Teen organizes blood drive for Red Cross
By Shavonne Potts
Eli Wittum didn’t want to miss class to give blood, so he went before school started and in the time it took to draw one pint of blood, have a snack and drink, Wittum became the youngest person to give blood in Rowan County.
At 16, Wittum met the height and weight requirement to donate blood. His parents also gave their consent.
“He was the first 16-year-old to donate, and ever since, he’s been very actively involved with Blood Services,” said Tiffany Jacobs, who handles the Blood Services division for the Carolinas region.
About two years ago, legislation changed to make it possible for people younger than 18 to become organ donors and in turn be younger to donate blood.
“I had been wanting to give for awhile, but when they changed the age to 16 I decided to go ahead and give,” he said.
Wittum, now 18, has a desire to see younger teens give blood just as he did. He’s encouraging others to donate and is hosting his own blood drive Friday. The drive is from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Cleveland town hall, 302 East Main St. He’s recruited a few students at West Rowan High where he attends to donate.
He is a part of the American Red Cross Bloodstock Program, which offers students the opportunity to sponsor their own blood drive. Students recruit donors and volunteers, set up for the drive and work during the drive.
“The goal is for them to collect 35 usable pints of blood,” Jacobs said.
Students who participate in the Bloodstock program are entered into a drawing for a $1,000 scholarship that can be used for any type of higher education, she added.
Wittum has also been interning with the Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross since early November.
Wittum became involved with the Red Cross several years ago when as a Boy Scout he was required to do community service and he helped at a blood drive.
“I knew a lot of the people who worked out there and just started,” he said.
In about two years since he first gave blood, Wittum has given nine units of blood.
Wittum is looking to go into the medical profession, possibly as a radiologist or an anesthesiologist.
He has been accepted to the College of Charleston and is waiting on East Carolina University.
“It’s always good to see a young person take initiative on his own to get involved. A lot of times we have young folks who say they want to participate and then they don’t follow through. He shows his committment to follow through,” Jacobs said.
During graduation, Wittum will be presented with a red honors cord for his volunteer work with Red Cross.
Receiving honors cords is new, Jacobs said, and it is the agency’s way of honoring students for their volunteer work.
Students who receive the cords are those who also volunteered or donated blood at three Red Cross events throughout their senior year.
“We think they should be rewarded for their community service. Eli has even recruited some students to volunteer and who will receive cords,” Jacobs said.
In 2009, Wittum saved a 15-year-old from drowning at Riverpark in Cooleemee and was awarded the Carnegie Award for heroism.
Wittum, who is also an Eagle Scout, was also awarded the Boy Scout Medal of Honor with Cross Palms in January. The Medal of Honor is the highest award for bravery presented by the Boy Scouts of America.
The Cleveland Community Blood Drive will be Jan. 13 at IGA, across from Freightliner from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
For more information about Wittum’s blood drive in Cleveland, contact the American Red Cross at 704-633-3854.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.
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