The blood drive, conducted in Sequoyah’s gymnasium, is the largest single-day event for all three states covered by LifeSouth, a community blood supplier for Georgia, Florida and Alabama hospitals.
Each donation, which is more than a pint of blood, has the potential to save at least three lives, said Jay Hearn, technical manager with LifeSouth.
This year’s drive was conducted in honor of Mariah Imani Sullen, a 6-year-old suffering from a disorder that requires her to get blood transfusions. She is being treated at a hospital in New Orleans. Her mother, Michelle Francis, is a math teacher at Teasley Middle School.
Sequoyah Principal Elliott Berman said Francis previously served as Sequoyah’s graduation coach.
“She’s part of the Sequoyah High School family and part of the Cherokee County School District family,” Berman said. “We wanted to do something to help her and her daughter.”
Hearn said each donation given in honor of Mariah will give her credit toward receiving more blood in the future, reducing the cost to her family.
“The donations help offset what the blood bank in New Orleans uses for her,” Hearn said.
Hearn added that this Friday’s drive had the most people registered for a single event, breaking the school’s record for most donations at a single drive.
The drive was coordinated by the Air Force Junior OTC and Chief Master Sgt. John Futral.
Mariah’s brother, Devonté Sullen, a Sequoyah graduate, flew up from New Orleans Thursday to thank the students for their donations.
“I think it’s great he came in specifically for this and to represent his family,” Berman said.
Michael Farist, health teacher at Sequoyah, said the school participates in two blood drives annually and has worked with LifeSouth for the past three years.
Farist sent two of his students to classrooms to garner even more donations. Students over 17 years of age are able to donate blood, platelets or plasma without parental consent.
Kylie McClure, daughter of James and Karen McClure of Woodstock, said she had a class with Devonté her sophomore year.
“He’s very outgoing and likeable,” she said. “I wanted to be able to help.”
The 18-year-old said she was nervous to give blood, but that it is important to her to give back.
“I like giving blood because I know people need it,” she said, still tapping her toe and waiting for her friend to arrive to hold her hand.
“I give blood every year but I’m nervous every time,” Kylie said.