DAYTON, Ohio – The Ohio EPA colleagues of Harold O’Connell lost him suddenly in 2011 and have celebrated his life by giving blood in his name every year since.
The 10th annual Harold O’Connell Memorial Blood Drive on Jan. 7 was different during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many supporters donating in new locations. It also welcomed a new generation of donors who were in elementary school 10 years ago when the blood drive began.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years,” said Ohio EPA donor Laura Hafer, who has helped with the blood drive from the beginning. She came to the Dayton CBC with her daughter Erica, a senior at the University of Cincinnati who made her 6th lifetime donation. “Sometimes it feels like it was a lifetime ago and sometimes it feels like just yesterday.”
Harold was passionate about preserving the environment, running and racing for vitality and fitness, and giving blood to save lives. He was a strong advocate of each passion and influenced the people around him. They were shocked when he collapsed and died from a heart attack after finishing the Tadmor 10K Road Race at the Taylorsville MetroPark in 2011.
“Harold was someone who always gave 100% to whatever he was doing, from running to donating,” said Laura. “It makes you want to give more too.”
Laura and Erica came from Franklin to donate at the Dayton CBC. “We’re all working remotely,” she said. “Everyone may pick a site somewhere. People will be turning out some place besides here.”
“I had heard of several others who will be donating along with their son or daughter today,” said Ohio EPA colleague Laura Marshall, who has served as the coordinator of the Harold O’Connell Memorial Blood Drive from the beginning.
“Everyone is working and schooling from home so family members area able come in and do this together.”
Laura Marshall donated in Harold’s memory at a blood drive near her home in Xenia.
“It is hard to believe it has been 10 years already,” she said. “There are still a number of people in our office that remember Harold and appreciate this chance to honor his memory and support the worthy cause.”
The original goal of the blood drive was to match and exceed the donations Harold would be giving if he was still alive. The sign-in list at the Dayton CBC Donation Center filled up throughout the day with the names of colleagues and fellow blood donors who donated in solidarity.
“It’s 10 years for me,” said Ohio EPA colleague Tom Schneider. “My first donation was at this.”
Tom donated at the Dayton CBC with his daughter Gabrielle, a senior at Chaminade Julienne High School who made her third lifetime donation.
“Seems like forever ago and moments ago,” said Tom. “Lots of new people, lots of sons and daughters.”
“I think Harold definitely inspired all of us to keep giving,” said Laura Hafer. “Having this drive, they think of Harold doing it. They want to donate in his honor.”