EATON — The yearly “ripple effect” of saving lives in memory of young Eaton father lost to leukemia has broadened into a riptide. Despite the many challenges of COVID-19, the fifth annual Vincent Jones Memorial on June 27 again gathered more than 80 donors at the Eaton First Church of God and for the first time included platelet and double red blood cell donations.
Mindy Sue Jones-Vannatter organized the first memorial blood drive soon after her husband Vincent’s death on June 24, 2016. It has continued as a tribute to blood donors and testimony to the value of the blood transfusions that helped him live long enough to see the birth of his son Jeremiah.
The blood drive’s growth has helped Community Blood Center maintain the blood supply during the challenging July 4th holiday period. Saturday’s blood drive totaled 81 donors, including 63 whole blood donations, three double-red cell donations and seven platelet donations.
Jones-Vannatter was the first to donate double red blood cells. Vincent’s brother Craig Jones is an Eaton police officer who began donating platelets when Vincent was receiving platelets as part of his leukemia treatment. Saturday marked the first time he could donate platelets at the memorial blood drive.
“Words can’t describe knowing what these blood products meant to cancer patients and families of cancer patients,” said Mindy. “I sat in Vincent’s hospital room… any time he was transfused I prayed for that donor and their family.”
Sponsors helped Jones-Vannatter purchase “Vincent Strong” stress balls as a gift for the donors. They are bright orange, the support color for leukemia. A friend made Mindy an orange face mask embroidered with the blood drive name.
COVID-19 restrictions meant suspending some traditions at this year’s Vincent Jones Memorial Blood Drive. There could be no pancake breakfast for the donors, and no gathering of Jones-Vannatter and Vincent’s family and friends, including her sons Gabriel and Jeremiah.
“I hate that they’re missing this,” said Jones-Vannatter. “Jeremiah is finally at the age where he understands it. We can still collect blood donations, still save lives, but we can do it safely.”
A tradition unchanged was the flow of familiar donors, including family members donating together. Steve Hurd, a fellow Eaton police officer with Craig Jones, donated with his family. Ryon and Jill McKee said, “Our sons played soccer and baseball together.”
Marty and Robin Cole and their daughter Lauren donated together, then shared photos holding the units they had just donated. Robin is a nurse at Miami Valley Hospital and remembers Vincent’s nine-week struggle during treatment.
“I’ve known Mindy since she was a little girl and knew Vincent and have been a friend of the family,” said Robin Cole. “It’s good she’s doing this; with all she’s had to go through. She’s a good person.”
“I’ve said it time and time again, but this is the ripple effect,” said Jones-Vannatter. “When you donate blood, you help save a life, but you don’t know what other lives are going to be touched by that person and the people they touch. It’s a never-ending ripple. When you throw a stone in the water you don’t know how far the affects go.”
The addition of platelet collection to the blood drive created a ripple effect that reached platelet donor Guy Benge.
“This worked out well for me,” Benge said. “I was very happy. I was supposed to give two weeks ago but had a death in the family and I couldn’t do it that day, and felt I need to give back. It’s something I can do. If you have it, why not share it?”