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MOM DONATES IN SON’S MEMORY AT ‘BARRETT STRONG BLOOD DRIVE’

August 12, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - Honoring the memory of her nine-year-old son and defeating pediatric cancer is why Springfield's Lana Fitzsimmons and her family are dedicated to the "Barrett Strong Foundation." It's also why she joined her neighbors in donating at the fifth annual "Barrett Strong Blood Drive" Tuesday, Aug. 11 at Forest Valley Free Will Baptist Church.

Barrett was diagnosed with cancer at age six and fought the disease bravely before his death in May 2019.  The "Barrett Strong!" blood drives with Community Blood Center supported him during his treatment, and they continue now in his memory.

Tuesday's blood drive totaled 36 donors and reached 100 percent of the collection goal. Barrett's mother Lana was a first-time donor.

"In the past we could not consider it because we had a lot going on," said Lana. "I was getting ready to share the event on Facebook and I thought, 'I wonder if there are any spots left?  You know what? I'm signing up."

Lana is the school secretary at Northwestern Elementary School where Barrett was a third grader. In the year since his death she has dedicated herself to the Barrett Strong Foundation, planning multiple events and raising more than $30,000 for local scholarships and the fight against pediatric cancer.

"We were just able to adopt a room at the Ronald McDonald House at Dayton Children's Hospital," said Lana. "We used it when he was initially diagnosed and anytime we knew he would be in the hospital for more than five days."

Northwestern High School 2020 graduate Cassie Pencil, who made her seventh lifetime donation at the Tuesday's blood drive, was the winner of the first Barrett Strong scholarship. The $1,500 will help her as she begins her studies in nursing this fall at Ohio State. They also awarded $250 scholarships to nine other applicants to help in a time of need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've been holding our own, but that's about it," said Forest Valley Free Will Baptist Church Pastor Dee Wallace who donated at the blood drive along with his wife Shonda. Attendance has been down during the pandemic, but he was relieved to see the blood drive reach its goal.

"I wasn't sure how it would turn out," said blood drive coordinator Lee Armstrong. "It usually comes through at the end!"

Donor Gabriela Turney's grandson was on the wrestling team with Barrett.  "I will do it anytime anyone asks me to do it because it's for a good cause," she said.

Donor Heather Turner, a Springfield High School history teacher, is ready for classes to begin. "I'm excited to see my kiddos!" she said. But this school year arrives with uncertainty. "I usually teach 160 a year," she said. "I don't know how many there will be."

Despite the difficult time, each donor is helping the Lana and Fitzsimmons family keep their commitment to remain "Barrett Strong."

"She doesn't want anyone to forget about her son," said Lee. "That's why they keep the foundation. The blood drive is helping people that need blood, and it helped Barrett when he needed transfusions."