OTTUMWA — Evans Middle School hosted its sixth blood drive Tuesday in commemoration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The drive is headed up by Brian Cutsforth, a sixth grade teacher and head of the Multimedia Club at Evans.
“For me, it started when my wife found out she had breast cancer 11 years ago, and I started donating then,” he said. “So we always have a blood drive in October for breast cancer awareness.”
Evans typically hosts two drives every year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Cutsforth’s students help promote the event by making posters or calling and emailing parents. The Multimedia Club does a weekly news program called the Bulldog Broadcast, which promotes the drive in the days leading up.
It’s something of a family business for Cutsforth, whose father organizes drives for the Knights of Columbus and for Seton Catholic School.
Mississippi River Valley Regional Blood Center handles the blood collection. Maureen Steele, donor relations consultant at the center, said these drives are an important opportunity to educate the youth on the value of blood donation.
“One of the things we’re seeing is a decline when it comes to younger people, especially in rural Iowa,” she said. “A lot of the drives I put on are older-aged people, and as somebody gets older, they tend to have more health problems, so you slowly see those people not be able to donate. So we like to bring awareness more to the younger generations.”
Apart from getting students involved in the drives, the center also does blood typing events in the spring at schools around town. These teach kids the science behind blood types and collection.
The center also offers the Life$avings Grant, which rewards every school that hosts a drive that sees at least 20 donors with $270 to spend on educational purposes. For every donor over 20, the grant amount is raised $1.
Those that missed their chance to donate at the Evans drive this fall are in luck. Cutsforth said the schools coordinate carefully so that each of their drives are 56 days apart, the amount of time one has to wait before they can donate blood again. The next will be held at Ottumwa High School, Nov. 26.