Featured July Donor of the Month

photo (69)Humble, philanthropic and kind-hearted are a few words that sum up dedicated donor Duane Spickler. Duane has achieved 16 gallons and is also our blood drive chairperson for First United Methodist Church. Growing up, Duane always wanted to make a difference in someone’s life and every 8 weeks he gets to fulfill this mission.

Duane began donating in 1992 while in the Sheriff’s Academy because his trainer encouraged the students to find out their blood type, “I always wanted to donate but I had a fear of needles, but since I was in the process of becoming a Sheriff I thought it would be another great way to serve the community,” said Duane. He continues to donate because it makes him feel good knowing that he is keeping hope alive for someone. But Duane always wanted to do more, so when one of the members of the church he attends fell ill and needed blood, Duane decided to host a blood drive. “I always wondered why I couldn’t have done this years ago, because my stepdad, who was a long time donor, was the chairperson for Stockdale Moose Lodge and he inspired me to dedicate myself to this cause,” explained Duane.

It’s not an easy task to be a chairperson for a blood drive, but Duane works hard to make sure his blood drives run smoothly. Even juggling his full time job as a sheriff, other volunteer work, and his family, Duane manages to find time to organize a successful blood drive at First United Methodist Church. “You just have to prioritize and organize your life and anything is possible,” Duane explains. Duane is passionate and driven to meet his blood drive goal. If he falls short, he figures out a way to improve his next blood drive.

Besides being a dedicated donor and chairperson, Duane enjoys hunting, traveling and spending time with his family. Duane encourages others to donate, “the tagline, people live when people give truly exemplifies the importance of donating blood. Don’t wait until someone you know needs it, there will always be a need.”

June 2015 Featured Donor of the Month

photo (3)This Father’s Day will be an extra special one for Stephan Maxwell because his family will be complete.It’s a moment Stephan thought wouldn’t be possible. On May 2014, Stephan’s son Brandyn, who was 12 at the time, was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, or RMS. RMS is a very rare type of cancer that affects children more often than adults. Even though this life-changing moment meant there was a chance Stephan would lose Brandyn, Stephan did not succumb to this possibility and instead, he was by Brandyn’s side fighting his cancer.

Stephan became a regular donor after Brandyn’s diagnosis. Stephan and his family were receiving so much help and support from the community, he thought the only way he could show how his thanks, was through donating. “Even though my son received his treatments in Los Angeles, the best way I could support him was through donating blood products. I wanted to start my own mission to help other people– to give them a lifesaving chance of winning their battles,” explained Stephan.

Then one day, Stephan learned he could do more than donate blood, “Phlebotomist Heather, noticed I would fill up my donation bag quickly. She convinced me to donate platelets and explained to me how platelets are used for cancer patients, which gave me a deeper connection to this cause,” said Stephan. Now, donating platelets has become a part of Stephan’s Wednesday routine, and he has donated 41 platelets.

photo (4)Stephan is the essence of a great father and selfless person. Even with a full-time job, being a dedicated platelet donor and a referee at local soccer games, he was with Brandyn every step of the way. Through the support of his fiancé, Stephan is able to find time to donate platelets. “She’s been my big support system; without her taking care of Brandyn, this might not have happened,” explained Stephan. Every day they never lost hope because they knew Brandyn is strong and a fighter. Just seven days before Stephan and his family were going to celebrate Brandyn’s 13th birthday, they learned he was cancer free on April 22, 2015.

Stephan MaxwellSo, this Father’s day will be a special one for the Maxwell household, “I am looking forward to spending time with my three kids on Father’s Day; a moment that I will cherish forever.” Stephan encourages others to donate, “what if a member in your family needed blood products, what would you do if we didn’t have it? It’s just a small sacrifice of time.”

May Featured Donor of the Month

photo 2 (15)Mothers play a significant role in their child’s life whether it may be providing unconditional love through their successes and failures and even support through their struggles. Gail Ramos practices this notion with her family, friends and co-workers. When someone is in need, Gail doesn’t hesitate to help other people and she is willing to go that extra mile for the people she cares about.

Gail was inspired by her mother, Geraldine Adams to donate blood, “my mom is a regular donor and she would always tell me it’s a simple way to make a positive impact in someone’s life,” explained Gail. In December 1996, Gail donated her first pint at the Kern County Superintendent of School’s mobile blood drive. Unexpectedly the following year, donating blood would have a different meaning to Gail. Gail’s best friend’s brother who was only in 8th grade at the time, was diagnose with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In a heartbeat, Gail wanted to help out in any way possible. Then, Gail found out she was an exact match to donate blood for him. “When my best friend’s mom told me she saw the doctor hang my unit for her son, that was a life changing moment for the both of us. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that I saved someone’s life. Because every time I see my best friend’s brother, it makes me realize donating blood was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life,” expressed Gail.

