Making a Leaside Kind of Difference

by Lisa DuVal

In November of 2002, two Leaside children were diagnosed with leukemia in the same week. When 10 year old Noah learned that the life-saving blood he received as part of his treatment came from people, not factories, he was amazed.

When people asked how they could help, both Emmy and Noah suggested they donate blood. A group of 10 mothers joined together to make that happen.

On Wednesday, April 4, from 2-7 p.m. Leaside will celebrate 10 years of giving. The need for blood never ends. Please join us in the North Gym at Northlea Elementary and Middle School, 305 Rumsey Road

Make an appointment today 1-8882-DONATE (1-888-236-6283 1-888-236-6283 FREE ) or http://www.blood.ca/ (walk-ins welcome, refreshments provided)

We’ve seen lots of communities pull together in a crisis, and it’s wonderful. What is different and difficult is sustaining that community feeling, connection and effort past the crisis stage. Ask anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one or faced long-term care of a family member through chronic illness, and they’ll tell you about the flurry of help that surrounds the initial diagnosis or the first month or two of loss. What people rarely tell you, is about the flagging of interest once the immediate crisis is past. “Life goes on”, we are told. “Move forward”, they say. “Don’t stay stuck; don’t wallow in grief,” we are warned. In my experience, the need for support often surpasses the energy and desire others have to give it. So when someone, or many someones, find a way to be there for one another over the long haul, it’s important to celebrate that.

When these clinics began 10 years ago, the community was lauded for wanting to host one clinic, and warned not to set expectations too high. Canadian Blood Services (CBS) told us a community run clinic our size could expect to average about 60 units of blood. They also warned that clinics like ours tend to lose steam once the initial crisis has passed, so no one should be disappointed if that were to happen. Initially, we committed to five years of clinics, 10 in total. We told CBS that Leaside was different, and that they should be prepared for an unusual response. Our liaisons smiled and continued on with their usual plans.

Everyone was stunned at the end of the first night, when CBS finally closed the doors. The first clinic ran hours overtime and had to turn away people because over 200 showed up to donate. Leaside donated 172 units of blood that night, saving over 516 lives. It was the largest community run clinic in CBS history. The neighbourhood has continued to exceed expectations every single time, averaging 123 units per clinic – twice the number initially predicted.

Leaside has come together in this exceptional way, twice a year, for twice the length of the original commitment. We are celebrating our 10th anniversary, after 20 life-saving clinics, collecting 2,430 units of blood, saving over 7,290 lives. None of this would have happened without an engaged and generous community.

The clinics don’t directly benefit anyone in the community. However, everyone who participates, from patients who have lent their names to the cause, to family members who drive hours to participate, to vendors who donate food and services to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere, from the students who create hand-made thank you cards, to the Girl Guide and Scout units who volunteer to comfort or entertain waiting donors, from the Northlea School administration and support staff, to the thousands of donors themselves; all show up over and over again to donate beyond all expectations.

The most important legacy of this project, are the new donors who were once Leaside students themselves. Many are now old enough to participate by rolling up their sleeves, and they do. Leaside as a community creates resilient kids, who grow into involved and committed adults.

Hopefully, this community and its neighbours will continue to carry this legacy forward, as Leaside moves into its second hundred years together.