CLAYTON, Ohio – The Miami Valley’s oldest high school blood drive is suddenly new again. Northmont inspired a generation of young donors in 1980 with the first Community Blood Center high school blood drive and the popular “M*A*S*H” blood drives that followed. The Thunderbolts reached a new milestone Friday, Feb. 5 by hosting the first blood drive in the new Northmont High School.
The two-year, $44-million, 270,000-square-foot project was completed in time for students to move from the old high school to the new building when they returned from an extended holiday break on Jan. 11.
Planning for the blood drive began in November, with the volunteer committing raising money for refreshments and gathering donations from local businesses for prizes. “We sold raffle tickets for a dollar and that had everybody knowing about the blood drive,” said volunteer Mallory Woods.
But settling into the new school and preparing for the first blood drive in the new “Bolts” auxiliary gym was a challenge for Student Council advisors and blood drive coordinators Julie Marshall and Kathryn Abels. “It’s been a learning experience,” said Julie. “We couldn’t make everything happen this year. It’s been crazy.”
They maintained the tradition of holding a “spirit week” before the blood drive. Inspired by “The Price is Right” game show, the student volunteer committee named it “The Type is Right Blood Drive,” created a t-shirt, and encouraged students to dress up as game show audience members on “Tacky Tourist Friday.”
Back in the 1980’s Northmont adopted the popular TV series “M*A*S*H” as the theme for the new High School Mobile Program. Students created a mock field hospital for the 1982 blood drive. The blood drive averaged 250 donors per year over its first five years and in 1984 received the American Association of Blood Banks Award of Merit.
High school blood drives are now a key contributor to the community blood supply. Last year 118 high schools in CBC’s 15 counties hosted 215 blood drives with 13,929 donors and 11,357 donations. Northmont hosted two blood drives and ranked fifth in number of donors with 312. Northmont also ranked seventh in the Red Cord Honor Program with 48 seniors honored for registering to donate at least three times during their high school careers.
Coordinators Julie and Kathy were concerned about registrations leading up to Friday’s blood drive, but just as they did when classes in the new school began, students found their way. A total of 245 donors registered for the blood drive, including 120 first-time donors and 178 donations for 99 percent of the collection goal.
“It was really strange,” said senior Garrett Boeckman, a first-time donor. “I was in the old school for three and a half years and knew everything about it. But I got used to it pretty fast, faster than I thought.”
Students now follow the “Z’s” on “Thunderbolt Way” as they go from the entrance to the great open space of the cafeteria, study hall and “T-Bolt Café,” and then to the massive “Thunder Dome” main gym. Colored tiles zig-zag along the floor in the school’s Thunderbolt signature, and another Z-pattern of lights are etched on the ceiling in a choice of colors
“It’s definitely nicer, much prettier than the old school,” said senior Brendon Jenkins, who made his fourth lifetime donation at Friday’s blood drive. “I’m fortunate to get a semester. As nice as this building is, it makes it work waiting during the construction.”
The blood drive came before Super Bowl Sunday, and senior Shelby Didier stood out among her fellow donors because of her bright orange Denver Broncos jersey. “Everybody at Northmont wants the Carolina Panthers to win because Kurt Coleman on the Panthers went here,” she said.
Shelby is too young to remember the former Thunderbolt and Ohio State star, but she knows what motivated her to earn a Red Cord with her third lifetime donation Friday. “My uncle had to have emergency brain surgery,” she said. “He went through a lot. All that inspired me to do the best I can to help save lives.” Shelby wants to be a nurse and is already enrolled in a joint program at Sinclair Community College.
Sophomore Claudia Studebaker is a blood drive committee member who volunteered at the check-in table, then took time out to make her first lifetime donation. “I want to help people,” she said. “My dad is a doctor and I want to be a doctor too.”
Matt Bridenbaugh joined the blood drive committee as a tribute to his brother Michael who was born with Down syndrome and was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 13. He just completed more than three years of treatment.
His mother wrote in a flyer distributed at the blood drive, “Michael had 30 blood product transfusions in just his first year of treatment. Coming from a family whose child might have just used some of your donated blood, thank you! You alone are saving lives. Without it, Michael wouldn’t be here today.”
“At the beginning he was a little scared,” said Matt. “Now it’s better than it was at the beginning. For him, it’s an easy thing. He doesn’t get bothered by it.”
The “new” is quickly becoming familiar at Northmont. As first-time donor Morgan Sterner said about the new building, “I started to like it more now that I know my way around.” And as Brendon Jenkins said about donating, “It’s not doing any harm to me, and it’s something I need to take advantage of to help someone.”