For every person who donates blood, three are saved, according to Synthia Rocha, a spokeswoman for Houchin community blood bank.
By 1 p.m. on Saturday, 30 people had already donated blood in a drive held at Christ Lutheran Church in honor of the late Valencia High School Vikings football player, Pedro Roman. Roman fought leukemia for two years until his life was cut short in 2021.
Rocha, herself a leukemia survivor, said the mission to gather more blood, in an effort to save lives, was personal.
“It’s extremely rewarding to be able to encourage people to help other people fight journeys like Pedro’s and myself,” said Rocha. “Every day, people are being diagnosed with all sorts of types of cancers and illnesses that blood donations are critical for… this is a wonderful way to remember him and to help other people that were in Pedro’s position.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a nationwide blood shortage, the worst in over a decade, according to the Red Cross. Blood banks, like Houchin, are specifically seeking out type O negative — a universal blood type that’s compatible with any patient. As Rocha said, blood transfusions are critical for many types of illnesses.
The mission to garner more blood amid this crisis was also acknowledged by Roman’s mother, Lisa, who not only donated blood on Saturday but also stayed to help people register. It’s still all very raw for Lisa and often she finds it difficult to speak about her son. However, like on Saturday, she still finds the strength to carry on the fight Roman started nearly four years ago.
“It’s such a beautiful way to remember her son,” said Rocha. “By helping others, she is an advocate to cure childhood cancer. And there’s not much you can do but spread the word and encourage others to come out. She was out here, for a few hours helping sign people and helping pass out T-shirts. Just to donate her time and thank everybody personally for coming out to remember her son.”
Husband and wife, Forrest and Amanda Piepers, said they donate blood regularly. Like Rocha, Amanda said the reason is also personal.
“We like helping people. I actually had heart problems when I was younger. So I got blood transfusions and now I feel like I should get back and help others because if someone didn’t help me, I wouldn’t be alive today,” said Amanda.
The pair said they did not initially know of Roman’s story before coming to donate, but said hearing it added extra meaning to what they were doing.
“There’s a little more gravity when there’s like a specific person attached to it, rather than just the general, ‘Oh, you’re helping a couple of people today,’ kind of a thing,” said Forrest.
Rocha said because of the 30 people and counting who showed up to the drive, the event was expected to surpass its goal of providing blood for 100 people.