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Franklin Regional tennis players host blood drive in response to school stabbing

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Franklin Regional High School boys tennis team wanted to find a way to do something positive in response to the mass stabbing attack at the school that left 20 students and a security guard injured.

The team contacted Central Blood Bank and coordinated a blood drive on Saturday in the middle school gymnasium, aiming to collect at least 100 donations.

“We thought it would be a pretty good idea because we knew a lot of blood was lost, obviously. We knew a blood drive was a pretty easy thing, in the scope of things, to organize,” Franklin Regional senior tennis player David Leftwich said. “We thought we'd try to do our part.”

Among the most seriously wounded during the April 9 rampage were sophomore tennis players Connor Warwick and Greg Keener. Warwick was released from Forbes Regional Hospital on Monday and stopped by the blood drive, his teammates said.

“The incident at Franklin Regional really demonstrated the importance of having an adequate daily blood supply,” said Tamara Kilgore, marketing communications manager for Central Blood Bank. “There's a never-ending cycle for the need for blood in our community. Having a blood drive here today, it's important for us, and we need this Franklin Regional tennis team blood drive to be successful in addition to all our other drives because we're preparing for the summer, which is traditionally a time of heightened need for us.”

The Panthers posted a 12-2 overall record in the regular season and won the WPIAL Class AAA Section 1 title.

“Even though they weren't with us on the courts, we did keep them in our thoughts and prayers throughout the whole season,” said Rohan Hattangady, one of the Panthers' senior captains. “After we got the section title, we wanted to dedicate the season to both of them.”

“Our new uniforms for the second half of the season had ‘Play for Conner' and ‘Play for Greg' on them,” senior Hassan Chughtai said. “We wore those for the rest of our matches.”

“A lot of our opponents were also very supportive of us,” added Nathan Yu, another senior on the tennis team, “giving us signs and keeping us in their thoughts and prayers.”

The tennis team made a smart logistical decision by scheduling the blood drive for the same day as the Relay for Life, making it convenient for participants in one charitable event to take part in the other, and by about 2:45 p.m. Saturday, the drive had surpassed the team's initial 100-unit goal.

“The response was much better than what we were expecting,” Hattangady said. “Yesterday, we only had 30 kids and adults signed up for actual appointments. But we had a lot of walk-ons, so the response was much better.”

Central Blood Bank pledged to offer Warwick and Keener a total of $1,500 in scholarships if the blood drive generated at least 151 donations. Kilgore said the blood drive registered 117 individual donors, but official figures for the number of units donated wouldn't be available until Sunday, as some donors may have given more than one unit.

“It was great today,” Kilgore said. “We had a lot of students come out and donate, and for a lot of them it was their first time donating. We're hoping that seeing their altruism and their altruistic spirit that they continue to donate after they graduate from high school, and go on to college and their professional careers.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913.

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