BOTKINS — Botkins donor Susan Leugers told Ohio lawmakers if they would designate January as “Blood Donor Awareness Month,” she would deliver its first blood drive.
She kept that promise with the fourth annual Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive, Wednesday, Jan. 2, at the Palazzo in Botkins.
Leugers was part of the Community Blood Center coalition that testified before the House and Senate Health Committees in support of House Bill 252 for Ohio Blood Donor Awareness Month. It was signed into law last year and this January marks the inaugural celebration.
The Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive was the largest of the six CBC mobile blood drives, Wednesday, that kicked-off Blood Donor Awareness Month. It totaled 87 donors, including 72 donations for 109 percent of collection goal.
Leugers organized the first blood drive in 2016 as a tribute to her daughter, Chelsea, who was just 22 when she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. Leugers recruited 34 first-time donors and gladly agreed to arrange the second blood drive just six months later, right after the New Year’s holiday, when blood is often in short supply.
In recognition of her dedication, Leugers was named to the 2017 class of the Fresenius Kabi National Donation Hall of Fame. Her induction ceremony took place on a frigid day after New Year’s during the 2018 Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive.
“Big wheels turn slowly,” Leugers said about the long journey from her testimony before the legislature in 2017 to Wednesday’s milestone blood drive. She’s learned that blood drive success takes patience, passion and dedication to encouraging neighbors to donate. Her daughter’s memory is her inspiration.
“Being without Chelsea at Christmas time is sad,” Leugers said. “I stress about this, but I prepare for it. It’s busy work that keeps your mind off her being gone at Christmas. I try to get new donors.”
Donor Kurt Manger went to the blood drive on crutches, just four weeks removed from knee surgery.
“I grew up in Botkins. It’s a small community,” he said. “I’ve known Susan for years. I always try to support this blood drive.”
As the years pass, young friends of Chelsea return to the blood drive to honor her memory.
“This is my third time donating at the blood drive,” said Botkins donor Erin Heitkamp. “We went to school together. They were our neighbors, and we were good friends.”
Cory Sherman, of Botkins, recruited his friend, Haleigh Rhodus, to make her first lifetime donation. Their donor beds were side by side, and he held her hand during the donation to give support.
“I donate here for my friend, Chelsea, that passed,” said Sherman. “We graduated in the same class and went to school together all the way through. I try to make it every year.”
Jeanne Brown, of Wapakoneta, had not donated to CBC since 2003. She was happy to be one of the first donors of Ohio Blood Donor Awareness Month, but her inspiration to donate came from the community’s dedicated effort in memory of Chelsea.
“It’s mainly for the memorial,” said Brown. “It got me back into it.”