanimously), and then as to where to hold the event. The requirements for a venue were not impossible but were held to a standard: easy enough access, adequate parking, a space for the barbecue and get-together, and, most importantly, sanitary facilities with running water for the medical staff.

One year the west end of the Sycamore Cove parking lot filled the bill. This site proved almost acceptable except for the youth gospel group which had already reserved the area and had scheduled impromptu baptisms that evening. There were several blood donators who exited the bloodmobile to the amplified sounds of “…Praise the Lord!…” wafting on the calm sea breeze. Praise the Lord , indeed, was surely the feeling of those in need of that donated blood.

For the next few years the blood drive made its way to the north beach parking lot at Leo Carrillo State Beach, taking advantage of the proximity to the Leo Carrillo Junior Lifeguard program’s equipment and, more important, instructors willing to donate. These were very successful drives, netting donations of units in the mid-thirties. These donations are actually tripled in volume when transformed into blood products, thereby making the number of patients helped over ninety.

And then came last November’s Woolsey fire. Even what seemingly could not burn, burned to the ground. The cinder-block bathrooms at north beach Leo Carrillo looked as though a bomb had hit them. Almost everything in the park burned. Except the Leo Carrillo Camp Store. Due to the fortitude and bravery of the store’s concessionaire and his son the store and its surroundings were spared. After anguishing over whether and where to have the Mugu blood drive a sudden inspiration struck: the Camp Store! Access, parking, barbecue, bathrooms steps away.

Tony Minicucci, the store’s concessionaire, had a quick answer when approached: “Whatever I can do to help.” Room for the Bloodmobile next to the store, a donated campsite adjacent for the barbecue and social hour, parking an easy minute’s walk away. An so, for the twenty-second year in a row, this year with a total of thirty-nine units donated, the Malibu Coast Surf Lifesaving Association and its friends have given to the community, have continued –the right thing to do.