Donor shows passion for blood giving during graduation ceremony
The red cords Andy Kopca had draped around his neck on graduation day couldn’t help but make him stand out in the sea of blue caps and gowns at Romeoville High School’s commencement ceremony this June.
The 18-year-old, who plans to attend the University of Aurora in the fall, didn’t mind the extra attention, especially since he earned the right to wear the red cords by doing something very important to him — donate blood.
“I was pretty proud to wear the cords during graduation because it symbolizes the lives you’ve saved,” said Andy, noting how one blood donation has the ability to save up to three lives.
High school students who donate a minimum of four times with LifeSource prior to graduation have the option of receiving the red cords to wear at their commencement ceremony. Andy had already made eight donations before receiving his diploma on June 4.
Andy credits his mother, Carol, for educating him on the importance of being a blood donor and encouraging him to roll up his sleeve and give the gift of life. Carol has made 47 lifetime donations with LifeSource and makes it a point to give blood four times each year.
“Giving blood is just a simple way to help,” Carol said. “It’s an easy and free thing you can do that is very important to others.”
Carol is a regular at LifeSource’s Chicago Blackhawks drives and at the Naperville Community Donor Center. She often brought Andy even though he was too young to donate just so he could experience a blood drive. Her influence has left an impact on Andy as he is now as passionate and committed to giving blood as his mother.
“Growing up I’ve always gone with my mom while she donated blood so when I was old enough I didn’t even hesitate,” Andy said. “I want to keep donating as long as I am able because I know what some people have to go through.”
Donating blood with LifeSource led Andy to have what he described as an “awesome moment” in his life. During a Chicago Blackhawks Blood Drive, Andy had the chance to meet and get a card autographed by Hall of Famer Bobby Hull. A year later, Hull made another appearance at a Blackhawks drive and Andy was able to once again meet “The Golden Jet.”
“My mom brought a big picture [she took] of when he signed my card [at the previous drive],” Andy said. “He asked my mom my name, then said ‘Andrew?’ ‘Andrewwww?’ I had no idea he was calling for me! He told me to have a seat next to him, which was pretty cool. We talked about the first time we met and he said I was doing good things by donating. It was truly a pretty awesome moment.”
Carol was proud to have her son don the red cords during his commencement ceremony, but wishes more of her son’s classmates had the accessory on their gowns.
“There was probably only 15 kids out of the 450 graduates that were wearing the cords,” Carol said. “I wish I didn’t have to work because if I had the means I would talk to freshmen and sophomores about giving blood.
“I think a lot of people just assume the only ones needing blood are those involved in car accidents and trauma victims. They don’t realize that if little Johnny falls and loses blood he might need a transfusion. Anyone can need a blood transfusion.”
Carol had a simple request for those who have never given blood.
“Just try it one time,” she said. “All I ask is to give it a try. If medical reasons prevent you from donating then encourage a friend to donate and go along with them.”
Andy believed the “free snacks” donors receive shouldn’t go unnoticed.
“Donating blood looks a lot scarier than it actually is,” he said. “It literally takes less than 10 minutes, you get free snacks and you can save lives. The LifeSource staff is amazing at talking you through your first time.”
Read more of our donor and recipient stories here.
PREPARE FOR YOUR DONATION • EAT WELL • STAY HYDRATED • BRING ID