Santa surprises good girl, boy donors at Sacred Heart

MCCARTYVILLE – Santa Claus smiled impishly as he reached deep in his sack and handed out a surprise lump of coal instead of a candy cane to Minster donor Gary Bensman at the Dec. 17 Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish Knights of Columbus holiday blood drive in McCartyville.

The “coal” was chocolate candy, proving that even a naughty Santa can only be nice to a fellow blood donor.

“It’s candy,” said Gary. “I’ve known him for way more years than I like to admit!”

It was a homecoming for Botkins donor Jim Goettemoeller, who has not visited the Sacred Heart blood drive dressed in his Santa suit since 2015. The last few Christmas seasons he has crisscrossed the country working as a professional Santa.

Luckily, Goettemoeller had enough candy to make the rounds. Coming just a week before Christmas Eve the blood drive delivered 180 donors, including 139 whole blood donations and 17 platelet and plasma donations. Goettemoeller added a double-red blood cell donation to reach 66 lifetime donations.

“I thought it was a good idea to spread the news playing Santa Claus,” said Goettemoeller. “I’m jolly and happy, never complain… well that’s debatable! But it’s a good feeling giving out candy canes.”

After 20 years as blood drive coordinator Tom Albers passed the torch to Dave Poeppelman. Sacred Heart volunteers were busy serving hot sandwiches and Christmas cookies in the Donor Café.

“I got my wife Denise helping me,” said Dave. “We bounced ideas back and forth. I enjoy it. I’m here donating blood anyway!” Dave made his 48th lifetime donation Tuesday.

It’s a tradition for Sacred Heart Parish to help boost the blood supply at Christmas time. But it’s also an opportunity for donors to cherish family and friends.

The Barhorst family from Minster donated as a family and gathered for a photo with Santa. Grandad Henry and son Brian donated platelets. Brian’s wife Chris donated, and it was the first-time donating for their children, Carly and Bryce.

“We had it all planned, and I was going to get Bryce out of school to come here,” said Chris. Thanks to the Dec. 17 snow day in the county, Bryce didn’t miss class.

“It was my idea,” said Carly about the photo with Santa. “I thought we’d tell him how good we were. Christmas is coming!”

Fort Loramie 16-year-old Morgan DeWeese gathered her nerve to make her first donation. “I said today is the day to do it!” said Morgan.

Diane Meyer made her 296th with a goal for the New Year.

“I’m looking forward to 300!” she said. Shelby County Commissioner wore a Santa tie while donating platelets. “I got my 200th at the Houston blood drive. I wanted to get that in by the first of the year and I made it!”

Fort Loramie donor Tom Pleiman celebrated his 100th donation. “I had cancer and couldn’t donate for five or six year, and that slowed me up some,” said Tom. “But I didn’t miss a beat after that.”

Irene Sherman looked like Mrs. Claus as she posed with Jim in wearing a Santa sweater. “My husband got one too and we wore them to our family Christmas party, and we had hats on!” said Irene.

Anna donors Mary Covault and Lori Jones wrapped themselves in matching blood donor scarves in the Donor Café and celebrated the bond of blood donors and the gift of friendship.

“We’re not only blood buddies, we are both type O-negative,” said Lori. “We are competitive! We like to see who finishes donating first. I usually win, but today she beat me by four seconds!

For more information about Community Blood Center/Community Tissue Services, visit