Gail is proud of her 7 gallon license plate!

You will find Gail at one of our east Bakersfield mobiles where she has donated 7 gallons of her O+ blood. When Gail donates she always tries to include her daughter and son so they can get in the habit of donating and understand the importance of community service. Even though Gail’s son is autistic, she is proud that her son hopes to donate one day because he understands the importance of being someone’s lifesaver.

Besides being an avid blood donor, Gail is a huge NASCAR fan and she enjoys gardening and spending time with her family. She encourages others to donate, “people should not wait for another tragedy before they donate, they need to act now because you never know who will need it in the moment.”

 

April 2015 Donor of the Month

photo 2 (14)Just a month after Reagan Wanner turned 16, she was in line to donate blood at North High School. Reagan was inspired by her father, David to donate because, “I watched my dad be someone else’s Superhero, which made me want to follow in his footsteps,” said Reagan. It took Reagan only 15 months to hit her gallon milestone and so far she is the youngest donor to reach her gallon this year, as well as our first new member of the Gallon Grad Club.

Reagan’s first donation experience might have stopped others from donating again, “my veins weren’t as plumped and the phlebotomist was having a hard time finding my veins and so, my first donation was unsuccessful and my arm was even bruised for a couple of weeks,” explained Reagan. But, this incident did not stop her from donating, “my first try was just a small hiccup;  just thinking about other people who are sick in the hospital who have it worse, made me want to donate as soon as possible.” Reagan’s second attempt was a complete success!  On January 15, 2015 Reagan achieved her first gallon! “I am inspired to continue my mission of saving lives because of my dad, the 10 gallon achievement wall, and of course the people that need blood products,” Reagan added.

Besides being a dedicated donor and a busy high school student, Reagan enjoys being part of the Youth Group at Parkside Church, volunteering at the League of Dreams and she takes extra classes at CSUB. Reagan encourages others to donate, ” if you have a fear of needles, well, it isn’t as bad as it seems and it only takes about 35 minutes of your time to save at least 3 lives!”

 

 

March Featured Donor of the Month

photo 1 (16)Growing up, Kevin Mulhause was like any typical teenager where everything was about him. Until one life changing incident triggered him to make a change. Now, Kevin is the 8th highest platelet donor at Houchin.

In the early 1990s, Kevin received a call from his aunt that her son needed blood products because he had leukemia. Without any hesitation, Kevin stopped by the blood bank to make a lifesaving donation. “At the time I wanted to help, but I was little naive about the process. But, Houchin staff educated me on the importance of donating, which made me commit,” said Kevin.

photo 2 (11)Kevin donated whole blood every 8 weeks until one day, one of our staff members asked him if he could donate platelets because of his great veins! “If I can maximize my donation with one visit then why not, especially knowing, platelets only have a 5 day shelf life,” said Kevin. Now, Kevin has donated 545 platelets and 10 pints of whole blood!

Kevin continues to donate in honor of his mom who died 10 years ago from cancer, and for all the survivor stories he has witnessed at each platelet dinner he attends. Besides being an avid donor, he enjoys racing remote control cars in his spare time. Kevin encourages others to donate because, “someone will always need blood products and without donors, we won’t be giving patients a fighting chance to survive.”

 

February Donor Julian Bernard

JB - gallon clubThrough hard work and dedication, Julian Bernard has achieved his one gallon milestone. Julian has been donating blood every chance he could since he was old enough. Julian has been in the Air Force Reserves for three years and he knows how critical it is to have a safe and reliable blood supply. “Every time there was a blood drive, he was there”, said his wife Tenina. So, far Julian has only missed one blood drive because he was in Mississippi with the Air Force.

Julian donated regularly while serving in the Air Force, and first donated with Houchin at Rio Tinto Minerals, while working there.  He now donates at Mojave Air and Spaceport, where he works for Scaled Composites.  “He knows how critical his O- blood is for our blood supply and comes in with a smile on his face and brings along a group of his coworkers”, said Christina Scrivner, our East Kern Community Development Account Manager. Julian hopes his example and encouragement will help others understand the importance of donating blood since the need never ends. He is proud to be in our one gallon club and plans to reach more milestones. He has already signed up for the next blood drive in Mojave to get started on gallon number two!

January Donor of the Month

IMG_0831On December 12, 2014 Charles “Chuck” Zwartendyk received his 25 gallon license plate, a moment he thought would not be possible because of his current circumstance. He was recently disappointed to hear from his doctor that he had to go on a blood thinner medication, just prior to earning his 25 gallon license plate.

But through the season of giving, Chuck was able to achieve this great milestone. Chuck’s son-in law, Mic Hall and other family members surprised him for his birthday and brought Chuck to our Truxtun Donor Center to give blood in an effort to make up the remaining 4 pints shy of achieving his goal. “We all wanted to do something special for Chuck because he has been giving back to the community for many decades now and so we thought this would be the perfect gift to give him,” expressed Mic. 23 members of his family, including grandchildren and great grandchildren showed up for this special day. Eight family members attempted to donate, resulting in 7 actual donations!  Chuck was so proud to celebrate this achievement today with the people he love and care about.

