January 3, 2018

BOTKINS, Ohio - Botkins donor Susan Leugers didn't hesitate when she saw her named etched on the crystal blood drop award honoring her as 2017 member of the Fresenius Kabi National Donation Hall of Fame.  "I'm going to put this with all of Chelsea's cheerleader trophies," she said.

Susan's Hall of Fame induction ceremony came during the third annual Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive, held Tuesday, Jan. 2 at Immaculate Conception Church.  It was a tribute to both Susan and her daughter Chelsea, who was just 22 when she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 2010.

Susan organized the first blood drive in Chelsea's memory in 2016.  Photos of Chelsea in her 2006 Botkins High School cheerleader uniform became a familiar tribute. Community Blood Center nominated Susan for the 2017 Hall of Fame because of her success hosting the blood drives early in the New Year, when blood is often in short supply.

Tuesday's blood drive was the first of 2018 for CBC, and the challenge of the season proved even tougher than expected.  The temperature plunged to 15 below zero in Botkins, forcing schools to remain closed, keeping kids home for an extended holiday break.  The daytime high reached only eight degrees.

Despite the chill, 88 donors came to honor Susan and Chelsea. Their 79 donations topped last year's total.  The blood drive soared to 120 percent of the collection goal, giving extra warmth to the Hall of Fame celebration.

"I went through Thanksgiving and Christmas without here," said Susan. "It's lonely without her.  But this is the first event for her. I feel like she was here.  It was a celebration that included her."

Fresenius Kabi account representative Anthony Montemurro celebrated Susan by presenting the award and honoring her dedication to encouraging blood donations. "The number of new donors she brought in, it's a big thing," he said. "The trend across the U.S. is the donor base getting older and in a lot of cases, they are beginning to need transfusions. We have to fill a lot of shoes of the people who have been committed donors."

"We knew Chelsea, she graduated with our granddaughter," said Botkins donor Nancy Behr. "We ran into Susan and she said, 'Now you're coming again this year?' and we said, 'Yes, we'll be there!'"

"I'm friends with Suze," said Laura Booth as she completed her donation. "The first blood drive for Chelsea, I couldn't give. I came from work and waited an hour, but they couldn't take any more people. Botkins is a good community. Small towns really turn out for their own."

Only one task remained for Susan to complete the tribute to her daughter, her home town and her cause.  She scheduled herself for the final appointment of the blood drive and made her 136th lifetime donation.