If you would like Kern County to maintain an adequate emergency blood supply, you might consider thanking a high school student.
Thousands of community-minded teens, from Arvin High to Taft High and just about every high school in between, donated blood this school year as part of Houchin Community Blood Bank's "Give-it-Up" blood drive.
On Friday, more than 160 of those students were treated to a white-tablecloth lunch at Stockdale Country Club as a way to honor them and their schools for their efforts.
"This is our way of letting these high school students know just how important they are," said Houchin CEO Greg Gallion. "We want to acknowledge and recognize what they have done."
As the dressed-up teens noshed on lunch and dessert, Houchin Account Manager Stephanie J. Gibbons laid it all out.
"You bridge the gap," Gibbons told the roomful of students.
The lives of three people can be touched by the donation of just one unit of blood, she said. That means more than 13,000 lives were affected by the teen donors during the past year.
"Our work allows us to plant seeds," Gibbons said. "Seeds for current and future donors."
Lorenzo Gomez, 18, a student at East Bakersfield High School, told the packed ballroom, "I first donated on my 16th birthday."
He said he was inspired by a much older man in the 33 gallon club, and he advised his fellow students to keep in mind that "local lives" are saved by their generosity.
"People in our community," he said.
Twenty-one schools were separated into categories based on senior class size, and competed against one other to determine which schools could garner the highest percentage of senior class participation.
In the small school category, the winner was Frazier Mountain High School. Taft High took home honors in the medium category. And in the large category, with a whopping 15 campuses competing, Stockdale High won with 76 percent participation.
Stockdale also won the Extra Mile award for the most donors giving the gift of life as "walk-ins" at one of Houchin's blood donation centers.