By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

Seventy-six units is a lot of blood. That’s how much was collected for the American Red Cross on Dec. 30 at Presentation B.V.M. in Cheltenham. The blood drive was organized by Northeast Catholic High School freshman Howard Stickley.

The funny thing is, at 14, he is two years under the minimum age for donating blood.

“If I could have given myself, I would have definitely given,” he said. “It’s really important so that when people have to go to the hospital they can receive blood.”

The drive was a service project for Stickley, part of his effort to become an Eagle Scout of Boy Scout Troop 321.

The idea of a blood drive probably had special appeal to Stickley because when he was in first grade at Presentation, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

This has meant several stays at Children’s Hospital over the years.

“I was considered cured last year,” he said, although his condition will still be monitored in the future.

Planning a blood drive and carrying it out are two separate things.

“It was a lot more involved and a little harder than I thought it would be,” he conceded.

He had good support from his pastor, Father William Harrison, and the Red Cross gave him practical advice along with a printout of previous donors who live in his area. He recruited other troop members to help with the advance solicitation of donors. Two weeks before the donation date, with Father Harrison’s blessing, he spoke before the weekend Masses and other Scouts helped with the sign-up sheets.

Of the 81 who came to Presentation Hall to donate blood, 76 proved eligible, and it was a mixed group. There were some older teens, some Northeast Catholic alums, half a dozen of Stickley’s relatives, including his parents, Jessica and Howard Stickley, who were happy to support their only child’s effort. The final tally of donors was well above the goal suggested by Red Cross.

“Father Harrison would like to make a blood drive an annual event,” Stickley said.

In spite of his fight with leukemia, he’s had a well-rounded childhood. He joined the Cub Scouts while in first grade and has been involved in various scouting activities over the years. He played CYO soccer and baseball as well as soccer at Lawncrest Recreation Center. He played in a school rock band, and he was an altar server for four years. Now he assists part-time at Presentation rectory, answering the door and the telephone, and performing other tasks that need to be done.

At North Catholic, which he is attending on a full academic scholarship, he’s part of the school’s award-winning Model U.N. team, and is looking forward to future events with the club.

As to his post-high school plans, “I’d like to study to be a doctor or a scientist,” Stickley said. “I’ll definitely go to college.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.