DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Thursday, April 27 marked the 26th annual Officer John P. Kalaman Blood Drive in Centerville.

Officer Kalaman and Washington Township firefighter Bob O’Toole were hit and killed by a driver while responding to a crash on Jan. 12, 1998. Since that tragic day, the community has banded together to honor their legacy through the blood drive event.

The idea to start the drive came from John’s father, who is an avid blood donor.

“After the accident, we had a huge community outpouring,” John Davis of the Centerville Police Department said. “Everyone was looking for some sense of what happened and for some good to come out of it. John’s parents…They came up with this idea, and we’ve run with it ever since. This is important to us, that we never forget what they did for us.”

Kalaman’s parents were unable to attend the event this year, but the community continued the yearly tradition to honor their son’s sacrifice.

“It’s a little off,” Davis said. “I’ll be honest with you. It’s different, but they know that we are here. We made the promise to them that we’re never going to give up on this, and we’re never going to forget what he did. A lot of times, people forget about the families, but they made a huge sacrifice that day as well. We’re going to carry on that torch for them.”

Kalaman’s impact goes beyond those who knew him personally.

Centerville native Jacob Stone has donated at the annual drive for the past 10 years.

“I’ve been doing it ever since I was in high school, so about 10 years now,” Stone said. “Driving around, you see the John Kalaman and Robert O’Toole street names. One day, I asked my mom what happened, and she explained. Ever since then, I’ve made it a point to show up to show support. Personally, it’s more trying to keep it going. It happened in the 90s, and just being able to keep the memory of John alive makes it an event that I want to get to every year.”

Christine Smart, a former coworker and close friend of Kalaman’s, marked her 100th blood donation at the drive.

“He was a wonderful friend,” Smart said. “Honoring John on my 100th donation today was very important to me.”

She also shared her last memory of Kalaman.

“My last working day with him was the day after Christmas,” Smart reflected. “He found a baby cougar in a dumpster, and he brought it back into the police department. We got to play with it. Who would have thought there would be a baby cougar in Centerville? That was my last memory of John.”

Additionally, she said the two of them shared a passion for reading.

“We would share all of our books that we would read together,” Smart said. “He was very kind and gentle. Everybody that he helped; they were very lucky to have him.”

Smart concluded with a message of uplifting encouragement:

“His memory lives on in helping other people. I think, with everybody’s lives, we impact people. That’s what we’re here to do in life and death, continue to help people. That’s what giving blood does. You share the gifts that you have, and that’s what we’re called to do. That’s what John did as a public servant. He shared his life with others. That’s what we do here.”

More than 4,400 units of blood have been donated in Kalaman’s name.