EATON — Life has not stood still in the years since Vincent Jones died of leukemia just days after the birth of his second son.
On Saturday, July 30, the Eaton First Church of God hosted the seventh annual Vincent Jones Memorial Blood Drive in celebration of what Vincent’s widow Mindy Sue Jones-Vannatter has always called “the ripple effect” of sharing life with others.
Traditions continued at the Saturday morning blood drive. Family members wore orange “Vincent Strong” t-shirts and bracelets, honoring the fight against leukemia and lymphoma. IHOP thanked donors with a breakfast and sausage breakfast. There were boxes of cookies shaped like leukemia ribbons.
The most vital tradition was helping Community Blood Center collect whole blood and platelets in mid-summer at a time of critical need. The blood drive numbered 43 donors, including 39 whole blood and double red cell donations, plus four platelet donations.
Vannatter gave double red cells for the first donation of the day and Vincent’s brother Craig Jones, an Eaton police officer, kept his tradition of donating platelets.
“So many people are on vacation,” said Vannatter. “It’s a really important time to have a blood drive and a really difficult time. I’d rather have ‘half a drive’ in mid-summer than a bigger drive at another time of year. It’s harder to fill, but God meant us to have a blood drive in summer — because the beds are harder to fill.”
The Church of God added a January blood drive in 2018. The memorial blood drive carried on through the pandemic and grew, adding double red cell and platelet collections in 2020.
Craig Jones began donating platelets when Vincent was undergoing treatment. He learned that platelets and plasma donations are vital for cancer patients, and that his rare AB blood type was ideal. Vincent received more than 50 blood products in his nine-week battle with leukemia.
“In the story of my brother, it was plasma and platelets that he needed most,” Craig said. “If it hadn’t been for all the blood donated for him, he wouldn’t have seen his second son Jeremiah born. I might never have gotten into blood donating. I’m terrified of needles! All I think about is why I’m doing it.”
The ripple effect continues at the Vincent Jones blood drive. Since their marriage in 2019 Mindy’s husband Matthew Vannatter has overcome cancer and Mindy gave birth to their new son Amadeo.
Lewisburg donor Sharon Harness recruited her friend Teena Wolford to donate at the Vincent Jones blood drives and on Saturday, Wolford donated platelets for the first time.
“Platelets are more for cancer patients,” said Wolford. “I don’t mind because it’s a worthy cause and helps somebody.”
Church of God Associate Pastor Matthew Duffie donated platelets while his mom Missy Duffie and his aunt Marci Marcus served breakfast to donors.
“My mother’s father died of the same form of leukemia Vincent died of,” said Matthew Duffie. “She always volunteers to do the food, and I always try to be able to donate at this one.”
“My dad died at the age of 42,” said Missy Duffie. “He was diagnosed one day and died the next.”
With new treatments today, there is better hope for leukemia patients, but there would be little hope without blood donations.
“As my boys get older, they need to remember who their daddy was,” said Mindy. “Jeremiah got to meet his daddy and Gabriel got a little more time with his daddy because donors donated. So, if I can motivate others to donate than maybe other family members will get a little more time.”