Ansonia FFA goes ‘lights out’ to reclaim grudge match


ANSONIA — Hometown support for Ansonia High was “lights out” at the 15th annual Mississinawa Valley vs. Ansonia FFA “Grudge Match Blood Drive” on June 17.

The lights did go out in the Tigers gym halfway through the blood drive, but auxiliary power kicked in and the blood drive continued uninterrupted. It was a hot early summer day, typical for the Grudge Match, but Ansonia didn’t break a sweat while snapping the Mississinawa three-year win streak by a donor vote of 12-3.

The goal of the Grudge Match is to boost the regional blood supply when high schools are on summer break. The series is now tied at 7-7-1, but the real winner was the blood supply with the Grudge Match totaling 21 donors and 18 donations.

“The biggest thing is to thank the community for coming out and supporting the whole blood drive,” said Ansonia FFA Advisor Emily Williams, who coordinates the blood drive with co-advisor Jenny Bohman. “Without the community, it wouldn’t happen.”

“Our son comes here to Ansonia,” said Tonya Denlinger as she donated with her husband Caleb. “We got the message about the blood drive, and we said, ‘We’re going to support the school!’”

“It’s a super cool event we hold for our community, Mississinawa Valley, and us,” said Ansonia FFA volunteer Benjamin Barnt. Fellow FFA officers Jayda Mangen, Kensey Homan and Sophia Aultman took time out from summer break to volunteer at the blood drive, and to also paint signs that will decorate the Ansonia High FFA float in the Ansonia July 4th Parade.

“All the years I’ve been here, we haven’t won,” said Jayda, who made her seventh lifetime donation at the Grudge Match Blood Drive. “We felt it would be a better turnout. We just do it for fun. It’s cool to win the trophy, but we just want the community to donate blood and we got a lot more people.”

The friendly FFA rivals will meet again this summer when they spend the same week of July 24-28 at FAA Summer Camp in Carrollton.

“There are so many opportunities for leadership,” Emily said about growing interest in FFA clubs, and not just in rural high schools. “FFA has so many contests not related to traditional farming.”

The FFA students see the Grudge Match as an opportunity for community service, and their advisors see summer camp as an opportunity to grow.

“We go for all five days,” said MVHS FFA Advisor Carmen Hartzell, who coordinates MVHS blood drives with assistant FFA Advisor Gwen Bergman. “The magic of camp really happens on days three, four, and five. They let go of ‘I don’t know these people’ and now it’s ‘I know them,’ and ‘let’s give people a chance.’”

Schedule an appointment to donate with Solvita (formerly Community Blood Center) on the Donor Time app, by calling (937) 461-3220, or at

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