News Releases


August 9, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - For three years Forest Valley Free Will Baptist Church hosted "Barrett Strong" blood drives for Barrett Fitzsimmons, hoping to cheer the young Springfield boy across the goal line in his brave fight against cancer.

Barrett's courage is now his legacy. On Thursday, Aug. 8 the fourth Community Blood Center blood drive in his name was held in his memory. His parents Brad and Lana Fitzsimmons brought a poster of Barrett's photos - some in his football uniform and one in a "Barret Strong" t-shirt - to display in the church gym.

"He was a tough little kid," said Pastor Del Wallace after donating Thursday. "They gave him six months and he lived three years. He fought it and lived through a lot. Seeing his picture… it makes me sad. They don't want us to forget him, that's for sure."

Barrett was diagnosed with cancer at age six and passed away in May at age nine. Pastor Wallace presided over a life celebration at Northwestern High School, attended by many of Barrett's third grade classmates.

"It was very said," said nine-year-old Brett Rismiller, a classmate of Barrett's who came to the blood drive with his mother Katie and seven-year-old sister Jordis. "I thought he would keep fighting and would live on a little longer than that."

"He was nice to everyone," said Jordis.

Barrett's grandmother Keana Preston came to the blood drive Thursday and visited with coordinator Lee Armstrong and volunteer Sandra Bennett.  It was Keana who asked Lee if Forest Valley Free Will Baptist Church would host the first "Barrett Strong" blood drive in 2016.   Thursday's blood drive totaled 38 donors with all appointments filled and some donors turned away.

"Barrett was helped numerous times by blood donations," said Lee. "A lot of our church members are elderly and get blood, so there is a need for it.  I'll continue to do it as long as the family wants to use his name for it."

The Springfield community has rallied to support Barrett and his family through the "Barrett Strong!" movement that includes a scholarship. "We want to continue the blood drives." said Lana, "to keep the legacy of Barrett alive."