August 12, 2020

GREENVILLE, Ohio - Greenville donor Donn Thornhill has been on a mission to reach the milestone of his 500th lifetime donation. Nothing could knock him off pace, not even the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I just stayed on schedule," said Donn. "I didn't let it scare me."

There was a smile beneath his face mask as he donated platelets and plasma to reach Community Blood Center's elite "500 Club" at the Greenville Community blood drive Aug. 11 at the Greenville Church of the Brethren.

Don is just the 11th Community Blood Center donor to reach 500 donations. Ironically, he isn't the first in Darke County - that honor belongs to his fellow donor 93-year-old Ivan Patterson, who has 548.

"It's a tribute to Darke County to have two 500 milestone donors," said CBC account representative Dana Puterbaugh. "Congratulations and thank you Donn for all you have done!"

Donn donates both donate platelets and plasma regularly at the monthly Greenville blood drives. CBC's other top donors are also apheresis donors, and commonly donate at the Dayton CBC Donation Center.

Donn tries to average a dozen donations per year.  He was forced to slow down in April when many hospital procedures using platelets came to a standstill due to the pandemic.  But he reached 500 with his 12th donation of 2020.

"We're going to get this one step at a time, one donation at a time," said Donn. He showed his patience and perseverance over the years. When made his 470th donation in 2013 he said, "That's my goal. It's going to take me a couple of years to do it unless I really push it!"

He reached 490 in February and said, "If I can get here monthly, then I can get it done before the end of the year."

His "Donor for Life" journey began in 1976, early in his career at the Treaty Company. "There was a drive going on in town, and a VP at work put a challenge to us and asked if we would donate," he said. "That's really how I got started."

A new challenge came when he became a platelet and plasma donor. "Once I got my 20 gallons (160 donations) giving whole blood, I decided to do apheresis pretty well all the time."

His history as a platelet donor goes back the years when the procedure required a needle in each arm.  "That's when they had a nurse sitting right here with you and every six to 10 minutes, they wrote down your specifics. You got to know the nurses really well! You couldn't do anything - get a drink or scratch your nose!"

Donn and Charlene, his wife of 56 years, have two daughter, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.  He retired in 2010 then went to work part time at Zechar Bailey Funeral Homes. He often donates then volunteers at the Zechar Bailey sponsored blood drives.

To this day his continued inspiration to donate comes from getting phone calls confirming his blood went to a patient. "You get a call a day or two later about how your blood was used," he said. "It helped someone, maybe helped a child. It was a good feeling knowing you helped someone."

Now he hopes his milestone achievement might inspire others to donate.

"It was a good achievement," said Donn. "Something that might help someone else coming along to say, 'Maybe I can do that too.' It might be encouragement for someone continuing it or starting it."