GREENVILLE — Like Buckeye football players who bid farewell to the Shoe on Senior Day, the last-standing members of the Darke County OSU Alumni Club hosted the 30th and final “Tailgate Blood Drive” Nov. 14 at the Greenville Church of the Brethren.
The club officially disbanded this fall due to declining membership. Club President Bill Barga honored its final commitment as a Solvita sponsor by celebrating the OSU theme with his blow-up Brutus and the help of OSU superfans “Buckeyeman” Larry Lokai and Coach Jim Tressel look-alike Dennis Singleton.
Darke County donors provided a final effort worthy of a chorus from “Carmen Ohio.” The blood drive totaled 113 donors, including 103 whole blood donors and 86 donations, plus 10 platelet and plasma donors.
“It was really good,” said Barga. “They’re all upbeat. Everybody seems to be happy. I had one donor ask about the club. She said, ‘I bet that just kills you.’ And I said ‘yeah.’ I never want to be someone that says no.”
Barga said donors still remember Wilma Heiby and Tot Heinrich, the dedicated OSU graduates and educators who coordinated the “Tailgate Blood Drive” for decades.
Ivan Patterson, Solvita’s oldest active donor at age 96, has been donating platelets at the Tailgate Blood Drive since retiring in Greenville 25 years ago. His goal is to reach 600 lifetime donations by his 100th birthday in 2027.
“If I donated today, it would have been 579, 21 to go, so it’s close,” said Patterson. “They take good care of us. I’ll make it.”
Patterson declined a Solvita t-shirt, saying, “I’ve got more T shirts than I know what to do with,” and gave some free advice to Buckeyeman Larry.
“You know what to do with those nuts?” Patterson asked about Larry’s buckeye necklaces. “Go and plant them about 10 feet apart.” Lokai replied, “No they won’t grow. They’re too dry.”
For years the club has counted on visits from Lokai and “Tress” to help celebrate their alma mater. They posed for pictures with Greenville donor John Welch, who asked, “What’s that around your neck? I’m from Indiana so I’m an old Hoosier!”
At age 81 Lokai is still dressing up in his trademark red makeup and wig, and despite recent surgery, still going to games and fan gatherings to bring smiles to the faces of Buckeye fans.
“I’m an introvert trying to be an extrovert,” Lokai said to Patterson. “You’re talking to me and helping me get out of my shell.”
Buckeyeman and Tress will be on the road to Sidney for the Nov. 14 Shelby Co. Alumni Association Buckeye Blood Drive. They left the Darke County club’s final Tailgate blood drive to the echoes of a familiar refrain:
“The seasons pass the years will roll… Time and change will surely show… How firm thy friendship… OHIO!”
Make an appointment to donate with Solvita (formerly Community Blood Center) on the Donor Time app, by calling (937) 461-3220, or at www.donortime.com.