Jasper Mitchell, a seventh-grader at East Grand Rapids Middle School, brought his dad, John Mitchell, to school on a recent Thursday morning for an unusual reason. He had persuaded his dad to contribute to the school’s blood drive.
Though John Mitchell says he has donated blood many times, the psychiatrist was helping his son’s class stage the largest blood drive in Michigan that was hosted by a middle school.
About 160 invited donors showed up for the drive and gave 133 pints of blood for the drive, hosted by the seventh-grade students in Becky Martin’s science class as part of their section on blood and the heart.
“For every person who gives a pint of blood, it saves three lives,” said Martin. “We saved 399 lives!”
While the staff of Michigan Blood processed the paperwork and handled the actual blood donations, the recruitment and hosting duties were handled by Martin’s seventh-grade science class.
Donors were greeted by students and led to the school’s library, where they were welcomed and assisted in the registration process. Successful donations were celebrated by designated cow-bell ringers. Treats were handed out afterwards to the donors and their hosts.
Michigan Blood technicians also helped the students determine their own blood types for future donations.
The idea for the blood drive came up last year, explained Carter Kegle, one of the student volunteers. “We wanted to do something real important for our community,” said Carter, adding that they also wrote thank-you notes to the donors.
Eoghan Burns was one of the students assigned to color the giant thermometer that tallied the successful donations during the six-hour event. Looking ahead, Eoghan said he is contemplating a career in medicine, perhaps as a pediatrician or pharmacist.
Kaila DiNallo of Michigan Blood said the East Grand Rapids Middle School event was the largest drive in the state hosted by middle school students. DiNallo said she was impressed by the enthusiasm and questions from the students as they prepared for the drive.
“This experience for these students can be life-changing,” said DiNallo.
Michigan Blood, headquartered at 1036 Fuller Ave. NE, is the sole blood provider for West Michigan hospitals, DiNallo said.