The second annual blood drive in memory of former P.S. 102 custodian Mathiew Johnson was held in the school cafeteria on Thursday, March 26.
Johnson lived across the street from the school, where he worked for three years, studying to be a head custodian, when he succumbed to a heart attack in the school, 72nd Street near Third Avenue, in August, 2013.
According to his mother, June Johnson, Mathiew was an enthusiastic blood donor for over 10 years of his life. Along with the rest of the family, she agreed there was no better way to commemorate him than with a blood drive at the school. She was also inspired to pay tribute to a nine-year-old student who had died earlier in 2013.
“[Mathiew] was a sweetheart,” said Johnson. “He was very flexible, very easy to get along with. Even if he didn’t agree with me, he’d always just say, ‘Oh, I’ll just let it go,’ instead of making big deals of everything.”
Margaret Sheri, the school’s parent coordinator, had spoken with Johnson a week before he died and felt the impact of his loss.
“It was just a big shocker,” said Sheri. “A lot of the people at the school feel that connection. It was a good choice for [June] as a way of remembering him. I think everyone is very pleased. Where it is makes it very convenient.”
Donors snacked on coffee, tea, and snacks and had a chance to enter a free raffle for prizes that included children’s toys among others, but they also saw the bigger picture.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to think that you’re going to go out and you’re going to help another human being,” said Elaine O’Rourke, a donor. “I feel it’s very important to know it’s needed out there.”
According to the New York Blood Center, a normal blood drive averages a turnout of 30-35 people. Both last year and this year, 100 people came out. With 80 pints collected this year, donors were eager from the get-go.
“People were waiting at three o’clock to come in, so it was really very exciting,” said Johnson. “From a sad thing, something good has come from it.”