Local teens get peers and neighbors to donate blood
Monomoy Regional High School only opened in 2014, but it already has some great traditions in the works.
A recent blood drive at the school was organized primarily by juniors who wanted to carry on the work of students a year older.
“At the beginning of the year, it was the seniors running the blood drives, said Abby Sullivan, 17. “We’ve tried to pick up what they taught us. It was up to us to fill their shoes.”
“It was important to learn all we can to make sure the blood drives continue,” said Shannon Smith, 17, who was a lead organizer along with Sullivan.
The students are taking a peer leadership class taught by health education teacher Angie Chilaka. The students in the peer leadership class are required to do 24 hours of volunteer work.
“I try to get them interested in different volunteer activities in the community,” she said.
A Growing Trend
Almost every high school on Cape Cod has student-run blood drives, according to Jonathan DeCoste, senior blood donor recruiter for Cape Cod Healthcare. Most do one in the fall and one in the spring.
“Usually a group within the school organizes it – a peer leadership class, a health education program or the National Honor Society members,” he said. “They do all the legwork in promoting it in the community.”
That was the case with the Monomoy drive. The students made a Facebook page to promote the blood drive, posted a billboard in the school hallway and put up posters around town.
Stefanie Speakman, a teacher at Chatham Elementary School and a first-time donor, is the mother of one of the organizers. “They’ve been telling me all year I had to come,” she said. “They’re pretty persuasive.”
On the afternoon of the drive, a Harwich Fire Department ladder truck held a huge flag high over the driveway near the school’s rear entrance.
“I think it’s great that the students see how important it is to keep up blood supplies on the Cape,” said Tom Gould, a firefighter and paramedic with the Harwich Fire Department.
Honoring Nicholas Xiarhos
The students wanted the flag there partly to attract attention to the drive and partly to honor local veterans, including Nicholas G. Xiarhos, who grew up in Yarmouth and died in combat in Afghanistan in 2009. The Cape Cod Hospital Blood Donor Center was named in his honor in 2016.
Steven G. Xiarhos, Nicholas’s father and deputy chief of the Yarmouth Police Department, recently spoke to Chilaka’s peer leadership class.
“When I met them a few weeks ago, I could see that they understood that life is about helping others,” he said. “I wanted to come back today to say thank you.”
The student organizers did their best to draw other students to the drive.
“We try to get the students to step past their comfort zone,” said Smith. “When they hear that donating one pint of blood can help save three lives, they get interested.
“We tell them, ‘Don’t look at the needle. Just remember it’s for a really good cause. If you were the one that needed the blood, you’d be so grateful.’”
One of the first-time donors was Monomoy sophomore Jacob Haarman. He said he felt no hesitation as a nurse prepared a needle.
“I wanted to see what it would be like and I knew it was for a good cause, so why not?” he said.
DeCoste is always glad to see students become first-time donors.
“We get a huge number of students donating over the course of each school year,” he said. If it’s their first time, hopefully it becomes a habit wherever they go after high school and they become lifelong blood donors.”
June 14 is World Blood Donor Day. To organize a blood drive or donate blood, please visit the CCHC Blood Center. To find the next blood drive near you, please call us at 508-86BLOOD or follow us at facebook.com/capecodbloodcenter.
Monomoy Regional High School juniors Abby Sullivan, left, and Shannon Smith were the lead organizers for a blood drive at the school. (Photo by Bill O’Neill)