Vitalant, formerly Central Blood Bank, estimates that blood donors participating in the annual Barnesville Blood Bash have helped save the lives of more than 40,000 area patients in the past 35 years.

The daylong event run by Barnesville High School students under the leadership of advisor Jill Crosier has become an important part of the community fabric. Last year, Vitalant collected 570 units of blood and blood products, thanks to the outpouring of community support. This blood is provided to Barnesville Hospital, Belmont Community Hospital, East Liverpool City Hospital and Harrison Community Hospital, as well as WVU Medicine facilities.

Crosier noted, "Every year we choose a theme for our Blood Bash. This year’s theme – "Life Savers" – accurately describes the hundreds of generous blood donors who make time to help save the lives of people they will probably never meet."

Barnesville resident Bill Hunkler has been saving lives for more than 30 years by donating blood, and tries not to miss the annual Blood Bash. Barnesville native Bonnie Lewis donated at the first Blood Bash, through her 25 years working as a teacher’s aide, and has continued to donate long after retirement.

"I wasn’t really aware of blood donation until the blood drive came to our school," said Lewis. "I just knew people needed blood. So I thought that as long as I could, I would donate."

"I’m glad to be able to contribute," added Hunkler. "It’s very helpful to our community."

Bill and Bonnie are just a few of the life savers who will be recognized at the 36th annual Blood Bash, scheduled for Friday, May 3, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Note this is a time change from previous years).

Charles Wilcox, president of Vitalant’s Northeast Division, praised Barnesville High School for their exceptional efforts. "Blood donations have decreased by 50 percent in the past 10 years. Right now, not enough people are donating the blood needed by area hospitals, and Vitalant is forced to import blood from other states," he said. "The Barnesville Blood Bash is an outstanding model for other schools, churches, businesses and civic groups who want to make a positive difference in their community."

The 2019 Blood Bash hopes to welcome even more people than previous events. Everyone in the community is invited to join the ranks of life savers by donating blood, and make donating blood a lifelong habit. Giving blood, platelets or plasma on a regular basis will help ensure hospitals have enough blood to treat patients with cancer and other diseases, to perform elective and emergency surgeries and to help save lives due to trauma.

Those who are unable to donate are encouraged to promote the need for donors to their friends, family, and social networks.

To schedule an appointment to donate at the Blood Bash, contact Jill Crosier at 740-425-3617 ext. 5235, or via email at jill.crosier@bevsd.org.

Blood donors must be at least 17 years old (16-year-olds with signed parental consent form) and weigh at least 110 pounds. To register online, visit Vitalant.org, enter your zip code and click the Donate button. Search by date or with group code HS010212. Donors can also register using the Vitalant-Pittsburgh mobile app for their phone, or by calling 412-209-7000.