Annual blood drive at Ridge’s P.S. 102 to once again honor son of local activist

The fourth annual blood drive at P.S. 102 on the afternoon of March 16 is one that its organizer hopes will keep making a positive difference in the community.

“I try to make it more than just a blood drive,” says June Johnson, who holds the event at the school, 211 72nd Street, in memory of her son and former school janitor Mathiew Johnson who died of a heart attack in August, 2013. She, alongside her grandchildren and other volunteers, makes a point to set up craft stations for children as well as provide food and prizes for participants in the drive.

“People come out when it’s someone they know,” said Johnson. Previously, two of her grandchildren have given blood and are planning to give again this year. Her daughter Christine has also donated, and admitted it was not as scary as anticipated when she donated in the past.

For those on the fence Johnson said, “It doesn’t cost you any money. It’s only 15 to 20 minutes, and it really can help save a life.”

The local community and staff at P.S. 102 is a group Johnson credits with being key to the event’s success.

From PTA member Margaret Sheri putting up flyers to school Principal Cornelia Sichenze spreading the word, there’s an entire crowd that June Johnson said reassure her that “he loved it there, and they loved him there. It feels a little bit like going home.”

The outreach has succeeded in drawing new people to event, including one immigrant who donated to help and wanted to connect to the community. “People stay, they talk, they have a sandwich,” she said. For Johnson, making the drive a place for people to connect is how she feels she has succeeded in making a difference.

Last year’s blood drive also included a bone marrow registry program, inspired by the need of a local boy, John Faro Vitale, from Dyker Heights. However, said Johnson, after last year’s event, Vitale — who has since turned seven and is getting ready to return to school — succeeded in finding a match from Germany.

It takes one year for those donating bone marrow to find out if they could be a match. One mother of two last year recently became a confirmed match for another in need after walking from 92nd Street to 72nd Street in the rain, originally aiming to help Vitale, said Johnson.

The blood drive will take place from 3 to 7:30 p.m.

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