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VALPARAISO — There are a lot of choices this summer for families.

Tuesday, for the Autenrieth family of Chesterton, it was giving blood.

Dad, Richard "Butch" Autenrieth, a mechanic with the Porter County Sheriff's Department, told his daughter Alexis, 16, about the local Indiana Fallen Officer Blood Drive.

Alexis convinced dad and mom, Victoria, a part-time dispatcher with the Porter Police Department and Porter EMS employee, to join her and give a pint. Younger sister, Samantha, 14, even came out to give her family support.

"I have blood. I might as well give it to someone who needs it," said Alexis, adding this is the second time she has donated blood.

The drive Tuesday afternoon was part of the statewide Indiana Fallen Officer Blood Drive, which began in 2001 in honor of a Morgan County sheriff's deputy slain in the line of duty. In 2007 the effort spread across the state.

Last year, donors at the Porter County Sheriff's Department-sponsored event gave 67 pints of blood. This year they were hoping to collect 70 pints.

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"They are all my brothers and sisters," said Detective Gene Hopkins, who donates his O positive blood on a regular basis. "Some day I might need the blood myself."

Daniel Bruss, of Valparaiso, is also a universal donor with O positive blood type. He "double donates," he said, meaning the technicians remove more than the standard pint of blood, extract the red blood cells and return the plasma to Bruss' veins.

"I like helping out people that need it and you never know when you might need it," Bruss said. 

Sheriff Dave Reynolds donated a pint as well.

"I do it every couple of months. This one in particular because it is for the fallen officers," he said.

Tanya Gear, 45, the support services supervisor for the warrants and records department of the sheriff's department, said she has been donating blood since she was in the U.S. Navy when she was 18.

"I just know there's a shortage. It is the least I can do," Gear said.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.