BOTKINS, Ohio - Chelsea Lukey was proud of her mom Susan for being a blood donor and wished she could be a donor too. Seven years after her death from cancer, a new source of pride is how the Botkins community is strongly supporting the blood drives organized by Susan in Chelsea's memory.
Chelsea, a 2006 Botkins High School graduate, was just 22 when she lost a long battle with pancreatic islet cell cancer in 2010. Chelsea's mother Susan Leugers organized the first Chelsea Lukey Memorial Blood Drive in July of 2016 and it was supported by 76 donors, including 34 first-time donors.
Susan wanted the blood drive to become an annual event, and gladly set the next date for Tuesday, Jan. 3 to help Community Blood Center boost collections after the holidays. It resulted in the increased support of 91 donors, including 16 first-time donors and 76 donations for 115 percent of the collection goal.
"I'm passionate about being a blood donor, and it was the obvious thing to do in her honor," said Susan, who has 130 lifetime donations. "That was something that made her proud of me. She wanted to be a blood donor, but was too sick."
"There was a lot of support for Chelsea," said family friend and blood drive volunteer Diane Meyer. "That was so hard. I'm their next door neighbor. It was such a hard time."
"We had 34 new donors," Susan said. "There were friends who before were not donors. They're healthy. You don't realize your health is a great gift."
"I knew Chelsea," said Mike Homan, who made his milestone 80th donation, the equivalent of 10 gallons, at Tuesday's blood drive. "I have a daughter that was close to her age. When I got a (blood drive) postcard and saw Chelsea on it, I thought this was a good time to go."
Volunteers served hot sandwiches and homemade cookies in the Donor Café. Beth Klopfenstein is the Youth Ministry coordinator at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Botkins, the new host of the memorial blood drive. She had just made her fourth lifetime donation, and sat next to Botkins High student Keaton Topp who had made his third.
"Susan contacted the CCD (religious education program) office and said 'Wouldn't it be great to get some of the younger kids here,'" said Beth. "So we talked to them about donating as a service project for their catechism class."
Grace Weatherhead, a junior at BHS, usually donates at school blood drives. She made her fourth lifetime donation Tuesday in Chelsea's honor. "Either way, I'm saving a life," she said.