Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary students, alumni and staff have made 2,000 blood donations in the last 12 years.
The milestone donation was made over the summer months, but it won’t go without celebration. A group of students will be marking the 2,000th donation by attending a Sunday (Oct. 21) blood donor clinic in Cloverdale to give more.
Science teacher Michele Stea has spearheaded the blood donation program at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary (LTSS) since it began in 2006. She attributes the success of the program to “momentum.”
After so many years, it has become a sort of grad tradition, she said.
Stea is a familiar voice for LTSS students, and can be heard over the speaker system every September asking students to sign up to become blood donors. By the time a student reaches an age when they can choose to donate, chances are they’ve been hearing her speak about the program for five years.
Over the past 30 years, Stea has made about 50 donations herself. She doesn’t remember why, exactly, she made that first donation. Neither has she ever known anyone who has needed to have an emergency blood transfusion.
“I think for me, as a teacher, it’s this idea that I want to see our graduating students recognizing themselves as citizens of our community, and that part of being grown up is contributing when you can,” she said. “Not everyone can donate blood. But contributing how you can, when you can is part of being an involved citizen.”
Students often return to make more donations — it’s part of the reason why LTSS’s donation numbers are so high. If a person signs up as a donor while they are an LTSS student, they continue to count as an LTSS donor after they’ve graduated. All told, 650 students, past and present, have made donations.
“I’ve had the fun experience where I’ve gone to donate in the summer, and sitting in the chair beside me was a previous grad from five years ago. And now he’s finished university and he’s still donating. It’s really fun to see that it continues, that legacy,” said Stea.
According to Canadian Blood Services, other Surrey schools have made an average of 200 to 300 donations since beginning blood donation groups. In comparison, Lord Tweedsmuir is on track to make 200 donations this year alone.
The Reporter visited Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary on Wednesday to speak with students who will be at the Oct. 21 blood donor clinic. Jake Rachwalski, Abbey Bickell, Alyssa Embree, Liam Jackson-Weeks and Ethan Jorssen are all in Grade 12, and the majority of them will be donating for the first time on Sunday.
Abbey knows someone who has needed an emergency transfusion — blood donations helped save a family member’s life. Although the other group members don’t have the same personal connection to the cause, they are donating for the same reason: to save someone’s life.
“It’s a good thing to do, because everybody needs blood. It’s an easy way for us to help out,” said Liam.
Donors must be 17 years of age or older, but younger students also find ways of supporting the program. Meha Sidhu, 15, volunteers as a guide for LTSS donors. She helps first-time donors through the process, gets them to their station on donation day, and will sit with them if they are nervous.
Her advice to first-time donors is simple: “Don’t watch the needle.”
“Just relax,” she said. “It’s not painful. It’s okay if you faint, because they’ll be there for you. There’s people there to help.”
On Sunday (Oct. 21), all six students will attend a blood donor clinic at Cloverdale Catholic Parish Centre (17475 59 Avenue) to volunteer or donate, and to celebrate LTSS’s 2,000th donation.