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Donating Blood: It’s All in the Family

Part of the family of donors. Front row: Delaney Dekker, Norma Peterson; Back row: Jen Dougherty, Lynn Droog, Sarah Larson, Deb Hoeksema, Chris Wieland, Diane Wieland, Bill Wieland

They sat around a table, eating soup and drinking water. Bandages lined the crook of every other arm. Every few minutes, without fail, someone would laugh, and everyone would turn their attention to them. Smiles spread to the faces of the men and women sitting there, ranging in age from young adults to baby boomers.

Three generations of family teased and poked at one another, but they were all there for the same reason: to donate blood.

“Our dad,” Bill Wieland nodded toward Norma Peterson, his sister, who was sitting at the table with him, “[Used to donate blood.] Then a kid on my floor had cancer, so I started donating.”

“Dad always made me,” said Norma, smiling.

Jennifer Dougherty shows off the poster listing those who've reached gallon levels in their blood donations.Across the board, the family – made up of Petersons, Droogs, Wielands, and Doughertys – has made it their mission to continue what their grandfather started. They’ve donated more than 49 gallons of blood altogether.

Every two months, they all get together at the United Methodist Church Alto, a small town near Lowell. That’s where Jennifer Dougherty, a Donor Chair Person, began hosting drives in 2012. Between then and their most recent blood drive in October, donors there have helped to get more than 950 units of blood for hospitals across Michigan.

“It’s like a family reunion…every two months,” said Bill.

Jennifer said that, even though her family always donated blood, she wanted to do more after she became a mom.

“My son was born with a heart defect. He had open heart surgery at two days old,” she said, adding that she wanted to start holding blood drives with Michigan Blood because everyone had to drive nearly half an hour roundtrip to get to the nearest donor site in Lowell.

“We figured we could do one here [in Alto] and serve food,” said Jennifer, “I was going to this church at the time, so they’ve been letting us use it ever since.”

After getting her chance to donate blood, Jennifer walked over to the table filled with her family. She joined in the laughter and offered to refill everyone’s soup bowls. She said she loves holding the event, especially because she gets to sit around with the people she loves.

“It’s fun. You can see we all tease each other. Sometimes, this is the only chance I have to see my aunt and cousins,” she said.