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Bloodmobile marks silver anniversary at high school

A quarter century after they began, the American Red Cross Bloodmobile's visits to Ellsworth High School are more productive than ever.

The Red Cross and the EHS Student Council, which has sponsored those visits to the school since March of 1982, will mark the 25th anniversary with special festivities later this month, according to School Nurse Sharlene Kreye. When the bloodmobile makes its usual March stop on Monday, March 19, from 8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., donors will receive t-shirts bearing the legend "Ellsworth High School--25 Years of Saving Lives," and there will be cake and balloons. The public is welcome.

"Since 1982, a total of 2,856 units of blood has been donated," Kreye said Friday, indicating the number of visits has actually been 32 since then because they were increased to twice annually in recent years. The average number of units per visit has exceeded 90, she added.

Student council members handle recruiting volunteer workers, do the registering and operate the canteen, she said. Most of the donors are students and staff, though some come from outside the school, if they're retired, for example, or can otherwise attend.

"They're timed to be between the community visits so people can give at all of them, if they want," she said.

The Red Cross usually sends more of their personnel to the high school stops than otherwise because a higher percentage of the student donors are first-timers, the nurse said. She estimated around 40 giving blood at EHS are in this category. It's common to have some deferred for various medical reasons as well as some experiencing light-headedness.

"Students can be a little scared of the needle," she said about a reluctance she tries to get them to overcome. She strives not to be overly persistent in urging them to donate, yet agreed it can establish a pattern of giving that lasts a lifetime.

Kreye suspected the ever-present need for blood prompted the Red Cross to look to the schools for donations when the EHS visits started in '82. In the fall of 1999, a second yearly visit was added with a November bloodmobile here after their crew had a cancellation elsewhere and wanted to go somewhere.

"They gave us a goal of 45 (units) and we collected 71," she said, explaining it resulted in making the second stop permanent.

The bloodmobile visits to EHS have only been canceled once due to snowstorms over the years--in 1984, she said. They've always been held in what's now the old gym at the school, except for one time, when conflicts caused a move to the library and some crowded conditions.

While all blood types are needed, O-negative is especially sought because it can be universally given to everyone, she said. However, it's the least common type, found in just six percent of the population. O-positive is the most common type at 38 percent. The goal for this month's visit is 120 units.

According to a Herald article from when the first bloodmobile visit occurred at the local school, then-Nurse Bernice Schneider reported 119 pints being collected. The project was totally student-run, except for five nurses who assisted with the actual drawing of the blood. The EHS Honor Society and the student council co-sponsored that event, with Stacy Fagerland and Paula Schrader as co-chairs.

Of the 119 persons who donated blood back then, 92 were doing it for the first time, the article states. Twelve others showed up willing to donate, but were deferred for various reasons.