CENTERVILLE, Ohio – Everything about the blood drive in their son’s name is amazing to John and Paula Kalaman. The number of years it has endured, the support that never wavers, and most of all, the gallons of giving.
In the years since the young Centerville Police officer’s tragic 1998 death in the line of duty, the blood drive has now totaled 4,000 blood donations. The 19th annual Officer John P. Kalaman Memorial Blood Drive, held traditionally on his April 27 birthday, had the biggest turn-out since 2007 with 105 donors, 34 first-time donors, and 97 donations for 123 percent of the collection goal.
“I did the math, and that’s 500 gallons,” said John Kalaman. “That’s just something amazing to me. I’m proud of the people who come out here to donate in John’s memory. It’s a birthday present to him. We can’t give a birthday present to him, but we can do something to help other people.”
Officer Kalaman and Washington Township firefighter Robert O’Toole were killed and another firefighter injured on Jan. 12, 1998 while helping an accident victim on I-675. All three were struck by a car whose driver lost control and slid into the median.
“I was working that day. I remember,” said Centerville Police Officer Faupo Lauofo after donating once again at Wednesday’s blood drive. “I come every year.” He shared hugs and smiles with John and Paula in the Donor Café, where photos of John sit beside the traditional birthday cake decorated with a Centerville Police badge in the icing.
Wednesday’s blood drive was the busiest since 2007, the final year at Bethany Lutheran Village before moving to the Centerville Police Department. It received a windfall of support from workers at the LJB, Inc. engineering firm in Miamisburg. LJB is celebrating its 50th anniversary with “50 acts of service,” and employees chose the Kalaman blood drive as one of their projects.
“We had 54 people sign-up to donate, which is nearly 50 percent of our company,” said co-owner Jeff Griffin. “Nearly everyone knows someone or had a family member that needed blood. You never know where the story will come from.”
Paula gave special thanks to blood donors in a TV news interview, recalling the transfusions she received during surgery related to breast cancer. “If it hadn’t been for three generous donors a year ago, I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
The Kalaman story about service and sacrifice has endured. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the blood drive, and in September the 18th annual John P. Kalaman Memorial Golf Tournament is expected to reach the milestone of $250,000 raised over the years for the Kalaman college scholarship fund.
“The pain never goes away,” Paula said. “You find ways to deal with it, to make it better, like with the blood drive. John’s life was cut so short. It’s an honor for us to do this for those coming to give blood.”