OSU Alumni Club of Darke County blood drive coordinators – and Buckeye makers – Kay Girbert & Shirla Neff.

It was a great day to be a Buckeye Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the annual Community Blood Center (CBC) Darke County OSU Alumni Club Blood Drive at the Greenville Church of the Brethren.  The county woke up to an inch of snow and some planned weddings and other big events Tuesday to take advantage of the “11/12/13” date. But to the loyal alums, the numbers that mattered most were OSU’s 21-game winning streak, the ample supply of hotdogs and Buckeyes at the tailgate party, and more than 150 donors turning out to help save lives.

“People just keep coming out,” said long-time Darke County educator and OSU Alumni Club member (OSU’49) Tot Heinreich, known for famous cheese ball at the blood drive tailgate. “I think because Ohio State’s been doing so well, that’s brought out a lot of Buckeyes in the area.”

The blood drive was indeed busy, with 151 registering to donate whole blood, platelets and plasma for a total of 135 donations. Coordinators Kay Girbert and Shirla Neff oversaw a bustling kitchen, serving up the traditional tailgate menu.  “We always have hotdogs, Buckeyes and cookies,” said Shirla. “That’s what everyone expects.”

You don’t have to bleed Scarlet and Grey to appreciate the Alumni Club blood drive. Club member and volunteer Dennis Baker proudly wore his 2002 National Championship sweatshirt and said, “We need to get another one here before I wear this one out.”  But young Jordon Dean considers himself a Buckeye fan by default. “I’m from Ohio, so I can’t deny it,” he said.

Like so many CBC blood drives at the Church of the Brethren, it’s an opportunity for the community to come together and support a common cause.  Harold Rismiller (91 lifetime donations) bumped into his sister Gloria Burns (36 lifetime donations) at the blood drive. They lunched in the Donor Café while brother Nelson Rismiller donated platelets, his 173rd lifetime donation.  “It’s just coincidence,” said Gloria, “but I do like this blood drive!”

“I didn’t go to OSU but I’m a fan,” echoed John Dillon of Gettsyburg, who made his 103rd lifetime donation. “I like the staff, the nurses and I like the church setting.”

Donating is also a family affair for Ivan and Clara Patterson.  Clara made her milestone 75th lifetime donation, while Ivan received a letter of recognition from the Ohio General Assembly, honoring his 418 lifetime donations.  Eugene Etzler from Greenville took a seat at the tailgate café to have a hotdog and celebrate his milestone 100th lifetime donation.

But the honor of “biggest Buckeye fan” of the day probably belonged to retired elementary school teacher, softball coach and blood donor Barbara Hittle.  She came to the blood drive with her grandson Kerry Mayer, a Greenville High graduate who made his 9th lifetime donation. Barbara proudly showed off scrapbook photos of Kerry as a toddler meeting Buckeye great Archie Griffin at an alumni event.

“I’ve missed two Ohio State games in 34 years,” said Barbara. “I’ve been to every stadium in the Big 10, including Nebraska. I’ve been to 12 bowl games, including the Rose Bowl.”

In fact, her first Rose Bowl cemented her fate as a lifelong Buckeye fan.  After Miami University she followed her fiancé Garth Hittle to Southern California, where they saw the Buckeyes beat Oregon 10-7 in the 1958 Rose Bowl.

The Hittles came home to Ohio. They lost a 13-year-old son in a car accident, and Garth was taken by cancer after 35 years of marriage. But they established a scholarship in their son’s honor, and she donated blood to help cancer patients.  Through it all, there was always the hope of another glorious day to be a Buckeye fan.

“We have such great memories,” she said. “Our seats at Ohio Stadium are Row 4, on the 40 yard line. God willing, I’ll be there for the Indiana game. I can’t tell you the joy!”



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