Students lead metro area’s largest high school blood drive project

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OLATHE, Kan. -- As we head into the holiday season we’ll hear and read a lot about the great need to donate blood. The Community Blood Center, our region’s large non-profit blood collection and distribution agency, said blood donations fall off considerably at this time of year. This week’s FOX 4 Young Achievers are doing their part to restock the supply by leading the metro area’s largest high school blood drive project.

Donuts and sweet rolls are always a nice reward for people who participate in a community service project. But that’s not really what attracts all these Olathe Northwest High School students to the school gym. Their reward comes in knowing what they are accomplishing.

“It really gives back to the community and the people,” said junior Harshitha Kandru, a member of the Olathe Northwest Student Council. “And it helps so many people. It saves so many lives. And we just love doing it.”

What the Northwest students love doing is donating blood. And Harshitha and the other members of the school’s Student Council love to make it possible for them to do it.

“It kind of fills you with optimism to see that we can gather a student body the way we have to move them in this direction to help them donate and help them save lives,” said senior Dylan Kahler, a Student Council member and first time blood donor.

They do it right there in the gym as the Community Blood Center comes in with its trained staff and its equipment to draw the rich, life-saving liquid from all those young arms. It happens three times a year at Olathe Northwest, once each semester and once during the summer. And the Student Council runs the show, recruiting donors, doing publicity, getting sponsorships, arranging for food and supplies, everything needed to organize and run the metro area’s largest high school blood drive project.

“So much goes with this kind of effort and when I get to see all the working parts kind of mesh together, it’s the greatest feeling I could get,” said senior Bessie Bauman.

Bessie is Student Council president and overall chairperson of the blood drive. She and her team are on track to once again top 600 pints of blood in the three drives they’ll do at Northwest this year.

“We’re able to convey the impact,” said Bessie. “I think that’s what other schools have yet to find is that we really show students that their donation makes an impact.”

Olathe Northwest has had a student led blood drive each year for most of the 13 years it’s been in operation. But the effort started achieving its phenomenal success six years ago when tragedy hit the school family.

“We had a kid die in a car accident,” said Student Council co-sponsor Kathy Ingles. When Northwest junior Zach Myers was killed in that car crash in 2010 students rallied to do more than just grieve, to do something big and positive as a tribute to him.

The blood drive became that something. Now it’s a major element of what people at the school call a culture of service and giving at Northwest, with the dedicated Student Council members leading the way.

“The idea that you serve your community,” said Ingles. “It’s not about the community serving you. And the kids really work hard and they really embrace that attitude. And they are active in their communities. I don’t think there’s any one of our kids who don’t do some kind of community service outside of Student Council. With their church, with family foundation, with international organizations, with their own set of families. A lot of them do things as a family. And so I think that really drives them.”

“In all things we reach farther to help more people come together,” said Bessie, “and kind of harness the power of students into an activism.”

Olathe Northwest’s summer and fall blood drives have resulted in 367 pints. The next one will be on Valentine’s Day. The Community Blood Center said about 40 high schools in its 70 county service area do blood drives for the agency. Liberty High has the largest single drive every year, usually in February or March, with students, staff and people from the community donating 325 to 400 pints of blood each time.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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