Local girl organizes annual blood drive

A way to give back

Tiffani Pekkala, 17, organizes an annual community blood drive. The Hayes Freedom High School junior has a rare genetic disorder that requires regular treatments of plasma to help her body fight off infection, and wanted to do something to give back.

Tiffani Pekkala is serious about her efforts to secure donors for the American Red Cross Blood Drive.“I have bribed classmates to donate with food and movies,” she joked.

The Tuesday, April 24, event at Hayes Freedom High School will be the fourth time Pekkala and her grandmother, Bette-Jo Poser, have organized a community-wide blood drive.

“It makes me happy that so many people donate because it shows they care and are doing it for a good cause,” she said.

Pekkala, 17, has a rare medical condition called Primary Immunodeficiency Disease, or PIDD. It is a group of genetic diseases in which the immune system’s ability to fight off infection is compromised or completely absent, which leads to a greater susceptibility to infection.

Pekkala receives regular treatments of plasma to help her body fight off infection, which was the inspiration to start the blood drive. Last year, she was honored as one of Clark County’s “Real Heroes,” for her efforts.

“This is such an easy way to help people,” she said. “When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in the hospital and saw who were literally living off of other people’s donated blood. They needed it, and I knew I could do something to help them and lots of other people.”

Poser said the blood drive is a reunion of sorts.

“It’s a big community get-together and you see people that you haven’t seen since the year before,” she said. “People will give blood, then stay an hour or so to talk. We have the same people come year after year.”

Poser credits the popularity of the blood drive to her granddaughter’s efforts to spread the word, as well as to the atmosphere at the event.

“We give people snacks and juice both before and afterward,” she said. “They visit and have a good time. Tiffani’s fifth-grade teacher and bus driver both come every year and bring their entire families.”

The blood drive will be held from 2:30 to 8 p.m. at Hayes Freedom High School, 1919 N.E. Ione St. It can accommodate up to 68 donors. Advance sign-up is highly recommended. Those who want to donate should call 772-8971 for an appointment.