By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
East High School volunteers recruited 43 blood donors among their classmates and even held some of their hands on Friday for a student-organized blood drive in the new middle school gym.
Volunteers spent about two weeks signing students up. On the day of the drive, they encouraged donors while they were giving and lent a shoulder to some as they made their way to the snack area afterwards.
The drive collected 47 pints and earned the students a $250 scholarship from the American Red Cross in a program that encourages high school and college students to organize blood drives on their campuses.
''It was very rewarding to watch, for myself, the whole process and see them so respectful,'' said Patricia Ross, a health teacher and 1972 graduate of East High School who supervised the event. ''The Red Cross workers commented many times on how well organized it was and how respectful and enthusiastic the students were.''
The East High chapter of the national Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organized the drive with help from the Marine Corps
JROTC and senior class officers.
Student-organized blood drives in high schools and colleges provide about one in five of the pints collected by the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Blood Services Region, which serves 19 counties.
Ohio began allowing 16-year-olds to donate blood with parental consent in October 2009, resulting in about 6,000 additional units collected in the 2009-10 school year.
''We've seen a lot of additional kids being eligible to give,'' said Christy Chapman, Red Cross communications manager. ''But overall, high school and college blood drives account for approximately 20 percent of the blood that we collect. So they are a huge part of what we do.''
Ross said the change in the law had a noticeable effect on this year's giving at East.
''I would say about a third of the donors were 16-year-olds,'' Ross said. ''So that should help us hopefully for the next blood drive.''
East will hold its second drive in May and may be able to recruit students who turn 16 before then.
Organizations such as student councils, honor societies and service groups usually host the drives. They must have two drives a year to qualify for scholarship money, which the groups can distribute however they choose.
Groups that collect 25 to 40 pints win $250 in scholarship money; 50 to 99 pints earns $500; 100 to 149 brings in $750; and 200 pints or more gets $1,500.
East missed the $500 mark by just three pints.
Last year, East was among 29 Summit County public, private and charter high schools to participate. Wayne County had drives at 13 high schools and Medina County had seven. Stark had eight high schools involved and 11 high schools in Portage held blood drives.
The five-county area collected nearly 10,000 pints of blood and earned about $75,000 in scholarship money.
The 19-county northern Ohio region collected about 32,000 pints last school year and awarded $235,750.
The College Program collected almost 9,500 pints. Even elementary school students got into the act by recruiting adult donors through the Pint Size Hero program, which delivered almost 8,600 pints, with a first-time donor rate of almost 25 percent.
The Red Cross holds two workshops, one in Akron and one in Cleveland, each fall to teach service groups how to conduct a blood drive and recruit donors.
In the spring, the students are invited back for an awards ceremony recognizing schools in various categories, such as best theme and most pints collected.
''What's great about youth is that they're excited, they're enthusiastic and they do a great job in hosting their drives,'' Chapman said.