Top of the Morning, March 13, 2014
Joe Heath can't play with the presents that people gave last Friday in honor of his second birthday, but that isn't diminishing his happiness or that of his parents.
The son of Jeremy Heath and Jennifer Difanis of Mahomet has a rare genetic disorder for which the only cure is a bone marrow transplant. His parents decided to hold a blood drive and bone marrow registration at the Urbana City Building to mark Joe's second birthday.
"We were expecting 30 good donations. The drive's capacity was 53. We actually had 55 come through on the day trying to give, and we got 48 good pints of blood out of those," said blood bank spokeswoman Amanda Howie.
Another approximately 24 people gave blood in Joe's name at the blood bank. Donations in his name will be accepted through Friday, Howie said.
Additionally, 42 people signed up to be bone marrow donors, assuming they match someone. For those 18- to 44-year-olds willing to donate marrow, they can still go online to: join.bethematch.org/josephheath until March 31. They'll get a kit in the mail explaining how to submit a sample, Howie said.
"Jeremy and I are thrilled that our little idea for Joe's birthday turned into such a positive and far-reaching event," said Difanis.
Howie used the word "ecstatic."
"We really, really needed it," Howie said of the blood. "After all these winter storms, it helped get our inventory back up. Every now and then, you'll have a drive blow up but not usually this much."
Anyone wanting to join the bone marrow registry can also drop in between noon and 6 p.m. Friday at the Illini Union or Allen Hall in Urbana, or Ikenberry Commons or Nika House in Champaign.