By Linda Dillman
Saving lives in memory of a life taken too young found blood donors from Canal Winchester, Groveport and throughout the area taking the time to give a pint for the American Red Cross.
Blood drives are routinely held locally at places such as the Groveport Recreation Center— which is a Platinum Donor Site—but a Jan. 31 drive in the Pine Room at Shade on the Canal in Canal Winchester drew nearly three times as many donors as a normal blood drive: 77 pints versus 30 pints.
The event was sponsored by the BrockStrong Foundation, a non-profit organization created in 2015 by the family of Brock Johnson in memory of the young athlete who passed away at age 14 after battling an auto-immune disease.
“Because of the cause, our show rate of scheduled appointments was much higher compared to our typical community style drive,” said American Red Cross South Recruitment District Manager Wendy Yarbrough. “We typically see about a 60 to 70 percent show rate of scheduled donors – this drive had about a 90 percent show rate.”
Yarbrough said the Red Cross’ partnership with Kristi Johnson, Brock’s mother, and her family is long-standing due to the boy’s ongoing need for blood during his treatments. The last three blood drives directly supported by the Johnsons and the BrockStrong Foundation collected 129 units in two drives in 2015 and another 68 units in May 2016.
“Our average collection on a blood drive is 30 units, so you can see that it doubled our normal collections at a blood drive when we collaborate with the Johnsons,” said Yarbrough. “This means that instead of us needing to place two blood drives on the calendar for the day, we can place one.”
The Central Ohio Blood Region needs 800 donors a day to supply 42 hospitals—which includes three trauma centers and Nationwide Children’s Hospital—with needed blood products.
“We had several instances where we waited at the hospital for blood to come in from the other side of the country because of a shortage,” Kristi Johnson said. “I feel like that was crazy. It is an easy and free need to meet. After we lost Brock it was just something I felt passionate about. I knew people felt helpless in our fight for Brock, but this made them feel like they were doing what they could. I thought the most recent drive would be good, but I was blown away by how good.”
Johnson said an older man approached her during the recent blood drive and told her it was the first time he had donated blood in over 20 years.
“When I asked him why he decided to now he said… ‘that little boy.’ They (the BrockStrong Foundation) put wrapping paper on my porch at Christmas, so I looked them up. I figured this was the least I could do,’” Johnson said. “The other thing that touched me was that three of Brock’s best friends gave blood for the first time in his honor. They were 16 and 17 years old. I thought that was awesome.”
The foundation and the Red Cross are working together on a scholarship program. Johnson said the Red Cross approached her about recognizing the foundation for all that BrockStrong does for the community.
The Red Cross is creating a scholarship for a Canal Winchester High School senior in Brock’s memory, basing the amount of the scholarship—ranging between $250 and $2,500—on how many units of blood are collected in Canal Winchester drives.
According to Yarbrough, the Red Cross offers each high school in the area a Drive to Serve Scholarship if the school hosts blood drives. Each school chooses a recipient near the end of the school year.
“We asked Kristi if we could name our scholarship for Canal Winchester High School after Brock,” said Yarbrough, “and she readily agreed. Once we explained that we earn more money towards the scholarship for a graduating senior with more units collected, she wanted to add a blood drive in conjunction with the high school, so that is how the latest drive came about.”
Upcoming area blood drives include: David Evangelical Lutheran Church on March 26, Revolution Realty in Canal Winchester on March 29, Gender Road Church on April 2 and Canal Winchester Middle School on May 9, which is a partnership with the BrockStrong Foundation.
To make a donation appointment, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS. The entire process takes approximately an hour.
On the day of the drive, to save time complete an online RapidPass and bring it with you, sign in at the registration table upon arrival, complete a mini health history (your vital signs and a questionnaire will be reviewed for eligibility for donation). After determination of eligibility, a Red Cross staff member will take you to a donation chair where your blood will be collected, which takes about eight to 10 minutes. After the collection, you will be directed to a refreshment area for juice and cookies.