American Red Cross to hold blood drive in honor of Pine Ridge fire victims

Published 6:04 am Saturday, December 24, 2016

Photo Contributed  Dana Keeling and her daughter, Sara, will be remembered with a memorial blood drive by the American Red Cross. The drive will be held at Unaka High School on Thursday, Dec. 29, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Photo Contributed
Dana Keeling and her daughter, Sara, will be remembered with a memorial blood drive by the American Red Cross. The drive will be held at Unaka High School on Thursday, Dec. 29, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Dana Keeling still finds a way to give back.
The 20-year-old, and her young daughter, Sara, recently passed away due to a fire at their residence in November on Pine Ridge Circle. In a time of mourning, Dana’s mother, Emma Grindstaff, knew the perfect way to give a Christmas present – a blood drive.
It only seems fitting.
Community members are encouraged to visit Unaka High School on Thursday, Dec. 29, for a blood drive from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. hosted by the American Red Cross to honor the memory of Dana and Sara.
Pursuing a passion to give back, Grindstaff said her daughter did what she could to encourage individuals to take time out of their day to give to those in need. Following the incident, Grindstaff added Dana and Sara both were organ donors.
“Dana worked every blood donation drive she could,” Grindstaff said. “She couldn’t give blood herself, but she had a passion for this. When she passed away, she was a donor and the baby was a donor, so I feel like this was the best gift I could give them.”
After the idea was mentioned by Grindstaff, the idea of a blood drive became a number one goal, according to Red Cross’ Thomas Hensley.
“I was actually contacted by our American Red Cross chapter for disaster services,” Hensley said. “They had assisted in the post-fire event, which is common for them to assist with. They worked with Emma and she made a mention to the team that she would like to do a blood drive because Dana was a phlebotomist and knew the importance of blood and donating.
“When I get a phone call like this, I feel like it’s my job to make sure something like this happens to help with the healing process,” he continued. “I remember an incident where a firefighter and his daughter lost their lives in a house fire. I talked with the family and mentioned that the more we can remember, the more we can help lift the burden. I’ve experienced loss myself, and it seemed like each time I talked with someone, there wasn’t as many tears. I know there won’t be a problem with the turnout, the community has been beyond supportive and will be more than happy to take a pebble of the burden from Emma to help with the healing.”
Grindstaff seconded the sentiments from Hensley about what the community has done since her daughter and granddaughter passed away.
“The community has been great,” Grindstaff said. “Everybody has stepped up, even before the blood drive was even announced. I wanted to give a big thank you to the commissioners, it’s been wonderful. Everyone has been really supportive of this event. The ones who knew Dana believe this event will honor her well and be a great Christmas gift for her and Sara.”
The background for the event only makes the day even more special. Not only is this a way to honor the two, but Hensley added that this time of the year always prove to be a critical time for the Red Cross to take in donations.
“We wanted to schedule this event as soon as possible to help with the healing,” he said. “I talked with Emma about the event and she understand the importance of having it during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.”
The Red Cross experiences a shortage of blood during the holiday season, which only made next week’s day an easy choice, Grindstaff added.
The choice of Unaka High School also has a special background.
“We were going to have it at Oak Baptist Church but (Thomas) said he spoke with Unaka High School,” Grindstaff said. “That’s where Dana took her nursing classes and went through high school. The school seemed really excited.”
Thomas also provided details to possible attendees. Possible donors are encouraged to call 1-866-236-3276, a free 24-7 hotline provided by the Red Cross, to check donor eligibility.
While the blood donations are important, Hensley said it will be a key time for community members to spend time with the family to reflect on the impact that Dana and Sara had in Carter County.
“I hope the community never forgets her,” Grindstaff said. “She always tried her best to help everyone, and I know she’d be proud of this blood drive.”
To make an appointment, visit or call 1-800-733-2767.

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