From Paul Hayes, NZ Blood Service:
Two French cyclists have travelled more than 18,000 kilometres around the world to encourage more New Zealanders to "get on their bike" and donate blood.
Global blood donation ambassadors Julien Leblay and Marion Dumas will begin their final leg of a 20-month cycle journey to promote blood donation in Dunedin on Thursday (5 January). They will then cycle the South and North Islands before concluding their 21,000 kilometre, half-world tour in Auckland in February.
Blood donation is a cause close to Julien's heart, after his own life was saved by 20 units of blood following an accident in his teens. His fiancée and cycling partner, Marion is also a big supporter of blood donation, having given the gift of blood 30 times.
New Zealand Blood Service's National Marketing and Communications Manager Paul Hayes says their personal experience and determination is a reminder of just how important blood donors are in saving lives the world-over, something he hopes will encourage more Kiwi cyclists to donate.
The duo,who travel with only what they can carry on their bikes, have already visited countries in Europe, Asia and Australia, including making a blood donation in Cambodia earlier this year.
Paul Hayes says their visit is also very timely, helping ensure Kiwis don't forget to donate during the busy holiday period.
"While the holiday festivities pull our attention away from the day-to-day routine, the need for blood is constant. It is vital people still remember to donate blood on a regular basis and help us maintain our collection rates."
Donated blood helps save around 42,000 lives in New Zealand every year and on average, the New Zealand Blood Service needs 3,000 units of blood donated per week to meet demand.
Currently, only around 4% of the eligible population (aged 16 to 60) are active blood donors.
Visit www.nzblood.co.nz or phone 0800 GIVE BLOOD to find out more about blood donation, register to become a blood donor or to make an appointment to donate.
About Julien Leblay and Marion Dumas
Frenchman and international blood ambassador Julien Leblay has cycled over 50,000 kilometers across the globe since 2004 promoting blood donation following a tractor accident in his teens.
Finishing the last leg of his second world tour, his New Zealand journey starts in Dunedin, and he will cycle up the South and North Islands during January and February 2012, accompanied by his fiancé Marion.
Under the banner 'Great Heart Travellers' their mission is to encourage as many New Zealanders as possible to donate blood regularly.
Julien and Marion will arrive in these centres as follows:
" Dunedin - Thursday 5 January
" Christchurch - Friday 20 January
" Wellington - Tuesday 31 January
" Napier - Friday 3 February
" Tauranga - Friday 10 February
" Auckland - Friday 17 February
To learn more about Julien and Marion and follow their journey, visit his blog at: http://www.voyage-grand-coeur.org/en