LIMA — The American Red Cross is inviting the community to donate blood in honor of a Lima girl battling leukemia and a Wapakoneta teen who died from cancer in 2011.
A blood drive for 11-year-old Lauren Cunningham will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Allen County Children’s Services, 123 W. Spring St.
Lauren was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2014. Since then, she has received more than 78 blood transfusions during her treatment. As she continues to battle the disease, she will likely need more blood transfusions in the future.
“The reality of it is, those blood transfusions helped save her life,” said John Cunningham, Lauren’s father.
A student at Bath Elementary School, Lauren remains as active as she can possibly be. She has attended classes most days this school year — aside from a three-week stretch in October — and continues to hunt deer and moose with her father.
Though she is unable to play sports, Lauren’s father hopes with more blood transfusions and chemotherapy, she will be back on the soccer field next fall.
Cunningham said this will be the fifth or sixth blood drive held in Lauren’s honor. He said they plan to hold a blood drive three to four times every year for the foreseeable future.
“People always want to know how they can help, and I tell them just to give blood,” he said. “It’s a need for Lauren, but it’s also a need for others. When they give blood, they’re helping save lives.”
For seven years, Wapakoneta teen Jason Strauser received units of blood on almost a weekly basis when he was battling cancer. Diagnosed with a large brain tumor, Jason succumbed to the disease at the age of 17.
“Jason was a witty, intelligent, loving and compassionate young man,” said his mother, Judy Strauser. “Even while he was battling cancer, Jason helped organize blood drives and raise awareness. Jason always encouraged others to donate blood to the American Red Cross.”
As a way of honoring Jason’s memory and emphasizing the critical need for blood products, the Strauser family organizes community blood drives two times a year. Since the Jason Strauser blood drive began in 2011, a total of 718 units of blood have been donated in his memory, according to a news release.
For Judy, this week’s blood drive is extra special.
“Because it’s being held on what would have been Jason’s 22nd birthday, this blood drive is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “We urge anyone who can to come out to donate blood. You never know when someone you love is going to need it.”
A blood drive in memory of Jason will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at First English Lutheran Church, 107 W. Mechanic St., Wapakoneta.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima.