Kettering donor Kathleen “Katie” Ellis says “I’m coach emeritus” at Alter High School, where she still coaches the golf team and helps with women’s soccer. But her title as Community Blood Center’s top female donor is far from honorary. She added to her “Donor for Life” legacy on Aug. 31 by making her 500th lifetime blood donation.
Katie was on a mission to reach 500 donations before her 70th birthday on Dec. 7. She beat that deadline three months early with a routine platelet donation. She then headed off to golf practice, after that sold tickets at the women’s soccer game, and finished the day watching the men’s team play.
Katie’s husband Bob is known as the “Wiz” at Alter High, where he has been coaching men’s soccer for 34 years. Katie coached the men’s reserve team for 16 years and softball for nearly as long. Bob and Katie will be married 48 years this month. They have four children and 11 grandchildren, including three sets of twins. The oldest grandchild is 16 and the youngest nine months.
The Alter golf team practices at Community Golf Course, where Katie volunteers as a starter and ranger, and plays a weekly round with the Community Women’s League.
Coaching, golfing or babysitting is never an excuse to miss donating every two weeks at the Dayton CBC.
“I’ve got the time,” she said. “It’s my way of giving back, to help those who need it. It’s only an hour and a half of the day. Why not do it?”
Her inspiration to give came from her mother. Gwynedd Armstrong was a Welsh girl from Australia who met her husband Frank during World War II. Katie was one of nine children.
“My mom got me started doing it. She gave blood until she was about 80.”
Katie grew up in Kettering, became a nurse, and was working in pediatrics at Kettering Hospital when she met Bob. She says it was around 1969 when she began donating with her mom.
“She said, ‘You want to come one time with me?’ and I said yes. I started giving whole blood,” Katie said. “The apheresis program started (at CBC in 1976). I had a good platelet count and I started giving.”
Regular exercise and lifelong friendship have been keys to Katie’s consistency. “I try to stay healthy,” she said. “I walk every day with friends, for probably 30 some years. We’re called ‘the Street Walkers of Ackerman!’ We went to school together or had kids who went to school together.
“Whatever our troubles, we talk it out. We lost one dear friend to cancer. We miss her every day.”
It’s meaningful for Katie to know her platelet donations have helped cancer patients. Giving blood gained extra meaning again when her daughter Jenny needed transfusions after the birth of Katie’s latest grandchild.
“I’m committed to this, I’ll just keep giving until I can’t give,” said Katie. “As long as I can do it, I will. I think I would miss it.
“I don’t think I ever thought about giving 500. “I just did it.”
She also likes her role as CBC’s top female donor. “It feels good,” she said. “The kids will say, ‘My mom’s the leading lady in the region!’ They’re proud of me.”