DAYTON, Ohio (Jan. 7, 2016) – It’s a testimony to the life of Harold O’Connell and the dedication of blood donors that the annual blood drive in his memory at the Dayton Community Blood Center is now in its fifth year. Memories of the former Ohio EPA environmentalist, runner and blood donor are still warm and vivid, and support is stronger than ever.
More than 30 friends and colleagues form Ohio EPA came to the Thursday, Jan. 7 blood drive and signed the registry in support of Harold. They were also supporting CBC and the regional blood supply during a challenging time for blood collection. The original Harold O’Connell blood drive was intentionally scheduled during January National Blood Donor Month because it’s the time of year when winter weather can disrupt travel and interfere with donations.
Support for the Harold O’Connell Memorial Blood Drive contributed to a busy day at Dayton Donor Center. A total of 85 whole blood donors, 21 apheresis donors, six first-time donors and 77 whole blood donations for 203 percent of the collection goal.
Harold and his wife Lisa lived in New Lebanon and Harold commuted by bus or bicycle to the Ohio EPA Dayton district office because of his zeal for protecting the environment. He was an avid runner and was age 53 when he collapsed and died of a heart attack after finishing the Tadmor 10K Road Race at the Taylorsville MetroPark in August of 2011.
Harold was known for encouraging friends and colleagues to run, and to donate blood. He had 48 lifetime donations. His family, former EPA colleagues, and Ohio River Road Runners Club members celebrated his memory with the first Harold O’Connell Memorial Blood Drive in January of 2012. The memorial drive continues as his colleagues’ commitment to “replace” the blood Harold would certainly be donating if he were still living.
EPA colleague Brian Marlatt was one of the earliest to donate Thursday. He made his milestone 10th donation. “It’s to remember Harold,” he said. “He was a giving person, and it’s to follow his example.”
Lisa O’Connell said Harold’s “Six Gallon Donor” pin was one of his proudest possessions. EPA colleague Maria Lammers reached the one gallon donation mark Thursday. “It’s just to honor his memory,” she said. “He was such an amazing man and a good friend and colleague.”
“It’s just to carry on Harold’s tradition,” said EPA colleague Cathy Altman. “It’s something he believed in and is a nice way to remember him.”
“It’s in honor of Harold’s memory,” said EPA colleague Joe Miller. “He was a really liked person, respected by all of us. A good guy.”
Joby Jackson also continued the tradition of donating for his former colleague. “To still honor Harold’s memory,” he said. “Also, it’s something good for our employees to do, serving others in the community.”
Michael Brown represented his EPA co-workers as he spoke in a TV news interview. “I’ve come here to support the blood drive,” he said before making a double red blood cell donation. “Harold was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet walking down the street.”
“It’s definitely to support Harold,” said EPA’s Joe Reynolds, “and to support others and the whole mission of giving blood. He was a giving guy – it was his nature.”
An even larger group of EPA co-workers arrived in the afternoon of the blood drive, led by Laura Marshall, one of Harold’s closest friends and the coordinator of the blood drive. “I remember Harold,” she said with a smile as she made her milestone 30th lifetime donation in his honor.
Memorial blood drives are often held on a birthday, but the timing of Harold’s was in line with his generous personality. “We held it in January because that was when it was needed the most,” she said.
Scott Glen made his 17th lifetime donation and said, “It’s a good cause and it’s something to do for a fallen comrade, Harold O’Connell.”
Michelle Waller made her 26th lifetime donation in the donor bed next to Scott and said, “I try to come as much as I can. My mother was a surgical nurse and knew how much blood was needed. Both my parents donated and encouraged me to do it, and it’s nice to come over for Harold.”
Tom Schneider joined the row of donor beds filled by EPA co-workers and made his milestone 15th lifetime donation, also in Harold’s honor. “It’s to help folks who need it the most, and to remember Harold.”