Freezing winds whipped streams of snow across all roads leading into Greenville Tuesday, Dec. 10 for the annual Darke County Lions Club Blood Drive. But the wintry blast was not enough to stop these four Lions Clubs from coming together at holiday time for the benefit of two great causes.
For more than 16 years Arcanum, Gettysburg, Greenville and Pitsburg Lions have raised money to buy a cuddly collection of Teddy Bears to donate to young patients at Wayne Healthcare. The tradition includes hosting a Community Blood Center (CBC) blood drive at the Greenville Church of the Brethren and inviting donors to sign a tag on a Teddy Bear as a “get well” wish for the child who will receive it.
“The four clubs each donated $110 to buy about 60 stuffed animals,” said CBC Darke County Account Representative Dana Puterbaugh. “There’s also a large bear and big lion for door prizes.” The community responded by supporting the blood drive with 129 registrations and 107 blood donations.
Volunteers from each club worked shifts at the blood drive, greeting donors and serving refreshments. The waiting area filled up as Pitsburg Lions Club members Brett Tillman, Ivalou Crossley and Jeff Brocious worked their shift in the Donor Café. “Lions is a good organization,” said Larry Henderson, who made his 203rd lifetime donation at the blood drive. “I buy a lot of their chicken and barbecue when they have their Gathering at the Garst Museum in July!”
The December chill for the Lions Club Blood Drive is in stark contrast to the summer heat at the Garst Gathering, but both events have become Lions traditions. “I do it every year,” Gaily Dynes said after making her 58th lifetime donation. “It’s on my rotation and it helps out with the Teddy Bear drive. Now the good part – cookies!”
The Donor Café table was laden with holiday cookies and snacks. Kathleen Gade and her daughter Kaleen (a Greenville High senior) sat down together after donating. “She’s the one who talked me into this,” said Kathleen, who made her 6th lifetime donation. “It was after the first time I donated at school,” said Kaleen. “She was scared!” “I was pretty nervous,” admitted Kathleen, “but it was not as bad as I thought.”
Rachel Duncan made her 10th lifetime donation Tuesday. She likes to support the Lions Club Blood Drive because the Teddy Bears remind her of a special holiday delivery. “My daughter Alivia was born on New Year’s Eve, 2001 at Wayne Hospital,” she said. “She got a Teddy Bear and they also gave one to my older boy Alex for being a big brother. He was really excited. They both still have them.”
The Lions Club also brought back empathetic memories for Randall Kemme, who made his 180th lifetime donation at the blood drive. “I appreciate all these people for giving these Teddy Bears to the children because when I was a young boy I was in the hospital this time of year,” he said.
Randall said he had developed a serious abscess in his ear when he was just three years old. There was no established treatment for fighting the infection at the time. “I had an operation every year from third grade through 12th grade,” he said. A radical surgical procedure finally proved to be the cure that saved his life. “I thank God that they have treatment for it now so that other children don’t have to go through what I went through.”
There won’t be a cure this holiday season for every illness young patients are facing. But thanks to the Darke County Lions and loyal blood donors, there will be a comforting gift ready for a hug.