VERSAILLES, Ohio – The second annual Steve Knapke Memorial Blood Drive Sept. 17 in Versailles was a successful day of donations and marked an important year in the partnership between the Knapke family and the Versailles Poultry Days Committee.
The committee welcomed the Knapke family as co-sponsors a year ago to honor Versailles donor Steve Knapke. Steve was inspired to become a blood donor after surviving a 1988 auto accident. Another accident in 2016 claimed his life and injured his wife Lois. Both accidents were caused by impaired drivers.
The partnership helped increase donor participation last year, and the trend continued at Monday’s blood drive. The Versailles community responded with 164 registrations and 129 whole blood donations, plus 11 platelet and plasma donations.
“We were so emotional last year,” said Steve’s daughter Lisa DiRenzo. The first memorial blood drive was just a year after Steve’s death. “Now we can feel more like it’s just a nice thing to do. It makes you feel good.”
It was an important year of healing for Lois Knapke. Her back was broken in the 2016 collision and she continued to have severe headaches. Last winter she suffered a stroke and learned there was bleeding in her brain related to the accident. “There was a time when I wondered if I would be here,” she said.
Lois has made a promising recovery. She joined daughters Lisa, Emmy and Rachel and son Doug in welcoming donors and serving homemade cookies in the Donor Café.
“Anything that helps us to remember my dad in a good way,” said Rachel Durham, who made her first successful donation Monday. “He’s loved so much. As a family we don’t always get back here. We make the extra effort because he would be proud of it.”
The Versailles Poultry Days Committee members enjoy their collaboration with the Knapke family, and are also celebrating 2018 as a special year in club history. “We had record-breaking sales,” said volunteer Jeff Lyons. “We also sold the one-millionth chicken and gave away a trip to Las Vegas!”
They all take satisfaction from seeing donors encouraged to help others at the Steve Knapke Memorial Blood Drive.
“It was on my bucket list to start donating,” said North Star donor Johna Hemmelgarn, who made her 10th lifetime donation Monday. “Needles are not my favorite thing. Now I see how even more important it is. I do it now especially to honor him. I guess he makes me braver.”