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American Red Cross /Wes Leonard Heart Team, first Annual “ In Memory Of” blood drive for Wes Leonard – American Red Cross donates 60th AED to the Heart Team
Posted: Jul 3, 2012

Fennville Michigan – For me it used to be a small village I passed through on my way to Saugatuck.  But that all changed nine years ago when I was assigned Allegan County as the American Red Cross Blood Donor Representative.

Since then, I have been organizing blood drives at the high school and at various places throughout the Fennville community.   I proudly handed out scholarships at the high school awards night, and worked with the Lions Club until they disbanded last year. 

More importantly, I got to know the spirit of Fennville and its people – this is truly a close knit,  ‘can do’ community.

Then a little over a year ago, tragedy struck and I stood in disbelief  before my TV, watching as the story of Wes Leonard began to unfold.  Since I feel so connected to the youth in the communities I serve, my immediate response was – “That’s MY school” and I  immediately felt the need to do something to help ease that pain and be a part of the healing process.  At the time I didn’t know how that would look, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it in some way.

I personally know the pain of that loss as my son lost his best friend about 20 years ago.  While the pain eases over time, one never really  completely gets over a loss of this type, and so the slogan, “Never Forgotten” rang true for me in a very personal way. 

I felt it an honor to be a part of an event, like the recent Red Cross blood drive that honored Wes’ memory while paying it forward so that others could live.    When I contacted Maria Flores about a possible partnership with the American Red Cross, I received a resounding “Yes, the Heart Team would love to be a part of this kind of partnership”.   That was several months ago when the snow was still flying so that gave us ample time to plan a  Blood Drive in memory of Wes for June 1st

Fennville has always held a special place in my heart as the leaders, local businesses and residents have always had open arms to assist me in any way they could in support of the local blood drives, but I was unprepared for the support that was to come.  My background in special events had armed me with the logistical preparedness to host a successful event, but it also prepared me for the eventualities that inevitably arise when doing an event of this magnitude.   The response from the people was always one of “How can I help?”  During those moments of the mini-crises that appeared, there were so many that helped in so many ways that I hesitate to begin naming names as I would most likely leave someone out.   Local  officials, the school administration, the high school principal, teachers, and students, the fire and police departments, and the Fennville merchants and, of course, the Heart Team and the Leonards, all played an integral part in assisting me to make this happen.

So, you may be asking, what was the outcome of this blood drive in memory of Wes?   The statistics below will reveal the true outpouring of support to help “Pay it Forward” with the combined efforts of the Wes Leonard Heart Team, The American Red Cross, and  Be The Match organization.

  • Pints of blood collected: 142, which will go to approximately 425 different recipients
  • Number signed up for Bone Marrow Registry: 45
  • Number of donors who signed up for the next blood drive on July 30th: 75



In addition, the American Red Cross donated the 60th AED to the Heart Team to be given to a school on their ever growing list of requests.

The disaster services of the American Red Cross also had demos for Citizen CPR, and displayed the servies  provided to your community during times of crisis to help residents get back on their feet.

A press conference was held to help promote the awareness of the need for working AED’s in all schools,  the constant need for blood, and the need for bone marrow donors.

The 2nd Annual blood drive in memory of Wes Leonard is being planned as we speak, and it is with a grateful heart that I send out my sincere thanks to a community that rallied behind a worthwhile cause , and to me, an outsider, who you all made to feel a part of  your close knit community.

Jane Emanuel
American Red Cross
Donor Recruitment Representative

PS:  Since the June 1, 2012 blood drive, the Red Cross was called to the Fennville community to offer their assistance during a business fire.

Most recently, your mayor expressed his thanks to the American Red Cross for bringing the father of his grandsons to the States during their recent tragic loss.  This is a very little known service that the Red Cross provides, but an important one for those serving our country and their families.




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