NATIONAL DONATION HALL OF FAME MEMBER LARRY SMITH IS ‘MR. DECEMBER’
Community Blood Center celebrated blind donor Larry Smith a year ago this month when he was inducted in the Fresenius Kabi National Donation Hall of Fame. The honor included a profile and photo in the 2016 Hall of Fame calendar. With the turn of the page to the final month of the year, it’s time to honor “Mr. December.”
On the day after Thanksgiving 2016 Larry gave platelets for his 316th lifetime blood donation. His picture in the calendar is from the day after Christmas in 2012 when he braved a winter storm to make his scheduled blood donation. It was an important contribution to the blood supply because the weather forced CBC to cancel all blood drives that day and close the Dayton Donor Center moments after Larry’s donation.
Larry’s snow storm donation was the basis of his nomination to the Hall of Fame, and his compelling life story impressed the judges even more. Larry has been blind since birth and was abandoned as an infant on the steps of a state orphanage. He survived a childhood full of hardship by finding a purpose in helping others.
After his induction in December, 2015 Larry was interviewed for a WHIO-TV news report about making a needed New Year’s Eve donation. He then made his milestone 300th lifetime donation in February. Anchor James Brown was impressed by Larry and profiled him in a WHIO “Making a Difference” report about outstanding citizens that aired on Newscenter 7 in March. Larry and the other honorees were invited to the annual celebration dinner at Cox Ohio Media Group last summer.
“I got to talk about donating and how I enjoy saving lives,” said Larry. “I talked about how I get called about where the blood goes. I enjoy saving lives, but especially when I found out it went to Dayton Children’s Hospital.”
Larry’s own childhood was filled with misery. “James Brown talked about my early life and the fact that at a time in my life I didn’t want to live,” Larry said. “I didn’t want to eat. I was treated badly in the children’s home. I didn’t see the purpose. What am I here for? To suffer at the hands of these people?
“But a lady, a new house mother, came into my life and she was my sunshine. She started me on vitamins and I got stronger. The staff got better and my life really changed.”
Larry came to Dayton and found a job perfectly suited to him. He worked 40 years as a hospital dark room X-ray film technician and made many friends. He ran marathons, competed in a blind bowling league and sang in his church choir. He began donating blood in 1994 and has been a platelet and plasma donor since 2004.
“The good Lord sends people into your life to strengthen you, help you out and put you on the right track,” he said.
“The biggest part was forgiveness. Someone at my church helped me with that. We prayed and I woke up to a voice telling me I’ve got to learn to forgive. I decided to use it. Rather than be bitter about it, I used it gain strength and to help people.”
His mission remains unchanged. No matter how many storms sweep the Miami Valley this winter, long after the calendar page turns from “Mr. December,” Larry Smith will still be walking in the light that shines on a “Donor for Life.”