January 3, 2020

BOTKINS, Ohio - It could be 15 degrees below zero in Botkins on the day after New Year's, as it was in 2018, or a balmy 45 degrees on this Jan. 2 for the fifth annual Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive.  It's just not January Ohio Blood Donor Awareness Month until Botkins gives in Chelsea's memory.

The Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive has become a New Year's tradition in Botkins. It was the largest of the five CBC mobile blood drives held across the region on Jan. 2 to begin Blood Donor Awareness Month.   It totaled 71 donors, including 59 donations for 98 percent of collection goal.

Susan Leugers organized the first memorial blood drive in the summer of 2016 as a tribute to her daughter Chelsea, who was just 22 when she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.  Susan agreed to hold the second blood drive just six months later, right after New Year's, to help boost the post-holiday blood supply.

In recognition of her dedication, Susan was named to the 2017 class of the Fresenius Kabi National Donation Hall of Fame. Her induction ceremony took place at the frigid 2018 Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive.

In 2018 Susan was part of a CBC coalition that gave proponent testimony for the bill designating January as Ohio Blood Donor Awareness Month. She kept her promise to make the 2019 Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive the first of Blood Donor Awareness Month.  She made her 141st lifetime donation in honor of Chelsea at the 2020 memorial blood drive.

"I think it's awesome," said Susan. "I told you I'm passionate about blood donating. I think we had at least one new donor today."

After donating Susan went back to serving hot sandwiches and holiday cookies to donors in the Donor Café set-up at the Palazzo bar. Helping serve was Susan's friend Judy Seitz. "I've been volunteering since the first time the blood drive was at the church," Judy said.

"I've been to all the blood drives," said Botkins donor Jeanette Bergman. "I knew Chelsea really well. I signed up. My stepson was in her grade. We'd go to the basketball games and watch her cheer."

Many of Chelsea's high school friends are now raising families of their own. By the donating they keep her memory strong. "I think like five of her classmates were here to donate," said Susan. "Her friends are nice."

Amanda Seigle is a Botkins native and now lives in McCartyville. Her loyalty is to the annual Christmas season blood drive at the Sacred Heart Parish. "I couldn't this year and that made me eligible for this," said Amanda. "I grew up in Botkins. You want to support your hometown."