DAYTON, Ohio – Running the long race, championing the environment, giving blood to help save lives – that was all part of life’s journey for Harold O’Connell. His reputation remained “Harold Strong” at the seventh annual “Harold O’Connell Memorial Blood Drive” Jan. 4 at the Dayton Community Blood Center.
Harold was a Pied Piper for fitness among his colleagues at the Dayton office of the Ohio EPA. They were bewildered by his sudden collapse and death from a heart attack after finishing the Tadmor 10K Road Race at the Taylorsville MetroPark in 2011.
Harold was also a cheerleader for blood donations, so his friends were inspired to fill his shoes by donating the blood he would continue to give if still alive. The first Harold O’Connell Memorial Blood Drive was in January of 2012 – timed with National Blood Donor Month – and his memory remains strong.
More than 23 supporters signed the registry in Harold’s honor. They helped boost the day’s whole blood collections at the Dayton Donor Center to 65 registrations and 58 donations for 138 percent of the collection goal.
“He’s sorely missed,” said Harold’s former EPA colleague Terry Sanner. “He was one of the good ones. He always had a smile on his face. Old friends speak highly of Harold and they want to do something good.”
An opportunity to do good came with the first blood drive in Harold’s memory and the tradition keeps growing. Over the years, some of his friends have retired from EPA; but new staff members like Toni Carmichael and Megan Shortridge represent a new generation of blood drive supporters.
“I worked with Harold,” said Tom Schneider. “My first donation was at the first blood drive for him. Today is my 24th.”
Harold’s friend and colleague Michelle Waller donated next to Tom and congratulated him. “That’s three gallons!” she said. “Some just keep coming!”