November 17, 2021

SIDNEY, Ohio - Scarlet and gray gear? Check.  Peanut butter buckeyes? Check. Enough blood donations to bolster the blood supply before the Thanksgiving holiday and Michigan Week? Double check!

The annual OSU Alumni Club of Shelby County "Buckeye Blood Drive" was back at the Sidney American Legion Post on Nov. 16 after the subdued COVID version in 2020. Last year the OSU Buckeyes played in empty stadiums and the blood drive went on without OSU Alumni volunteers, hot chicken sandwiches, and handcrafted OSU door prizes.

The alumni club blood drive rebounded this year with 162 donors, including 153 whole blood donors and nine platelet and plasma donations. That represented a 36% increase over last year's blood drive during the pandemic, and a surprising a 22% increase the 2019 blood drive prior to the pandemic.

"Last year we weren't here at all," said OSU Alumni Club President Tina Hottle. "We had one gift basket and that was it. We used to do sandwiches, and we don't have them today. It's kind of our modified version this year!

COVID limited club activities in 2020, but they raised enough money to award six OSU scholarship. They hope to double that number this year.

Tina wore an "OSU Volunteer" t-shirt and greeted donors with her homemade buckeyes. Club members Helen Ward, Sarah Kleinhans, Bob Baird and Bobby Bender reminded donors to enter the drawing for door prizes, including 20 buckeye necklaces donated by "OSU Buckeyeman" Larry Lokai.

They also placed a sign at the door with the simple message "Thank You Irene Boerger."  She served as the Community Blood Center coordinator in Shelby County for 38 years.  Tuesday marked the first blood drive in the county since Irene passed away Nov. 13 at the age of 94.

"She whipped us into shape!" said OSU Alumni Club Buckeye Blood Drive coordinator Roger Bender as he donated platelets Tuesday. "She whipped the county into shape. She basically built the blood drive program."

"She put a lot of personality into the blood drives," agreed Sidney donor Jack Schmiesing, who donated platelets alongside Roger. 

"She was doing it when I started, and that was back in the '70's," he said. "Whenever you recorded a milestone, she rang a bell, or a train whistle. That was part of making it fun and enjoyable."

Roger and Jack combined have made 576 lifetime donations, so both have heard their share of Irene's bell.

"She was in my stock club," said Sidney donor Diny Albers, who made her 86th donation Tuesday. "We did that for 25 years."  Whether it was strategizing with women investors, or building up blood collection goals, Irene was all business.

"She ran it with an iron fist, it was her baby," said Diny. "She made it fun, she really did."

CBC Shelby Co. account representative Mirriah Phillips is the latest to follow in Irene's footsteps. When donor Carolyn Howard won a door prize Mirriah did the honors of crowning her with a buckeye necklace.

"I'm a big-time Buckeye fan!" said Carolyn.

All donors are Buckeye fans - at least for a day - at the Buckeye Blood Drive.  And even without her bell tolling in gratitude, all donors are considered friends of Irene.

Tuesday's Tribute to Irene

Nov. 16, just 3 days after the passing of long-time CBC Shelby Co. blood drive coordinator Irene Boerger, Shelby Co. hosted the Shelby Co. OSU Alumni Club Buckeye Blood Drive in Sidney, the St. Remy's Hall blood drive in Russia and the Honda of America Mfg. employee blood drive in Anna. They combined for 320 donors, 77% of CBC's entire whole blood collections for the day.