June 15, 2021

UNION CITY, Ohio - Celebrating young people and their enthusiastic support for voluntary blood donations was a focus of June 14 World Blood Donor Day. The FFA clubs at Ansonia and Mississanawa Valley High Schools put their youthful energy to work Monday by sponsoring the 12th annual FFA "Grudge Match Blood Drive in the Mississinawa High Jackson Gym.

The goal of the Grudge Match is to boost the blood supply during the summer months when there are no high school blood drives. The club with the most donor votes gets to keep the Grudge Match trophy through the school year.

Host MVHS reclaimed the trophy with a donor vote of 23 to 9. It snapped Ansonia's two-year win streak and narrowed Ansonia's lead in the series to 6-5-1.

The Grudge Match tradition stayed alive in the summer of 2020, despite COVID-19 restrictions on student donors and volunteers. The schools gradually returned to their routines in the 2021 spring semester, including normal proms and graduations.  The FFA students did most of their recruiting for the blood drive before the last day of classes on June 4.

"We've had 25 so far and that's an achievement!" said MVHS assistant FFA advisor Gwen Bergman as donors signed in. "We've had more students. Generally, people in both communities like to support the Grudge Match and I think that helps."

"We were in school every day," said Ansonia FFA advisor Emily Williams. "We've had our blood drives all year and they were pretty normal."

"I only went to school two days a week last year," said MVHS senior FFA member Gracie Townsend. She learned carpentry hands-on at Miami Valley CTC and took academic classes online. She earned the CBC Red Cord by making her third lifetime donation at the Grudge Match.

Ansonia senior and FFA vice president Carrie Rhoades volunteered at the Grudge Match with MVHS FFA reporter A.J. Waymire and freshman Daniel Hartzell.

"It was hard to have our normal FFA events. We had to cancel a lot of stuff," said Carrie. But she was encouraged by changes in the spring. "We wore masks and had assigned seats. No homecoming, but we did have prom."

MVHS sophomore FFA member Aron Hunt made his first lifetime donation at the Grudge Match. "My ag teacher Mrs. Hartzell asked me to sign up, so I did!" he said.

MVHS FFA advisor and co-blood drive coordinator Carmen Hartzell set an example for her students by donating Monday. She looks forward to a more normal summer of helping students with their FFA projects, and most importantly, anticipating a full return to the Great Darke County Fair, Aug. 20-28.

"It wasn't open to the public," Carmen said about the COVID-19 impact on the 2020 Fair. "It was not the full fair. It had the important part. It was a junior fair last year with 4-H and FFA exhibits. But I'm a food person, and that wasn't there! It makes you look forward to this year."