EATON — Community members donated blood on Oct. 14 at Eaton Community Church in honor of a young Eaton boy fighting brain cancer who they fear may not live to see another Christmas.
The “Stevie Strong” blood drive was in support of four-year-old Stevie “SJ” Dillon, who was diagnosed with stage four embryonic brain cancer in November 2020. His parents Rebecca Davis and Steve Dillon say there is no cure.
The theme of the blood drive was “Christmas in October” and included Christmas décor and donated gifts and money for Stevie and his family. Support came from 82 donors who gave 68 units of whole blood and six platelet and plasma donations. It was a 71 percent increase in donations compared to the September blood drive at Eaton Community Church.
Thomas Bezner doesn’t know the family well but was inspired to make his first lifetime donation.
“Because I have three kids, and I just can’t imagine,” Bezner said. “We had just seen him when they had the parade.”
One of many outpourings of community support for Stevie came on Sept. 13 when Eaton Fire and EMS staged a parade in his honor. Another parade was planned for Oct. 10, but a shadow over the blood drive was the knowledge that the parade had been cancelled because Stevie was again in the hospital.
“We were all ready to go, we were excited,” said Leslie Ritchie, a CBC phlebotomist and friend of the family who helped organize the blood drive. “He was going to ride on the firetruck with Santa and cars were going to be decorated with Christmas lights. But Friday, the admitted him to the hospital.”
Candace Georgia donated at the blood drive for the first time since high school. She works at the Marathon service station that has a collection jar for Stevie.
“My uncle has cancer too,” Georgia said. “We all scheduled donations. Even if he doesn’t get it, someone else will.”
Nearly one fourth of the blood supply goes to cancer patients, higher blood component usage than any other disease. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can damage bone marrow, reducing red cell and platelet production. Complex surgical procedures for cancer also require transfusions.
“I like to donate any time I can, it’s a wonderful thing,” said donor Betty Tibbs. “I did pray for that little boy and his family.”
“I went to school with both his parents,” said donor Whitney Hartman. “I have a three-year old. It really hits home. It does for everyone. I just can’t imagine what they’re going through. They’re trying to give him as much a life as he could possibly have.”