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Stratford Academy holds memorial blood drive for former student who was struck by lightning

On Friday, Stratford's Key Club hosted the 3rd Annual Walker Bethune Blood Drive, just before what would have been his 20th birthday.

MACON, Ga. — Students and staff at Stratford Academy remembered the life of a classmate by working to help save the lives of others. 

They honored former student Walker Bethune with a blood drive in a story that comes straight from the heart.

Walker Bethune died after he was struck by lightning on a Florida beach in 2021. He served as an inspiration to many students and teachers at Stratford.

Now, the Stratford community and their student-led organization' Key Club' have gotten together to collect 55 units of blood donations to help those in need to honor Bethune just before what would have been his 20th birthday.

"We have this blood drive every year to honor him and put those qualities in other people so they can also help others," Stratford Academy student Pranya Kadiyala said. 

Key Club vice presidents Catharine Caldwell and Pranya Kadiyala reminisced on who Bethune was as a student and who he was to the community.

"He was just known for being someone that if you had any questions, any confusion, or any concerns, you could always go to him," Kadiyala said. "He was the guy that you would go to; he was really kind, and it didn't matter if you were his best friend or if you barely knew him; he treated you so well."

Students got to sit with each other and reflect, writing messages to commemorate Bethune. 

"I think how sudden it was also let people sit down and really appreciate their friends and their family," Caldwell said. "You can see people who are terrified of needles and stuff coming out and still giving blood, and it really shows how genuine people are."

Overall, the students and staff at Stratford Academy wanted to keep his legacy alive.

"He was a very kind soul, and it makes me really grateful that I'm able to honor him," Kadiyala said. 

Bethune's father was there when the lightning strike happened, and he provided CPR. Stratford's Key Club will be holding a first aid and CPR course at a later date to commemorate Walker Bethune.

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