Help someone by giving blood, in memory of well-known Wauzeka man

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By Correne Martin


In honor of a well-known young man from the Wauzeka community, who died of cancer in 2011, the Wauzeka-Steuben Schools Blood Drive is in its 10th year. The 2020 event, in memory of John Peloch, will be Friday, Feb. 28, from 12:30 to 5:40 p.m., at the Wauzeka Village Hall. 

Walk-ins are welcome, though appointments can be made by calling the American Red Cross at (800) RED Cross (733-2767) or visiting

As the years come and go, John’s mom, Joanne, is proud of the good the family and community have been able to do in her son’s name. Through John’s battle, they all experienced the need for donated blood.

“There is such a need. One never knows when they themselves, or someone they know, may need help,” Joanne stated. 

She also wishes to recognize the Red Cross staff, who, she said, put in long hours, travel from long distances and take few breaks as the “unsung heroes” in saving others’ lives. 

“They put in long drives to get to the blood drive. Some meet and carpool,” she said. “It’s not just the hours of the blood drive but the travel time and unwind time after each event too.”

The blood drive in honor of John began in February 2011, a month after his passing. His wife, Justine, was in the nursing program at Southwest Tech, and her sister-in-law, Bridget, worked for the Red Cross out of La Crosse at the time. It was their idea to get a blood drive going, so they made a call to the Red Cross (800-733-2767) and were connected with the area coordinator, Randy Place.

The Peloch family; Justine’s family, the Bedwards; and National Honor Society students from the school, under guidance from advisers John and Heather Luster, stepped in to bring a drive to Wauzeka. The Lusters both taught John Peloch when he went to Wauzeka-Steuben. 

Altogether, the organizing volunteers put on a nice meal throughout the event, usually to include a main course and plenty of sustenance to go alongside. The Red Cross furnishes the drinks. 

“Lots of people come for this one because of the meal,” Joanne noted. 

Certainly, donors come to do their part in giving back too. They also enjoy looking through pictures of John that spark a memory or two, and talking about those good times with him. 

All of the family and friends who work the blood drive wear T-shirts with John’s picture, “Forever 27” and “Give Blood” on them. 

Students from the Wauzeka-Steuben yearbook committee give of their time by registering donors, getting water for donors and, sometimes, even donating blood themselves. 

The first few years of this memorial drive boasted round 70 donors. Now, it’s decreased slightly to about 50 to 60 people, yet the event usually meets its goal, Joanne shared. 

“It’s a bittersweet event. The years have gone so fast and, through it all, our lives have changed,” she added. “But with help from everyone, John is still helping others. That was always what he wanted to do.”

By donating, area citizens can help one or more graduating seniors earn a scholarship. 

Just one blood donation can potentially save up to three lives. Also, donors receive a letter explaining where their blood was sent to help. 

As her thoughts came to a close, Joanne said, “It’s a great way to help someone and it makes you feel good.”

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