Have you ever been a part of something that made your heart feel like it was going to burst, it was so full of love? This is the only way to describe how I felt when I saw the pure joy and emotion on the face of Blanche Baudhuin on Tuesday, March 8th.
What happened on this day you ask? Friends, family, strangers, and the community came together to accomplish an amazing act of kindness all centered around this special lady. Blanche is a 40 year volunteer with the American Red Cross. March 13 was her 100th birthday. What better way to celebrate than by hosting a 100 unit blood drive in her honor.
I talked to her about this idea back in December when I stopped by one Saturday for a visit. I said, “Blanche, what shall we do for your birthday this year? It has to be special, it is the big one!”. I suggested, “What if we hosted a 100 unit blood drive in your honor?” She was tickled pink, and thought it was an amazing idea — and then she said to me (which made me tear up). “I really want to make it to 100, I really do.”
Once we started the wheels in motion, it felt like everything started to fall into place. The Green Bay media (television, radio and the newspaper) all did amazing features on Blanche during the two weeks before the drive. She was an instant celebrity across Northeast Wisconsin. Titletown Brewing Company donated rootbeer for the big day, Pastor Errer from Faith Lutheran Church, where the drive was helded, donated two birthday sheet cakes, many of the Red Cross staff pitched in for sloppy joes, chips, cheese, crackers and other goodies.
Now we just needed donors! To collect 100 units that would mean we would need over 100 people to come in to roll up their sleeves and donate (to account for deferrals and no shows day of.)
Going into the day we had 90 appointments. I had faith, the Green Bay community would show and show they did! Blanche got to the drive 45 minutes before it started at 11:30 to get comfortable at her registration area, the role she does every Thursday in the Deckner Blood Center. Starting at 11, donors started coming, and not only to donate blood, they brought cards, gifts and flowers for Blanche. She received two beautiful bouquets of roses and carnations and we still don’t know who they are from. The card only said, “Thanks for the thousands you have helped whom you have never met, Happy 100th.”
The day was a whirlwind for me, I can’t imagine what it was like for Blanche. The people just kept coming and giving. At noon, we all sang “Happy Birthday” and after we got done, Blanche chimes up, “You forgot the second verse – How old are you? “. We started singing again, “How old are you?” and she sat at the table and giggled.
I am still in awe of all those that came out to support this amazing day. The Mayor stopped by to wish Blanche a Happy Birthday, friends of hers from Milwaukee, past Red Cross staff and volunteers, and total strangers. Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross even created a personal video message for Blanche.
So many people mentioned they saw the story about the blood drive on TV, heard on the radio, or read in the paper and came out — some of those being first time donors. One woman, saw the article in the paper, and Blanche and her mother shared the same birthday and both turning 100 years old. Unfortunately, this women lost her mother in January. When she read the article she knew she had to come out and donate in memory of her Mom and in honor of Blanche.
It was about 5:15pm (the drive ended at 5:30) and the supervisor for the drive, let us know we had our 100th pint collected. The expression on Blanche’s face is one I will never forget. I think everyone got a tear in their eye (ok, I got more than a tear). We had this bell for her to ring, and she was so excited, she forgot, and we are all chanting, “ring the bell, ring the bell.” and she is literally jumping and ringing the bell over and over, she was so excited. Overall we collected 114 units that days, saving a potential of 342 lives.
When I think back on this day, it still brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. I am so grateful for all the donors who gave, the staff for their hard work and the community for making this a day Blanche will never forget. The only way to describe the day was magical.
Click HERE to see additional pictures from the day.