MCCARTYVILLE, Ohio – The annual Knights of Columbus holiday blood drive at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in McCartyville is always about Christmas miracles, big and small. The Tuesday, Dec. 18 blood drive – coming one week before Christmas – was brimming with the hope that comes when helping others.
Kelly Schmitmeyer was there as a volunteer, exactly one year after the pulmonary embolism that nearly claimed her life.
Community Blood Center’s Kathy Pleiman was at her post directing the blood drive, less than a month after her husband John suffered a stroke.
For the third consecutive year, Jim Goettemoeller was not there to play Santa. This time, by a small miracle, Jim is playing Santa in Yakima, Washington.
Tom Albers was there in his traditional role as blood drive coordinator for the 19th year, but it’s also his last.
Kelly Schmitmeyer s dad Ray Bornhorst celebrated Kelly’s recovery by making his 99th lifetime donation. “It was pretty scary,” Ray said of Kelly’s collapse last year on the very day she expected to make her 44th lifetime donation at the Sacred Heart blood drive. “It’s a shame more people don’t donate in some places. But I think it’s different in the country. More people want to help.”
“Happy birthday Kelly – you’re one year old today,” said Tom as he handed Kelly one of the gifts he brings for all the KOC Ladies Auxiliary volunteers. It was one year ago that Kelly nearly died, but survived thanks to medical care and blood donations.
“One year ago today,” said Kelly who was moved to return to the blood drive as a volunteer. “It makes your appreciate when you see a big crowd like this. It’s pretty much been non-stop. I talked to someone who was inspired by what he saw and donated for the first time.”
It’s my first time here, said Fort Loramie donor Kay Zumberger. “A lot of people are on vacation for the day. I got off at two and came.”
“Congratulations Tom for doing a great job for 20 years!” said platelet donor Paul Luthman as he shook Tom’s hand.
Tom recalled when the Sacred Heart blood drive took place in the church basement and would fall just before Christmas Eve. He believes that rather than a distraction, the timing inspired donors.
“I remember when he had it on Dec. 23. Appointments were way off,” he said. “Then we had 60 or 70 walk-ins. That was the first year Jim Goettemoeller played Santa.”
Jim is famous for appearing at the blood drive in a Santa suit that looks like it has survived several trips down the chimney. He would gleefully visit donors to hand out candy canes before rolling up his red sleeve and donating.
But for the last two holiday seasons Jim has traveled to the northeast to work as a professional Santa. “Jim is in Yakima, Washington playing Santa this year,” said brother Duane Goettemoeller who donated Tuesday. “He thought about not going because he misses being here. But he said you know I’ve never been to Yakima. I have to go!”
After 19 years, Tom feels it’s time to hand over the reins of the blood drive sleigh to fellow KOC member David Poeppelman. David will have the continued support of the volunteers who prepare the traditional Sloppy Joe sandwiches and holiday cookies. “I feel good about it, said David. “I know people in the community, for volunteering and recruiting.”
To go out in style, Tom made his milestone 200th lifetime donation.
Tom started donating as young man working at Stolle Precision in Sidney. “A couple of guys would go to the blood draws and would ask me to go donate,” he said. “I started going with them and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Discussing his blood drive recruiting with David he said, “It’s like those guys who first asked me to donate all those years ago, said Tom.
Kathy reflected on the miracles that brought Kelly back to life after an embolism a year ago and her husband John’s steady recovery from a Thanksgiving weekend stroke.
It brought back the simply joy of being among friends at another Sacred Heart blood drive. “We never think about how much time we have left,” Kathy said.