Happy Birthday, Dana! Citizens remember lives of mother, daughter

Published 11:24 pm Monday, October 2, 2017

Balloons, laughs, smiles, tears. 

Nearly one year since their passing, Dana and Sara Keeling continue to make an impact in the region. 

The impact was felt in full force Saturday morning as friends and family of the Keelings joined together on Don Whitson Lane to celebrate what would have been Dana’s 21st birthday. Together at their gravesite, citizens released balloons with special messages and held a small toast to commemorate the 21st birthday.

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Dana and her three-year-old daughter passed away during an apartment fire on Pine Ridge Circle last November, just one day apart. 

Since the tragic event, their lives and legacies have continued to be showcased across Northeast Tennessee. 

Last year was the first installment of the Dana & Sara Memorial Blood Drive at Unaka High School. Sponsored by the American Red Cross, several citizens met inside the school’s cafeteria to donate blood to remember the lives of Dana and Sara. Emma Grindstaff, Dana’s mother, and Sara’s grandmother, said that her daughter was hoping to become a phlebotomist and was active in helping organize blood drives at her school. 

Representatives from the Red Cross indicated a second installment of the memorial blood drive is expected to take place in November. 

It was a shared sentiment by those in attendance Saturday. Loved ones gathered to share stories about Dana and Sara and what type of impact they made in the community. 

“I’m so grateful for the community,” Grindstaff said. “There have been so many people that have come out and talked about what type of impact Sara and Dana have made in their lives. It’s been rough. There has been so much support. I can’t say how thankful I am for it.” 

Throughout the celebration of life, family and friends alike talked about Dana’s eagerness to help and how much of a positive influence she was on those she encountered. 

Grindstaff also had a special message for her daughter and granddaughter. 

“I miss you both so desperately,” she said, holding back tears. “I love you both and I’ll be with you one day.”