2nd annual blood drive honors lives of Dana, Sara Keeling

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2017

When there was time to finally catch a breather over the weekend, it was hard for Emma Grindstaff to fight back tears of excitement.
And why not? While hundreds were busy with the last-minute shopping and plans for Christmas, Grindstaff and others were busy organizing the second annual blood drive to remember the lives of Dana and Sara Keeling at Hunter First Baptist Church.
It wasn’t an easy stretch of preparation for Grindstaff and the American Red Cross, but the community responded by coming out to make donations that resulted in several life-saving products being created.
“We have had people stop by that were friends of Dana and Sara, and we’ve had people that stopped by that didn’t even know the girls,” said Grindstaff, Dana’s mother and Sara’s grandmother. “But they’ve heard the story of the girls and their lives. It has been incredible because people have stopped by and just wanted to show support. This is going to save so many lives. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger each year.”
Dana and Sara have continued to make an impact in the community following their tragic passing in an apartment fire on Pine Ridge Circle. The idea of the blood drive was spearheaded by Grindstaff to remember Dana’s drive of wanting to give back to others. Prior to her passing, Grindstaff’s daughter was working to become a phlebotomist.
But the impact continues to be made by both Dana and Sara. Along with the blood drives, the duo were able to make an impact in the lives of others due to their status of being organ donors.
“It is really hard to put into words… but their impact makes me one proud mom, that’s for sure,” Grindstaff said with a smile.
Last year’s drive was held at Unaka High School and the drive created over 60 life-saving products. With a change in location, the drive was reaching 20-plus participants heading into the final hours.
Grindstaff was quick to thank Hunter First for allowing the drive to take place at their location.
“We plan on having it at this location each year if possible,” Grindstaff said. “We do have extra areas for the Red Cross to take in more people. This is easily accessible for people and it’s not far from town.”
Along with volunteer support, Grindstaff also thanked the efforts of the Red Cross staff. Throughout the drive, staff worked with residents to make for a seamless donation process.
“The Red Cross has been wonderful,” Grindstaff said. “Tom and I started earlier this year. We had a longer timeframe to work with and I thought we were able to really get it together for this year’s event. Last year’s was successful, but we only had a few months to put things together. The Red Cross workers have been incredible today. I’ve been able to help them and they’ve helped me. We’re lucky to have an organization like the Red Cross. They don’t only help with blood drives, but they also help in other areas. When the girls passed, the Red Cross helped with some of the expenses. They really give back to the community.”

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