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Potsdam recognizes Red Cross Club

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POTSDAM — Last year a group of students at the Potsdam Central High School formed the American Red Cross Club, hosting a variety of activities and participating in several community service events.

This year, the club is back and now officially recognized by the school district as an extracurricular activity.

Club President Breanna P. Stephenson was one of the club’s original seven members, and she said even as they progressed through last year their numbers were starting to grow.

“At first we started with seven, but by the end of the year we had 15,” she said. “This year we have plenty more.”

Following a meeting where the group discussed plans for its second annual Monster Bash Halloween fun night, Ms. Stephenson said, the club now has 22 members.

“We’ve really grown,” said Joachim F. “Joe” Van Ells, who serves as faculty adviser for the club.

In fact, it was Mr. Van Ells’s relationship with the Red Cross through the unrelated “Scrubby Bear” program that led to the formation of the club.

“This blossomed out of that,” he said, referring to the relationship he already had with the Red Cross. “The kids really took to it, and they enjoy doing these activities.”

Activities the club did last year include the Halloween party and several other “fun night” events for various causes, a holiday card design contest with copies of the winning entry sent to service men and women, and valentines sent to Meals on Wheels recipients.

The club’s community involvement didn’t end when the school year came to close, either, as club members also volunteered at the Potsdam Youth Triathlon and entered a float in Norwood’s Fourth of July parade.

This year, the club also is hosting a blood drive and planning several other events to add to what it did last year.

“The group is still brainstorming other activities or events to pursue during this academic year,” Ms. Stephenson said.

In addition to Mr. Van Ells, the club is supervised by American Red Cross representatives Megan M. Fulton and Olga E. Grant.

Ms. Grant is the branch manager for the Red Cross’s regional office in Potsdam, and she said she’s impressed with what the students at Potsdam have been able to accomplish.

“Because of all the terrific projects they have taken on and what they accomplished last year, the Potsdam High School club is serving as a model for other potential clubs across the county,” she said, adding that at this point Potsdam’s club is the only one in St. Lawrence County.

Each of the club’s members has already been training or will be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid and AED (automated external defibrillator) use, Ms. Stephenson said, adding proceeds from the Halloween fun night will be used to pay for certification classes for students new to the club or not yet certified.

As of 2010, Ms. Grant said, there were more than 1,600 Red Cross Clubs in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges all across the country.

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