KOKOMO, Ind. — For Brooke Runyon, being one of only 13 student athletes nationwide selected for the Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program is about more than building her own skills and boosting her résumé.
It’s about saving lives.
“Every blood donation can save up to three lives,” said Runyon, a member of Indiana University Kokomo’s cross country team. “I want to really impact our students, and encourage them to take this simple step to save lives.”
Greg Cooper, IU Kokomo athletic director, noted that more than 100 students applied for the prestigious program, and her selection allowed her to represent the campus athletic programs on a national level.
“Brooke is a passionate and enthusiastic leader,” he said. “This program has allowed her to hone those skills in a format that gives back to the region at the same time, by organizing several blood drives each year. Additionally, she developed her leadership skills in a way that will impact her team and our department in her role on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.”
In June, she served a two-week internship at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C., gaining first-hand coaching, mentoring, and professional leadership advice from senior Red Cross leadership and NAIA representatives. They learned to organize and market successful blood drives, with the goal of increasing blood donations in their communities.
The students lived in campus housing at Georgetown University, and also had the opportunity to tour the city and meet government leaders. As a Red Cross ambassador, Runyon will plan at least two blood drives per year at IU Kokomo, and receive a $2,000 scholarship. She has ongoing mentoring support from local Red Cross officials as she plans and leads her blood drives.
Brooke’s parents inspired her to champion the cause of blood donation. Her father died of brain cancer when she was a toddler, and she remembers her mother donating blood every five days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“I’d like to think my work honors my father,” she said. “There are people out there in need, and I want to be able to do something.”
Runyon’s involvement in the advisory committee also spurred her interest in leading blood drives. She is proud of the strong service tradition for student athletes in the community, but felt there was a need to serve on campus as well.
Runyon, a secondary social studies education major from Noblesville, led the Fallen Officer Blood Drive June 30, which netted 25 units of blood donated. She was pleased 35 people signed up in advance, significantly more than the seven who preregistered for the summer 2015 blood drive. Her next drive is during Welcome Week, August 24.
Since the Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program began in 2007, nearly 120 student athletes have served as Red Cross ambassadors, hosting 1,394 blood drives, and collecting 63,602 pints of blood.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.