High turnout sets school record
■ Matt McPherson / Contributed
Hemet High School held its third and final blood drive of the year on May 11. Yellow balloons and posters (the official awareness color of Ewing’s sarcoma) directed participants to the school gym where the event, organized by ASB Director Al Fernandes, and co-chaired by seniors Kendra Johnson and Jordan Cunningham, was held.
Riverside County’s blood bank, LifeStream, collaborated in collecting each unit of blood and plasma, where every donation had the potential of saving many lives.
The blood drive was held in honor of Cassi Tichy, who this year graduated with Highest Honors and was active in Chamber Singers, theater, art and tennis. She is still fighting the recurrence of Ewing’s Sarcoma in her left lung, and her goal is to beat cancer, attend college and pursue her passion and artistic gift as a professional illustrator.
First diagnosed in September 2015 with multiple tumors in her left hip, shoulder and both lungs, Cassi underwent aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments that often required whole blood and platelet transfusions. She is deeply grateful to the more than 50 donors who had a direct role in saving her life.
For Cassi, being the “face” of the blood drive at HHS was a special honor. She regularly participates in blood drives and, along with her mother, believes this is one way to give back and promote awareness to the community of the importance of giving blood.
When asked her thoughts on the event, Cassi smiled and said, “It was a very exciting day, especially to find out that more than 200 people came and donated. I got to hold the hands of my friends while they gave, some for the first time!”
Once the word of the blood drive had spread across the campus, students responded with enthusiasm and support. ASB senior Kendra Johnson said that she was “glad to run the event in honor of Cassi, which resulted in a huge turnout.”
Each student received a free cholesterol screening and points that are redeemable for items at LifeStream’s online donor store. LifeStream, founded more than 50 years ago and formerly called the Blood Bank of San Bernardino and Riverside County, has been active at Hemet High for years.
Director of Donor Recruitment Don Burghart appeared for a while and was pleased with the huge turnout. All of the beds, 24 for whole blood and five plasma beds, were continuously filled throughout the entire event.
Tony Holder, area representative for Hemet/San Jacinto, explained that a month ago, only half a day supply existed within their blood bank. “The need for blood right now is absolutely huge.”
Principal Dr. Emily Shaw, a regular blood donor, also commented, “The turnout was tremendous.” She has known Cassi since her early years at Valle Vista Elementary and praised Cassi’s artistic talent, mentioning that Cassi won the EMWD art contest for her 4th grade submission, and continues to improve upon her skills.
For the first time, Cassi displayed framed prints of her art, and every donor had an opportunity to win one of four choices; a nice perk which seemed to bring the whole student body together for a very valuable cause.
“Wow, this was fun and memorable,” said Cassi, at the end of the blood drive. “I want to thank everyone for coming out and making it a wonderful success!