It’s always nice to see teenagers taking the initiative, doing something positive for their community and learning the life skills it takes to be independent.
Such is the case with a handful of Half Moon Bay High School students, who organized on their own a blood drive for their classmate and friend Dougie Abarca, a senior at the high school who is suffering from kidney failure and is currently receiving dialysis three times a week through Lucile Packard at Stanford.
On Monday, more than 100 Coastsiders showed up for what Abarca’s classmates called a "Dougie Drive," a blood drive in his honor to support his fight while he waits for a new kidney and raise awareness about how important it is to donate blood.
It was the first time the high school opened a blood drive to the public outside of the school community. It was also the first time they hosted a blood drive sponsored by the Stanford Blood Center.
“We usually go with Blood Centers of the Pacific but since Dougie is at Stanford, we thought this was a good fit,” said Half Moon Bay High School senior Kaila Clark, who has known Abarca since elementary school and came up with the idea to do the blood drive in his honor.
By noon there were 80 appointments booked to give blood, according to Clark’s mom and parent volunteer Colleen Granahan, who has helped with hosting blood drives at the school in the past. “That’s a lot for us here,” she said. “We usually max out at 40 people. This is by far the largest turnout we’ve ever had for a blood drive at the high school.”
The high school auditorium was set-up for the blood drive with Stanford Blood Center staff and volunteers greeting donors at a registration table across from a “We Love You Dougie” poster pasted on the wall. Donors were then led through a mini physical before they were seated for giving blood. The blood drive was open from noon to 3 p.m. for the school community and then from 3 to 6 p.m. to the general public.
At the snack and refreshment area was Abarca, seated at a table surrounded by friends, chatting amicably with orange headphones resting around his neck. He was congenial and pleasant and perhaps a bit overwhelmed and humbled by all the fuss over him.
“I am honored by everyone doing this for me but it’s really about giving blood to everyone who needs a better chance for a healthy life, not just me,” said Abarca, who is on an independent study program while he undergoes treatment.
It’s true that not only did the blood drive bring together the school and Coastside community together for a good cause, it gave some teens, many giving blood for the first time, the opportunity to think about becoming lifelong donors.
“We want to make sure that these young people have a good experience and understand what good they are doing by donating, to encourage them to do it again,” said Stanford blood bank technician Phillip Martin. “Getting young people involved in blood donation from an early age can help make them blood donors for life.”
It was Half Moon Bay High School junior Nicole Collins' first time giving blood. “It wasn’t bad at all,” she said. "I’ll do this again. It feels good knowing that you have helped save lives."
The blood drive also provided the chance for some students to take on more of leadership role at the school. It was senior Adrian De Leon’s job to manage the event.
“I chose to take this event on because I wanted to help Dougie and my Leadership class teacher Ms. Rigley wants me to be more of a leader at the school,” said De Leon, who hopes to join a trade or union after graduating this spring. “We started organizing the event about three weeks ago with meetings and coming up with ideas. I was in charge of promoting the event on campus with announcements, posters, a table setup with information as well as providing information for a TV broadcast at the school.”
De Leon has known Abarca since the sixth grade and has witnessed first hand his struggle over the years with kidney disease.
"It's hard seeing him go through this but with events like this, he's getting the help he needs to get better," said De Leon.
Clark adds that the high school does other blood drives throughout the school year "but this one is different because it’s in honor of someone we know,” she said.
Clark made the "We Love You Dougie" poster and organized some other fundraising efforts for Abarca like selling wristbands to raise money for his family.
“We’ve also helped raise money for gas and food for his family with gift cards, but the blood drive is really our way to raise awareness about what’s going on with his health and how people can help.”
Keep up with local news — follow Patch
Want to share your opinions with the communities of the Coastside? Start your own blog here.