Kettering blood donor: ‘I knew it was 500, but they surprised me’

Alter honorary ‘coach emeritus’ makes time to help.

Kettering resident Katie Ellis was working as a nurse in the Pediatric ward at Kettering Hospital in 1969. Around that time her mother, Gwynedd Armstrong, asked her to accompany her while she went to give blood. That started a lifelong habit of donating blood on a regular basis.

Not only has her support helped countless patients who needed blood transfusions, her donations have added up to quite a significant number. She was honored this past Aug. 31 by the Community Blood Center in Dayton when she made her 500th lifetime blood donation.

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“I knew it was 500, but they surprised me with a cake and cupcakes. I wanted the nurses to come out and be a part of it. I’ve known some of them over 40 years,” said Ellis, who turns 70 on Dec. 7.

She is type O positive and started by giving whole blood. The apheresis program began in 1976, and because Ellis had a good platelet count she began helping that program. Apheresis is where the blood is separated into components such as red blood cells, platelets and plasma in various combinations, and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor. The process takes longer than donating whole blood, and can last up to 90 minutes.

“I’ve got the time. It’s my way of giving back, to help those who need it,” said Ellis, a member of Alter High School’s first graduating class in 1966. “It’s only an hour and a half of the day. Why not do it?”

Ellis carries that why-not attitude around with her, and is one busy lady. Her honorary title at Alter is “coach emeritus.” She’s been coaching the women’s golf team for the past seven years. The day of her 500th donation, she headed off to golf practice, sold tickets at the women’s soccer game and finished the day watching the men’s team play.

Her husband, Bob, has been coaching men’s soccer for the past 34 years. Katie coached the men’s reserve soccer team for 16 years and women’s softball off and on for 12 years.

“We honor Katie as a dedicated blood donor, and our top female donor. She proves there are no barriers when it comes to helping save lives,” said CBC/CTS chief operating officer Jodi Minneman. “Katie is a wonderful mother and grandmother. We like to think that she sets a great example for boys and girls, men and women alike. The strength you find to help others truly comes from within.”

Regular exercise and lifelong friendships have been keys to her consistency as a blood donor. A typical day for her begins with an hourlong walk with longtime friends referred to as “the Street Walkers of Ackerman.”

The Alter team’s home course is Community Golf Course, where Ellis volunteers as a starter and ranger on Friday mornings. She’s also a member of the Community Women’s League. In addition, she also announces and keeps time for the men’s reserve soccer team, and keeps time for the varsity.

The Ellis family is celebrating their 48th anniversary this month. They have four children and 11 grandchildren, including three sets of twins. Allison is the oldest at 16, and Zachary is the youngest at 10 months. Giving blood gained extra meaning when Zachary was born. Her daughter, Jenny, needed transfusions after a C-section.

For Ellis, coaching, assisting, golfing or baby-sitting is never an excuse to miss donating every two weeks at the Dayton CBC, 349 S. Main St.

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