May 24, 2021

FAIRBORN, Ohio - Hosting high school blood drives was a challenge during the COVID academic year of 2020-2021. Remote learning and in-school restrictions cut donations with Community Blood Center in half. On May 21 Fairborn High hosted the final high school blood drive of a school year that placed a premium on every donation.

Originally scheduled in February, Fairborn's blood drive was cancelled by winter weather and rescheduled with little time to spare before the last day of class for seniors on May 28 and the end of school June 3.

Donors and DECA club volunteers reached 100% of collection goal Friday with 49 donors, including 35 donations and 24 first-time donors.

Fairborn was the last high school to host a blood drive before the pandemic shut-down in March of 2020, and it was nearly cancelled.  Fairborn overcame a two-hour weather delay on Feb. 27, 2020 to hold the blood drive. A few days later, all scheduled high school bloods cancelled, schools went on extended spring break, then shut-down completely for the year.

Adjusting to sudden change became the playbook for negotiating the pandemic in the 2020-21 school year. At Fairborn's Friday blood drive Decca advisor and blood drive coordinator Laura McCabe helped check-in donors in the gym, while her marketing class students sat in the bleachers and worked on a project.  

"We were going to have it in February, then the weather!" said Laura. "It was bad, and we had to go remote. But we were able to have it here today, so we lucked out with that! The seniors are out next week."

"I was a little sad, if I wasn't able to, because I know my blood can help people," said senior Trinity Burton, a Red Cord Honor graduate who made her fourth lifetime donation Friday. "I was really excited, so I jumped on the opportunity to do it."

About 300 of Fairborn's 1,000 students remain in remote learning, and Laura McCabe expected that to impact the blood drive. "We don't feel empty," she said, "but we missed out on some of them."

Fairborn was one of 95 high schools that hosted 156 blood drives in the 2020-21 school year, a 28% drop from 219 drives in 2018-19, the last full academic year before the pandemic.  

The bigger impact of COVID-19 was on the size of blood drives schools managed to host. In 2020-21 high school blood drives totaled 6,434 donors, a decline of 52% from 2018-19.  Units collected fell by 52% to 4,933 and first-time donors, considered the next generation of blood donors, declined 48% to 2,885. 

Trinity summed up her senior year of COVID-19 limitations and disappointments.

"It definitely wasn't normal, I can say that," she said. "I wish we had gotten to do more of what we normally do, but at the same time it showed me the opportunities some people don't have. So, I take what I can get. When life serves lemons make lemonade!"

Senior Hannah Smith made her fourth lifetime donation Friday with a sense of accomplishment. "It was definitely hard to stay motivated to get through the year," she said. "Now that it's over I feel better about it."

Hannah plays violin in the school orchestra. Three concerts were cancelled because of COVID, but the orchestra salvaged one year-ending performance. "I'm an officer and had to speak at it," she said. "I cried."

COVID cancelled the entire Color Guard season for junior Emma Epstein, who made her first lifetime donation Friday. "I want to be a nurse, and this is interesting to me, interesting in the medical part," she said.

Practice for next year's Color Guard begins in June. "We hope it's going to be a normal season," she said.