Key Club Hosts Successful Blood Drive


Ali Caudle

Key Club leadership Mabel DeGrandpre and Frances Smith chat with advisor Charlene Young at the check-in table.

Ali Caudle, Co-Editor

On Wednesday April 13, Hellgate’s Key Club worked with the Red Cross to facilitate a successful blood drive in the lower gym. At least 30 units of blood were donated by staff and students throughout the day. 

“This was the first time in a few years we’ve done the blood drive. We’re doing it through Key Club and [sophomore] Annika Johnston has played a large role. She organized it, and we just brought it back after COVID. We’re humble volunteers,” said Mabel DeGrandpre, the Key Club treasurer. 

Hellgate teacher Lindsey Thompson donated blood. (Ali Caudle)

Early in 2022, the club discussed events they wanted to put on before the end of the school year. Some members proposed bringing back the blood drive, and Johnston volunteered to take on the role of blood drive coordinator. 

“I just went through a process of emailing a coordinator [from the Red Cross] back and forth, trying to find a day that was most effective and making sure everyone could do it. And then it was just about finding the best location and time,” said Johnston. They chose the lower gym because it was a large space that was easily accessible – they could bring in the equipment without trouble. 

Once the drive was scheduled, Johnston’s role involved “getting snacks, checking on everyone registered, and making sure people were coming.” 

Key club volunteers staffed a waiting area, providing snacks to donors. (Ali Caudle)

Registration was set up ahead of time, as the club set a goal of filling 40+ time slots throughout the course of the day. The first was at 10:00 a.m., and the final slot was at 3:00 p.m. A handful of walk-ins and switches were accommodated on the day of the drive, to make up for no-show’s and students who were turned away from donating due to disqualifying medical factors. 

To spread the word, Key Club members spoke to their classes and manned a table in the commons during lunch from March 28 to April 8. Unknown to most high school students, you are eligible to donate blood at as young as 16 years old with parental consent. 

Senior Ruby Jenni was one student who signed up to donate blood after hearing Key Club President Frances Smith promote the blood drive in her IB English class. “I signed up because it wouldn’t take me that much work or effort and people need blood. I can do it,” said Jenni. “And a musician I’m a really big fan of is really big on donating blood, so it’s kind of to keep his legacy going.” 

The timing for this blood drive worked out perfectly. The country has seen a shortage of blood donations in the past few years. Most donors are older folks, and as they age out, young people aren’t replacing them fast enough. According to the Red Cross, only 3% of eligible donors donate yearly. 

However, in January 2022 amid the Omicron case surge, the Red Cross declared the first ever “blood shortage.” Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses and phlebotomists have been in short supply, and donors have been reluctant to come out to blood drives and donate. 

Hellgate’s Key Club was far from the only group to pause organizing blood drives for the last two years. This pause, alongside the shuttering of donation centers and the reluctance of donors, has drastically reduced the nation’s blood supply to critical levels. According to KPAX, this shortage significantly affected Western Montana. 

“There’s just a big need for blood in our community right now,” said Smith. “It’s really important to give back and support the people who need help. There’s always a need for more blood. So I think it feels pretty cool to be part of something that actually makes a difference and it’s a pretty small sacrifice to make that can actually really help a lot of people.” 

Donor Clara Hay waiting with snacks after her donation. (Ali Caudle)

Senior Clara Hay also donated blood, and shared that she thought it was a “fun and rewarding” experience. 

Jenni described the process. “I filled out the test, answered the questions. They’re obviously very personal but important because it’s your blood. So, and then they pricked my finger which didn’t hurt. Then they stabbed the needle in, which didn’t hurt. And yeah, I just talked to the guy taking my blood about what I’m doing in life these days,” she said. “And then I got to feel my blood bag, which was warm, love that, and that was cool. Thought of the vampire diaries the whole time, how they drink out of blood bags. Kind of wanted to try it, but I decided I wouldn’t.” 

Ruby Jenni shared her thoughts on her experience donating blood as she sat in the waiting area. (Ali Caudle)

To everyone’s relief, the blood drive ran smoothly with no major issues. Key Club volunteers helped set up and take down the equipment, checked donors in, and provided donors with snacks and a t-shirt after their donation. This drive was successful because of Key Club’s hard work. 

“Everybody came out, everybody really supported it. So that was awesome,” said Key Club advisor, Charlene Young. “It’s just been great that after two years of not being able to have [the blood drive], we finally are able to have it.” 

Johnston was proud of the club. She hopes they can host not one, but two blood drives next year. “We are kind of in a blood shortage and I feel like it’s important to make sure we’re trying our best to help people out, whether that is giving blood, or wearing masks if there’s another COVID outbreak,” she said. “It’s important to consider not just yourself, but helping others as you’re going through life.”