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Right place, right time

Magoffin County High School Key Club saves a life—with leadership

Story by Amy Wiser 

There are leaders who stand at podiums and make magnificent, dramatic speeches. They inspire. 

There are leaders who command board rooms and build companies. They bring people together to invest in ideas. 

Then there are leaders who step away from the spotlight and into often unglamorous circumstances. They build character. They change lives. They are Key Club members. 

Leadership and character-building are well-known core values of Key Club, but when members put values into action, those values become a lot more than just words. In fact, practicing Key Club values in small ways every day made it possible for the Key Club of Magoffin County High School in Salyersville, Kentucky, to change a life last year. 

More accurately, to save a life.

Perfect timing

It was a Saturday morning, and club members were picking up trash along the side of the road. It started raining, so the 20 club members spread out to better cover the area. Suddenly the club’s advisor, Jessica Allen, heard shouting. She ran to see what was happening, and found a woman pinned under a four-wheeler that had flipped on top of her. 

“She had passed by us earlier, and it seemed like she must have hit some loose gravel, shot up a hill and flipped,” Allen says. “She was terrified—and in pain.” 

The Key Clubbers immediately went to work. Someone called 911. Someone held the group’s only umbrella over the woman’s head. Many took off their coats to cover her. Several girls held the woman’s hand and talked to her to help her stay conscious. They also asked about her medical history so they could relay it to the paramedics in case she passed out. A group carefully hoisted the four-wheeler away. And, because there was a curve near the accident site, some Key Clubbers—still wearing their bright-orange safety vests from trash cleanup—formed a line around both sides of the curve to warn and slow traffic. 

“We needed to be sure everyone was OK and that everyone would make it home safely,” says Vice President Ryan Blanton, one of the Key Clubbers who directed traffic. 

A club of action 

For the club’s members, it was an unusually intense situation. But they handled it—in part because of the leadership skills that Key Club helps them develop. 

“Our club members jumped into action,” Allen says. “I’ve seen them do great things, and they spend their weekends helping others. But this was a whole different situation. This was a serious emergency, and they were performing an unbelievable act of leadership.” 

And, as the best leaders do, they put their mission ahead of their own needs. Despite the heavy rain, a few girls sat near the woman’s head, holding her hand and her head and talking to her. 

“It wasn’t just about making sure she was physically OK,” Allen says. “They knew she also needed mental peace of mind. She was afraid she was going to die.” 

The club’s members kept calm and cool amid the chaos, building their own character as they discovered new skills and strengths. 

“I saw fear, but strength at the same time,” says club member Katia Davis, who knew that some of the members had probably never been in the position where they had to help someone in an emergency. “It was surprising to watch members step up and work together to make sure the situation didn’t get any worse. A few members were broken up, but we all pulled through in the end.” 

When paramedics arrived, Key Club members filled them in on what had happened, talking for the frightened woman and providing her medical history. They helped put her oxygen in place. They even helped the woman’s family load the four-wheeler to haul away. 

“Everyone worked together, and teamwork played a huge role,” Allen says. “Everyone pitched in.” 

The Key Club advantage

Allen is impressed, but she’s not surprised. She says she has seen the club work together as leaders countless times—from wrapping Christmas presents for underprivileged kids to visiting residents at a nursing home. They’re comfortable with it. She believes the familiarity of working together for others helped make club members so effective during the emergency. 

“You can’t plan for this kind of thing,” Allen says. “Being prepared is a Key Club advantage.” 

Allen isn’t the only adult impressed by the Key Club members’ leadership on that September day. The emergency medical team honored the club members with certificates for bravery and dedication. And the driver herself, who ultimately suffered only fractured ribs, has expressed her gratitude.