ANSONIA, Ohio - The first official week of summer kicked off Monday, June 23 with 90-degree heat baking the river of fresh blacktop flowing down Canal Street, passed Ansonia High School. Not a day to even think about being back in school, unless you had a score to settle with your rival in the annual Community Blood Center (CBC) "Blood & Guts Grudge Match Blood Drive."
FFA teams from Ansonia High School and Mississinawa Valley High School again competed for bragging rights in Monday's fifth annual Grudge Match Blood Drive, hosted this summer by Ansonia. The challenge blood drive is a way of supporting the blood supply during the summer months when no other high school blood drives are scheduled. The schools alternate hosting the Grudge Match, and last year's win by MVHS continued the trend of the home team winning on its home court.
That history of home court advantage was not lost on Ansonia FFA advisor and blood drive coordinator Brad Lentz, who made sure to send out text messages to all registered Ansonia students, reminding them to keep their appointments in the Tiger gym. "We tried to get more out," Brad said. "Last year for this we had kind of a down turn-out. I'm feeling we'll do better than last year."
Brad's hunch was right. The Ansonia FFA answered the challenge, winning the 2014 Grudge Match with 38 "votes" from registered donors to 23 for the Mississinawa Valley FFA. Once again, the home team protected its turf. The Grudge Match trophy, on display at the blood drive, will greet Ansonia students when they return to school in August.
Overall, 59 donors registered for the blood drive, including six first-time donors, resulting in 45 blood donations. Brad was got assistance with the blood drive from co-FFA advisor Jennifer Knick, while Mississinawa Valley FFA advisor Carmen Hartzell organized the MVHS support. Everyone enjoyed free pizza and other special refreshments in the Donor Café.
The MVHS Blackhawks did have good reason to feel optimistic about being able to invade Tiger territory and pull off a rare back-to-back Grudge Match win. "We usually have a lot of kids that want to donate," said MVHS senior Lane Livingston, who donated in his second Grudge Match and reaches his milestone 5th lifetime blood donation Monday. "It's a popular thing at our school."
MVHS proved its support of CBC blood drives in 2012-2013 by winning a $1,000 grant from CBC in the first year of the High School Leadership Grant Program. MVHS was runner-up in the "Highest Percentage of Enrollment" category. "Mississinawa Valley is one of the smallest schools hosting CBC blood drives and has a small number of eligible donors," said CBC Darke County Account Representative Dana Puterbaugh. "But they strongly supported their four blood drives in 2012-13 with participation by 132% of enrollment."
The Blackhawks topped off the success of 2012-13 by winning the 2013 Grudge Match, but thanks to the dedication of donors like Rusty Hardwick, the trophy is back in Ansonia. Rusty is a 2006 Ansonia graduate who made his second lifetime donation at Monday's blood drive.
"I'll tell you one thing, it's better than my first!" he said as he donated. "I chickened out. Right as I got here I saw the needle and said, 'Rusty, what are you doing?'" He said he left the blood drive, but gathered his nerve and returned.
"They gave me my shirt before I even donated," he said. "I got back and said I hadn't earned that shirt yet! I said I'm going to go through with it. I talked myself back into it and came back and donated that day."
Ansonia also got alumni support from 2013 graduate William Clark. He started donating his junior year at AHS and made his 13th lifetime donation Monday. "I enjoy doing it," he said. "It's a good cause to get behind."
Hope Jankowski, who made her first lifetime donation at the Grudge Match, could help bring the trophy back to Mississinawa Valley next year. "I live in Ansonia, but I go to school at Mississinawa Valley," she said. "My boyfriend goes to Ansonia!" Hope will be a junior in the fall at MVHS and she is an FFA student advisor. Her loyalties were squarely her school as she voted her donation for the Blackhawks.