January 5, 2021

BOTKINS, Ohio - It's not easy organizing a blood drive right after New Year's Day. Susan Leugers does it gladly because it helps Community Blood Center during a time of need, and it honors the memory of the daughter she lost to cancer. 

The COVID-19 pandemic added challenges to the 6th annual Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive on Jan. 4, but the result was rewarding.  It was CBC's biggest blood drive of the New Year with 107 donors, including 16 first-time donors, for 118% of collection goal.

For the first time, the blood drive included four donations of COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma for the treatment of coronavirus patients. Overall, donor registrations increase 50% compared to a year ago.

"I usually have to barter - or batter - people to come here and give blood, but not this time!" said Susan, who made her 146th lifetime donation Monday in her daughter's memory. "Every time I looked at the website more people had signed up. It's like I didn't have to recruit people like prior years."

The Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive is now a New Year's tradition in Botkins. Susan held the first in the summer of 2016 as a tribute to her daughter Chelsea, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at age 22.  Susan held the second blood drive just six months later, after New Year's, to boost the post-holiday blood supply.

Last year Susan used a $250 grant from the non-profit Thrivent Action Team to fund a hot meal for donors in the Donor CafĂ©.  Pandemic restrictions this year meant no open food and no volunteers, but Susan used the Thrivent funds to purchase gift cards from local merchants for donor raffles.

"My wife grew up with Chelsea," said Sidney donor Jeremy Keaton. "They knew each other since kindergarten. She would be here helping out, but we just had a baby on Dec. 29."

Jeremiah Smith from Botkins was one of the convalescent plasma donors. "I've given plasma before, so with convalescent plasma, this is an added bonus," he said. "It doesn't make me nervous. "It doesn't matter to me who it goes to or where it goes, it's just a matter of giving it."

New donors are common at the Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive because Susan is not shy about recruiting. Desiree Stangel from Sidney is Susan's hair stylist and with encouragement from Susan registered to donate for the first time since high school.

"I wanted to help her out, because of Chelsea and to help save a live, especially with COVID going on right now," said Desiree.  She was also motivated because CBC is testing all donors for COVID-19 antibodies.  People who have the antibodies are eligible to donate convalescent plasma.

"If I have the antibodies, I can help with that," she said. "I've never done plasma before, but there are people who need it. You can help save a life and check your own health at the same time."