Becca Stothard – My Greatest Influence

by Tom Rademacher, Veteran Grand Rapids Press columnist and long-time Michigan Blood donor

When Becca Stothard of Midland donates blood, she sometimes closes her eyes, and it doesn’t take long to wander back in time to the very reason she’s lying there on behalf of others.

The gift she’s giving is tied to her beloved grandmother, Joyce Deford.

Joyce died this past January at 74, but not before bestowing on a world hungry for love her passion for grandkids, crocheting and the best chicken noodle soup ever.

It was Joyce who influenced young Becca, now 20, in ways that go beyond the giving of blood. She taught her granddaughter how to cook and bake, long hours together at a simple counter coaxing boiled apples through a food mill to create homemade applesauce.

When her grandmother became sick with cancer, Becca drew even closer, craving time spent with someone who would become a best friend. “I would go over to her home,” she remembers “and we’d spend six, seven hours a day together. As she became sicker and sicker, it only drew us closer and closer together. She became not only my best friend, butmy hero.”

Becca’s grandmother was a force not only during the time she fought cancer, but in years past, surfacing as a significant figure when Becca’s family was enduring some tough times.

It taught Becca this: That we need one another, and when it’s your turn to be strong, you step up for those who matter.

That explains why Becca couldn’t wait to donate her first pint of blood, while still a student at Midland High School, from which she graduated in 2012.

“Our school worked with Michigan Blood,” she says, “and they came right to the school to accept donations. I hadn’t even gotten my driver’s license yet, but I wanted to be a grown-up, so when I heard I could give with my parents’ permission, I was there.”

During that initial draw, Becca reminisced how her grandmother had intervened on behalf of her hurting family, and it prompted Becca to ponder. “I wanted to give back to people, even if I didn’t know who they were, especially when they need it most,” she says.

Becca works these days as a leasing consultant for an apartment complex, but has her compass set for higher education as well. She’s pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice through Delta College near Bay City.

Again, it was grandma who pushed Becca toward a college career. “My grandma was always the one pushing me to become a better person,” says Becca. “She was the reason I started college.”

Becca was devastated when her grandmother became ill. “I can remember when she first got sick and all I could do was pray that God would give me what she couldn’t handle. That instead of her getting sick, let it be me.”

Joyce’s health was complicated by heart problems, and her death was ultimately tied to pneumonia that no one saw coming. She succumbed at a point in time when her extended family was actually getting ready to celebrate how she was cancer-free.

As part of her health care management, Joyce received more than one transfusion of blood – another reminder for Becca of the importance of donating.

“Every time I give,” says Becca, “I know it’s going to help someone. I’m good at donating, and it doesn’t take long. When I do donate, I feel this sense of pride, knowing that I’m helping someone out.”

Becca says she can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get the word out about the lifesaving benefits of giving.

“If people only knew how important it is. Someone donated blood for my grandma. I don’t know who it was, but I’m so grateful.”

Becca also realizes that with every gift she bestows, there is another grateful person. And with her grandmother’s legacy to lean on, giving blood has become a joy.

“I promised my grandmother I would make her proud,” Becca says through tears, “and part of that for me is to keep her memory alive by helping others.

“Giving my blood does just that.”