Blood drive pays tribute to P.S. 102 custodian
A Bay Ridge school custodian who died three years ago will be remembered at a blood drive organized by his mother.
June Johnson, a retired Department of Education administrative assistant, has held a blood drive each of the last two years in memory of her son, Mathiew Johnson, who died of a heart attack while on the job at P.S. 102 on Aug. 5, 2013. He was 42 years old.
This year’s blood drive in memory of Mathiew will take place on Tuesday, March 15, at P.S. 102, 211 72nd St., from 3 to 7:30 p.m.
“I feel like we’re keeping my son’s memory alive,” Johnson told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The 2014 and 2015 blood drives were highly successful, according to Johnson, who said 180 pints of bloods were collected.
Johnson, who is a member of Community Board 10, said that she and her son Mathiew often donated blood at various blood drives around Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. After his death, she decided that she wanted to pay tribute to her son’s generosity by holding a blood drive every year in his memory at P.S. 102, a school that meant a great deal to him. “Mathiew loved working there,” she said.
Shortly after Mathiew’s death, Johnson approached P.S. 102 Principal Cornelia Sichenze about the idea of holding an annual blood drive at the school. Sichenze loved the idea and gave Johnson permission to use the school cafeteria. “She has been wonderful to us,” Johnson said.
Representatives from the New York Blood Bank will be on hand at the March 15 blood drive to assist volunteers seeking to donate.
Visitors will not only get the chance to donate blood that could possibly save lives, but they will also have the opportunity to save the life of a little boy suffering from a rare blood disease.
At the same time the blood drive is taking place, a bone marrow donor drive is also being held at P.S. 102 on March 15. The bone marrow drive is an effort to help John Faro Vitale, 6, battle Fanconi Anemia, a rare blood disease.
Fanconi Anemia prevents bone marrow from making enough new blood cells for the body to function normally. It can cause bone marrow to make faulty blood cells and can lead to serious health problems, such as leukemia.
“It broke my heart when I heard about what he is going through,” Johnson said.
At last year’s blood drive, a steady stream of people showed up at P.S. 102 to make donations.
Despite the tragedy of Mathiew Johnson’s sudden death, the blood drive had a festive atmosphere.
June Johnson set up tables with toys and coloring books for children, and had pizza, cookies, milk and coffee on hand.
There were also raffles throughout the afternoon, thanks to Johnson’s friend Sandy Irrera, a school crossing guard, who donated gift baskets and handed out raffle tickets to each person who had donated blood. The donors had the chance to win such items as a Liz Claiborne sweater, a bottle of wine, picture frames and a jar of marinara sauce from Mama Rao’s Restaurant.
The donors included friends of Mathiew Johnson’s and P.S. 102 teachers and parents.