April 28, 2020

CENTERVILLE, Ohio - The Officer John Kalaman Memorial Blood Drive has been a unified show of support for public safety workers since the Centerville policeman's 1998 death in the line of duty. Cautions this year against COVID-19 didn't stop the tradition from continuing with the April 27 blood drive at Centerville High School.

Kalaman and Washington Township Firefighter Robert O'Toole were struck by a motorist and killed Jan. 12, 1998 while assisting at the scene of an accident on I-675. The Kalaman family began the tradition of hosting a Community Blood Center blood drive on Kalaman's April 27th birthday.

Over the years his parents John and Paula Kalaman enjoyed visiting with old friends, serving birthday cake to the donors, and welcoming new donors. Social distancing and other safety restrictions prevented the usual gathering of the public safety community and for the first time, the Kalamans could not attend.

"I'm so upset we had to miss it," said Paula Kalaman. "I have mixed emotions. I understand. A beautiful day like this, I would have been glad to be in the parking lot and just waved to people as they went by. But it's tough to stay away. If we had gone, we would have wanted to stay the whole day.  It was the best all around, but it was hard. There will be other years."

The blood drive moved from its traditional location at the Centerville Police Department to Centerville High School and was CBC's only mobile blood drive of the day. It totaled 101 donors and 87 donations. More than 4,336 units of blood have now been donated in Kalaman's name.

"This is the first time I've donated (at the Kalaman blood drive)," said Vandy Watrous. "I remember the accident. I was on my way to work, about to get on I-675 at Wilmington Pike and I saw the lights. I'll never forget it.  I'm sorry I haven't donated at this before."

Jake Stone started donating when he was a student at Centerville High School. He has donated at nearly every Kalaman blood drive since 2013. "Probably since I was able to donate when I was 15," he said. "I know the Kalamans really well. It's good they're still doing it."

"This is my first time donating," said Natalie Mays, one of 20 first-time donors at Monday's blood drive. "I do not like staying at home doing nothing. It drives me crazy!"

The Kalaman blood drive became a homecoming for Dale and Ella Davidson and their sons Jeremy and Justin. The brothers Centerville High students, and it was their first return to school since in-person classes ended.

"I know it's necessary," Jeremy said about the shut-down. He's a senior who earned a cross country scholarship to Bowling Green University. But his final high school track season ended short of the finish line.

"I'm still kind of bummed out," he said. "For me and my buddies, it felt like we were going off to spring break and never came back."

"Every time we would look at blood drives close to us, it would be it's full, it's full," said Dale Davidson. "They (CBC) reached out to me about this and my wife said, 'Why don't you schedule all of us?'"   

"There were a lot of names that were first time for us," Paula Kalaman, who begins signing-up donors weeks before the blood drive.

"It just goes to prove that no matter what the times are, people in our community are caring. And what better birthday gift than giving someone the gift of life. We got a ton of those gift today."