April 30, 2019

CENTERVILLE, Ohio - John and Paula Kalaman began the day of the 22nd annual blood drive in memory of their son Officer John P. Kalaman by signing their names next to his on the hood of a patrol car. 

The retired Sheriff's Department vehicle is serving as a mobile memorial.  The hood lists the names of Montgomery County's 38 peace officers who have died in the line of duty.  Centerville Officer John Kalaman became part of that legacy in January 1998 when he was struck and killed while helping an accident victim on I-675. 

His parents hosted the first John Kalaman Memorial Blood Drive on April 27, 1998 with Community Blood Center. The day would have been his 30th birthday.

"I try to make it every time I can," said donor Michelle Wagner. "I was talking to his dad and for the first time realized they held this on or near his birthday. That makes it extra special."

"I want them to know that he was a very giving, loving person," Paula Kalaman said about her son's legacy with the blood drive.  "I think it's in all of us to be caring, giving, loving people. There's an old saying there's no better exercise for your own heart than to reach down and help someone else.  If we could all do one kind thing and pay it forward what a better world it would be."

The family has seen the inspiration to help others catch hold and grow in the more than two decades of giving. Monday's blood drive totaled 80 donors and 67 donations.  That brought the total number of units donated over the years to more than 4,249.

Centerville Police Chief Matt Brown, the department's third chief since Kalman's death, made his first lifetime blood donation.  Officer Ashley Beane joined CPD six months ago and made her first Kalaman donation.

"Obviously it's a personal decision because I'm a police officer," she said. "It hits close to home and the Kalamans are wonderful people."

It's become a tradition for a group of Kettering police officers and city workers to donate together at the blood drive.  The nearby LJB engineering company adopted the blood drive as one of its "50 acts of service" during the company's 50th anniversary celebration four years ago.

"People enjoyed coming out and meeting the Kalamans and we continued doing it every year," said Dianne Lawson-Smith who coordinates blood drives at LJB.  "I think we had 24 sign up today."

Centerville donor Jacob Stone hopes to become a police officer.  Monday marked his seventh straight donation at the Kalaman blood drive.

"I grew up and knew the story," he said. "I kind of made it a point to get here as often as I can."

Dayton Fire Department Lt. Robert Lotz came to donate with Tad Becker, who retired last year after 33 years with DFD.  Retired Centerville High teacher and swim coach Tom Novak said after donating, "It's one of the most perfect things I can image to have the blood drive work out this way."

The retired Montgomery County Sheriff's patrol car with the names of the slain peace officers and signatures of supporters is scheduled to appear in 15 events this year, including local and state Law Enforcement Memorial services.

"Then the vehicle hood itself will be permanently placed here at the Centerville Police Department," said Capt. Greg Stephens.  It will be on display at the 23rd Kalaman Memorial Blood Drive.

The Kalamans will attend the Montgomery County Law Enforcement Memorial Service and the national memorial service in Washington, D.C.

"The day John was killed was the hardest day I've ever had to go through," said John Kalaman. "But when we saw the outpouring of support that the community gave us, we knew that something good could happen.  It was a way of honoring our son's memory and his giving to the community.  They are continuing his legacy of giving to the community.  That's what John was all about."

"It makes me feel fabulous knowing that somewhere out there because of this blood drive there are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and parent who won't know the agony of someone dying for lack of blood," said Paula. "We are saving lives and that feels wonderful."