Eldora helps refuel summer blood supply


NEW WESTON — For 23 race nights from spring to fall, Eldora Speedway is the “Greatest Show on Dirt.” For one special day in June, Eldora’s is New Weston’s best pit stop for helping refuel the regional blood supply.

Eldora hosted its annual Solvita community blood drive on June 26 and thanked donors with packages of race tickets for door prize drawings. For the first time since the pre-pandemic blood drive in 2019, the blood drive was held indoors instead of on a Bloodmobile.

It was a sign that the COVID caution flags are well in the past with future blood drives returning to the newly remodeled Eldora Ballroom. The blood drive totaled 22 donors and 22 donations in a time of critical need for multiple blood types with the challenging July 4th holiday period approaching.

Eldora was committed to hosting Tuesday’s indoor blood drive despite the challenges of improvement projects and the sudden passing in May of Eldora General Manager Jerry Gappens, a well-known motorsports promoter. A mural in his honor now hangs from the VIP suites building that overlooks the track and includes owner Tony Stewart’s private suite.

“This year was a little hectic,” said Accounting Manager Joyce Bowers who coordinates the blood drives. “They’re big on community, anything we can do.”

Rossburg donor Jane Schlater was excited to see the Ballroom renovation. “I live down the road, I’ve never been to a race, but the blood drive is convenient,” said Jane. “It’s been back in my 20’s, when we used to come here for dances, back in the good old days!”

Ann Acheson came from Senecaville to make her first Solvita donation with her 85-year-old aunt Mary Ann Olding from Minster.

“She got me hooked up!” said Ann. “I had to twist her arm!” said Mary Ann. “I said I’m going to give blood on Tuesday, and she said, ‘Sign me up.’”

A blood drive tradition is Eldora’s donation of race tickets for donor drawings. Charles Graves won two tickets to the 41st Kings Royal on July 20, Michael Kemper won four tickets to the 16th Baltes Classic on Sept 1, Joe Wagner won four tickets to the BeFour the Crown Showdown on Sept. 20, and Mark Mestemaker won four tickets to the DTWC Oct. 17-19.

Ticket winner Joe Wagner is a North Star donor who understands the complexities of summer weather and racing on Eldora’s iconic half mile, steeply-banked, dirt surface oval. “I have won, I went, and it was rained out,” he said. “It was the Kings Royal that year. This year? I’d be glad to get any of them. It’s fun!”

Race fans have their eyes on the July 17-20 Kings Royal Week, when Eldora hopes to debut the new look of the Eldora Ballroom.

Schedule 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.

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