Some people get together once a week and catch up over a cup of coffee. Others meet over beer. Harold “Sandy” Sanford puts away a pint a day with his military friends, but he also makes a point of filling a plasma bag each week.

Like clockwork each Tuesday morning at 10, he cycles from his house to the Halifax donor clinic.

“It’s only about a mile away. It’s downhill on the way there and all uphill going home,” he laughs. “But I enjoy going in and seeing the people.”

On Tuesday, Mar. 5, he strolled into the clinic for his normal weekly appointment, joined by his son Robert who was also scheduled to donate.

It would have been routine, but this was Harold’s 1000th donation.

The pair was greeted by local reporters on hand to record the occasion. This was no small deal; Harold is one of only five Canadians to have reached the milestone, and at a deceivingly spry 80 years, the oldest.

There must be something in the air, as three of the five who’ve reached this milestone are in Nova Scotia. Another is Jim Lord, who Harold says he led in donations until he turned 70. At that point he lost two years’ worth of donations due to Canadian Blood Services’ upper age limit policy (the policy was removed in 2004).

“Age doesn’t make a lot of difference. It’s not a young person’s game. Anyone can do it and I think everyone should,” says Harold.

Much like a scene at a neighbourhood pub, Harold and his fellow regulars catch up as they fill blood bags with plasma. There’s a family atmosphere at the clinic, with no shortage of bantering back and forth with the nurses.

“It’s always a pleasure to see our regulars coming through the door,” says staff nurse Barb Cunningham. “Dedicated people like Harold are very passionate about donating and helping those in need.”

On that day in March, Harold’s son Robert was making his 690th donation and joked that one day he’d pass his dad’s total. That’s just fine with Harold, as this is a family tradition that dates back more than 50 years.

“My main reason for giving blood is that my mom had an operation when I was younger and needed a blood transfusion. It saved her life and we had another 15, 20 years with her,” he says. “So if it did that for me, why not give to do that for others?”

His mom became a blood donor after her surgery and encouraged her children to do the same. Although his two brothers and his sister became donors, Harold’s the one who’s still going strong.

“The Sanfords are like blood donor royalty,” says Peter MacDonald, director, donor and clinic services, Atlantic. “Just think of the many lives they have saved over the years because of their commitment and dedication. Harold is a fixture in this clinic and you can tell by the way he and the staff interact.”

Harold says it’s “quite an honour” to have his 1000th donation marked in such a manner. He’s also grateful for the publicity, as it encouraged others to donate. He says the day after the story ran in local media, at least three people who saw it came in to the clinic to donate.

“I thought it was good that I at least achieved that objective,” he says. “My mom would be proud. I’m proud of her and I’m sure she’s pleased with what I’m doing.”