Bethlehem community gives blood in honor of teachers battling cancer

By: Alana Mauger

For members of the Nitschmann Middle School community, donating blood is personal. Two of the school’s long-time teachers, Lara Ellis and Dawn Mendez, are both battling cancer and have received blood transfusions as part of their treatments.

When a loved one is battling cancer, donating blood or platelets is a meaningful way to show your support. In fact, cancer patients use nearly one-quarter of the nation’s blood supply and need more blood than patients fighting any other disease.

While too young to donate blood themselves, students in seventh grade teacher Gayle McLaughlin’s service club organized the school’s first-ever American Red Cross blood drive on Jan. 24 in honor of Ellis, a librarian, and Mendez, a gifted support teacher. The drive collected 63 units of blood – more than 50% over its goal – and raised awareness about the importance of having blood products available for patients who need it.  

While Ellis and Mendez could not attend the drive, Dr. Peter Mayes, Nitschmann’s principal, texted them photos while he gave a Power Red donation.

“It’s emotional for them, and it’s emotional for us to support them,” he shared from the donation chair. “It feels like they’re a part of us every day, but today was an opportunity to do something a little more public.”

Approximately 80% of blood donated through the Red Cross comes from blood drives hosted by volunteer blood program leaders like Nitschmann Middle School, and new blood drive sponsors are always needed to ensure hospitals in the Lehigh Valley and across the region have an adequate supply of all blood types on hand.

Give a lifesaving gift

You can schedule an appointment to donate today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the blood donor skill on any Alexa Echo device by saying, “Alexa, find a blood drive.” To speed up the donation process, you can also complete a RapidPass® online health history questionnaire on the day of your donation at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass on mobile devices.

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