Blood donors show support for Mundelein teacher

Even in a pandemic, the line was jammed Thursday at a blood donation event held in honor of Kristen Meister, a Mundelein elementary school teacher undergoing cancer treatment.

"If you know Kristen Meister, you understand why this turnout is so great," said organizer and Washington Early Learning Center nurse Kathryn Gouzoules. "She's an amazing person."

In its third year, the Versiti Blood Center of Illinois-sponsored event held at the Mundelein Elementary District 75 office was on pace to process more than 60 donation, about the same as previous editions.

One pint of blood can save three lives, according to Brian Bautista, chief operating officer of Versiti, the largest independent blood collection organization in the Midwest. Bautista said his daughter was a student of Meister's, and the decision to set up a donation event to help was an easy one.

"The community of Mundelein loves stepping up, and she has helped so many families they want to give back," he said.

The beloved teacher could not be at this year's event because recent therapy has weakened her and forced her to step away from teaching

"It got to the point where she was too exhausted," said her husband, Kent Meister, a teacher at Mundelein High School. "She could only give so much and had to take a break."

He said her strength greatly increases when she receives a transfusion.

"She has more energy and can even walk up the stairs. She told me, 'I feel like my life has been saved' through transfusions," he said as he watched the crowded lobby filled with donors. "We've benefitted more than we've ever given."

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