April 1, 2019

RIVERSIDE, Ohio - Students at Stebbins High School rallied support for their Friday, March 29 blood drive to prove they are united by competition with rival Fairborn High and by compassion for a young classmate at Mad River Middle School who is battling blood cancer.

Stebbins and Fairborn joined the Community Blood Center/Universal 1 Credit Union "Unity in the Community" campaign in 2018.  The rivals each host a CBC blood drive and alternate choosing a local charity for the $1,000 Unity Award. 

Stebbins added significance to their Unity blood drive by dedicating it to Mad River eighth-grade basketball player Jayden Wilcox who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in November.

"It's in honor of him because he's fighting A.L.L.," said blood drive coordinator Ann Marie Boyce, who teaches Exercise Science and Sports Medicine and SkillsUSA  career tech organization classes in construction, engineering and manufacturing. Her students serve as volunteer organizers for the fall and spring blood drives.

"He's been adopted by our men's basketball team," said Ann Marie.  "Riverside made Feb. 22 'Jayden Strong Day' and we did an 'Orange Out' for the basketball game," said SkillsUSA Vice President Brandon Anderson.

"We all wore orange for leukemia and we did a paper chain fundraiser for him," said SkillsUSA member Cassie Wheeler.  "We also had a pep rally for him," said SkillsUSA President Shapiy Sagiev.

"With the blood drive, it's about opening the conversation about the need for blood for cancer patients," said Ann Marie. "The kids think about trauma patients needing blood, but this highlights the need for cancer patients."

After donating, students sat in the Donor Café and wrote messages of encouragement to Jayden.

"I don't know him personally," said Tyler Bonner.  "I just wrote that I hope my blood helps you a little bit at least, and stay strong!"

Fairborn launched the 2019 Unity Campaign with its Feb. 12 Unity blood drive. The March 29 blood drive at Stebbins totaled 55 donors, including 14 first-time donors and 40 donations. The high schools combined for 133 donations, 57 first-time donors and 102 donations.

"I have good blood!" said junior basketball and soccer player Kate Johnson as she made her third lifetime donation. "I'm athletic. If a person needs blood, I can give it them."

Senior Bryce Carney, an Exercise Science student interested in a career in physical therapy and nursing, made her third lifetime donation. "It's being able to help people," she said, "and knowing it helps multiple people."

Fairborn chose the Fairborn FISH Food Pantry as the 2018 Unity award recipient. Stebbins will decide the 2019 recipient, to be announced at the Stebbins-Fairborn basketball game next season.

Ann Marie believes the Unity Award presentation on Stebbins' home court will raise awareness about the mission of the Unity Campaign and the compassion of high school blood donors. "With it here next year, it will expose it more to Riverside," she said.