CENTERVILLE, Ohio – The 20th anniversary of the Officer John P. Kalaman Memorial Blood Drive on April 27 was a fitting celebration of a young life well-lived, duty well-served, and a dedication to helping others well-remembered and shared by all who have remained faithful to the blood drive tradition.
Last year the Kalaman blood drive passed the 4,000 mark of donations made in honor of the Centerville Police officer who was killed while assisting at an I-675 accident scene in 1998. The 20th annual blood drive, held again on April 27 in posthumous celebration of John Kalman’s birthday, added 88 donors and 81 donations to the legacy.
“All I can say is ‘thank you’ to all the people who have donated at this blood drive and any blood drive or given over at the (Community Blood Center) Donor Center in John’s honor,” said John’s father John Kalaman. “There is a need and this is the only way to replace it.
“I love my son. I miss him terribly every day. I’d give up all this in a heartbeat if I could have him back, but I can’t.”
A hallmark of the Kalaman blood drive is the support it receives from members of the public safety community, and especially by Centerville Police. “It’s heartwarming to see the officers come out, those that didn’t even know him, to have the compassion to come out,” said John Kalaman.
“A lot of it is for the Kalamans,” said CPD Sgt. Mike Yoder, who made his 26th lifetime donation Thursday and his ninth at the Kalaman blood drive. “This is one I mark on my calendar so I can donate in memory of John.”
Current CPD Chief Bruce Robertson and retired Chief Stephen Walker, who was chief at the time of Kalaman’s death, make it a tradition to support the blood drive. Both donated again Thursday.
“Over the 20 years people have come every year, or donated once or twice, but they still come back,” said Chief Walker. “It’s a tremendous remembrance of John and it’s a great thing for the community. It’s about this town and the way people care.”
“From the first time, it felt right,” said community member Steve Walker, who made his 50th lifetime donation Thursday. “I know it’s the same every year, but it always has a different meaning.”
The Kalamans will mark additional milestones in September with the 20th annual John P. Kalaman Memorial Golf Tournament and more than $250,000 raised for the John P. Kalaman Memorial Scholarship Fund for Centerville and Washington Township graduates.
John’s mother Paula Kalaman continued the tradition of serving slices of birthday cake decorated with a CPD badge. She was pleased to meet young donor Jake Stone who is completing the Criminal Justice program at Sinclair Community College and has applied to become a Dayton Police officer.
Jake says he was five years old when he asked his mother why Kalaman’s name was on road signs. “She told me what happened,” he said. It became part of his inspiration to become a police officer.
“People ask me ‘Why in the world would you want to be an officer with all the stuff going on,’” said Jake. “I tell them, that’s kind of why: to protect people and to be a public servant.”
A TV reporter asked Paula what her son John would say about the 20-year legacy of the blood drive in his name. “He would say, ‘Mom, this is awesome, I can’t believe people would give in my honor,’” she replied. “That’s the kind of humble person he was.”