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Commack blood drive honoring Officer Glen Ciano comes at critical time

Cold weather, the flu, snow upstate, and forecasts of snow downstate that led to school closures have contributed to blood shortage.

Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, was the ninth annual blood drive held in honor of fallen police officer Glen Ciano at the Commack Fire Department.  (Credit: Andrew Theodorakis)

Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano was killed by a drunken driver 10 years ago this month. Now, hundreds each February give blood in his honor at the Commack Fire Department headquarters.

“February is a little overwhelming for me. It’s difficult because I lost him on the 22nd,” his widow, Sue Ciano, said Saturday at the ninth annual Glen Ciano Blood Drive. “But to come here for this is a great thing."

Ciano was headed to assist another officer at a traffic stop in Commack on Feb. 22, 2009, when a car driven by a drunken driver struck his cruiser. He was 45.

His brother, Jim Ciano, 58, of Ronkonkoma, said that with the blood drive, "his name lives on saving lives."

“Blood is a gift of life,” he said.

Sue Ciano, 56, of Farmingville, noted how the blood drive "helps so many people."

“That is what his job as a police officer was — to help others,” she said.

The six-hour event yielded 234 pints of blood for the New York Blood Center — 12 more than last year. It comes amid what the center is calling a “blood emergency.” Cold weather, the flu, snow upstate, and forecasts of snow downstate that led to school closures have contributed to the shortage, said Andrea Cefarelli, senior executive director for donor recruitment and marketing at the blood center. Schools are often the sites of blood drives. 

“When you start to have lower turnout, you get into a problem really quickly, because blood is perishable,” Cefarelli said.

The blood center, which serves Long Island and other parts of both New York and New Jersey, has about 7,000 pints of blood, 2,000 to 3,000 pints short of the needed supply, she said. 

When the blood drive began at 8 a.m., about a dozen officers Ciano worked with in the Second Precinct were waiting to donate, said Suffolk Police Officer Fred Leyboldt. They had just come off the night shift, on which they worked with Ciano, he said.

Leyboldt, 52, of Sayville, said Ciano was a skilled officer who knew how to defuse tense situations. “He knew how to make people comfortable and calm them down," he said.

He was friends with many Commack firefighters, said fire department Assistant Chief John Barry, 49, of Commack. Ciano sometimes came to the firehouse during his time off to play cards, watch football and baseball games, and eat, he said.

Ciano changed into his police uniform at the firehouse. A photo of him leaning against his police car, and a sticker memorializing him, adorn the metal locker he used. It hasn’t been used since his death.

Rob Weisberg, 51, of Nesconset, a Commack firefighter and the blood drive coordinator, noted how at last year’s drive, 222 pints of blood were collected — numbers that correspond to the month and day Ciano died, 2/22.

“He’s watching,” Weisberg said.


 

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