IMG_0830Chuck has been a dedicated donor ever since he got drafted in the Navy. When he got out of the service in 1945, he continued giving blood at Houchin’s first building before the G street Blood Center ever opened. He has been donating for more than 50 years with the exception of taking time off for knee and hip surgery. Chuck is motivated to give blood because “somebody has to do it.  It might as well be me.”

Chuck spent his career in welding, pipe fitting and pump repair working in the Oil and Agriculture Industry. Chuck is a Past Master and former Secretary for the local Masonic Lodge and was instrumental with initiating the Masons Group of blood donors years ago. Now, he enjoys spending time with family and on November 18, 2014 Chuck celebrated his 90th birthday!

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December Donors: The Kimm Family

GeAnn, Glenn, Gardner, and Gregory Kimm - 2014

GeAnn, Glenn, Gardner, and Gregory Kimm – 2014

Many, many of our blood donors remember the late George Kimm, our long-time Tuesday morning canteen volunteer at the Truxtun Donor Center.  Lots of donors came in on Tuesdays just to chat with George and be greeted by his smile. He was also our leading blood donor for years. Donors still ask about his family, so we are featuring his children as our December blood donors.

His three sons Gregory, Gardner and Glenn, and daughter GeAnn, came in together the day after Thanksgiving to donate and visit with us in the canteen named in honor of George.  This is the second year they have come in the day after Thanksgiving as a family to donate, although they say it is not a tradition.

Gregory, Gardner, Glenn, and GeAnn Kimm in 2013

Gregory, Gardner, Glenn and GeAnn Kimm – 2013

Like their father, the Kimm siblings are a very unassuming group. The sons all live out of town, and shared that the snacks are not as good at their home blood banks.  GeAnn is a regular at some of our mobile drives and a three gallon club member.

We always appreciate seeing the Kimms, as it brings back great memories of our years with George. It was good to visit with them in the George Kimm, Jr. Canteen and recall how George always had the donuts and the snack trays well filled.

October 2014 Donor of the Month

IMG_9468

Amanda and Ashley with their kids along with their mom Gloria Saffell.

Gloria, Ashley and Amanda Saffell started giving blood just a few short years ago, but between the three of them, they will have given 5 gallons before this year is up!  It all started when the youngest Ashley donated at her High School in Kern River Valley.  From then on, Ashley was a dedicated blood donor. One day, Ashley showed up at the community drive in Kern River Valley to donate, and brought her mom, Gloria.  After they went to their local Burger King to redeem the free Whopper coupon from the Houchin blood drive, they called up Amanda.  They all laughed as they recalled that conversation, “Free Whopper! I’m so there!”, said Amanda.

So naturally a competition emerged!  Currently, Gloria is in the lead, assisted by the fact that both girls have had a baby since they began donating (donors are not eligible while pregnant, or until released by their doctor).  Both Ashley and Amanda returned after their babies were born, and have donated more than a gallon, while Gloria’s next donation will make 2 gallons for her.

They all agreed that their motivation for donating is the friends and family that have needed blood products because of car accidents, and Gloria’s husband who suffers from a brain tumor. They calculated that between the three of them, they are responsible for bringing at least 10 new donors to the Kern River Valley Blood Drives!  Amanda summed it up well, “it’s a very valid charity that doesn’t cost anything, but is a great way to give back!”

 

September Donor-Sky Plotner

IMG_0159Many 15 year old’s think about getting their driver’s license when they turn 16, but Sky Plotner was thinking about saving a life. She began to talk blood donation over with her mother. “I told my mother what it was, what the qualifications were, and that I needed her permission.” On her 16th birthday she began to donate blood at Liberty High School.

Sky is a member of our Gallon Grad Club.The letter of recommendation that students get when they reach the gallon mark can be used for school and job applications. “I found it helpful when applying to schools for the fall, Sky says.”

Sky is interested in doing something more to save lives. She has her heart set on doing automate donation on our Trima machines so she can donate platelets for cancer patients and plasma for burn victims. She likes the fact she will be able to donate these products more often throughout the year. “It might take a little longer but, it’s a little extra something that I can do to help someone’s life.”

She donates on a regular basis because, “it makes me happy to save someone’s life.” When it comes to donating, “I believe that if you are eligible you should get in and donate.” Although Sky donates on a regular basis, she learned something new recently. “I always thought that the blood went from me straight to the other person. I didn’t know that so much went into providing the blood for someone else.”

In her spare time, Sky likes to read mysteries, watch her favorite shows on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, and travel to Arizona to visit family. We are proud to have this fine young lady as a dedicated donor!