Last updated: September 06. 2013 8:21PM - 26 Views

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Staff Writer

Liberty Tree Elementary second-grade teacher Erin Budic was initially inspired to host her school’s first blood drive through a show she saw on TV, but little did she know that her hard work would be paid forward to a student in the Olentangy school district just a few years later.

That student, second-grader Madeline Richardson was diagnosed last year with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer contracted by infants and children. The school found out about her diagnosis after one of its successful blood drives.

Budic had never donated a drop of blood or even organized a blood drive before watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition and learning about a Tucson, Ariz. girl, Lizzie Bell, who has a rare blood disorder called Diamond-Blackfan anemia, in which she receives regular blood transfusions for treatment.

After watching the show, Budic organized the school’s first blood drive in May 2008, collecting 44 units over the school’s 30-unit goal with Budic also donating blood for the first time.

A second drive was organized in February 2009 with 49 units being collected, more than the 44-unit goal.

Budic continued ramping up her efforts and told the Red Cross that she wanted to do a 100-unit blood drive in 2010 with the date being set for Jan. 11. A massive snowstorm could have canceled the drive, yet Budic forged on through the nine inches of snow that blanketed the region.

Budic said that was the first time since she was a teacher in Olentangy that the district had let schools out early. The drive brought 120 donors out, producing 108 units of blood.

Although the snowstorm blood drive was a success, just two days later, the school found out about Madeline’s cancer diagnosis. She was starting chemotherapy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and using American Red Cross blood products to live through the treatments.

Now donating blood was much closer to home, so Budic worked on the first ever Olentangy Blood Battle. She created a blood drive team at Liberty Tree that eventually reached out to every elementary and middle school in the district for a total of 19 buildings. Budic even dressed up as Buddy the Blood Drop and made videos and announcements to solicit blood donors.

The district hosted three blood battle sites with 405 giving blood for a total of 346 units of blood and 120 first-time donors.

Budic’s hard work was awarded late last month at the American Red Cross annual meeting with the 2011 Biomedical Achievement Award and the 2011 Harlan E. Jones Outstanding Volunteer Award.

“I didn’t even know that this was a possibility,” Budic said. “It was a neat experience, but I’ve always seen this as a team effort. This has all been inspired by kids. Lizzie Belle and now, Madeline Richardson.”

Budic, who has Madeline in her second-grade class, is already planning her fourth blood drive at Liberty Tree; it is set for March 10 at the school.

“It’s just neat to see what kids can inspire you to do and believe,” Budic said.

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