Friday blood drive in honor of teen’s grandfather

Published 10:26 am Thursday, December 27, 2018

McKenna Oakes is a busy girl these days.

A senior at Davie High School, she’s waiting on some of those college applications to be returned. She just finished her fourth year of running cross country, she works at the Davie Family YMCA, and she maintains stellar grades.

And she’s organizing a blood drive.

Why? Because of her late grandfather, Eugene “Gene” Ellis.

She said her aunt told her about an American Red Cross program, “Leaders Save Lives,” geared toward high school students.

McKenna grew up loving and being loved by her grandfather, who lived across the road. When his illness required regular blood transfusions, she would occasionally take him.

She was amazed at the number of people getting blood in the transfusion center.

“I thought holding a blood drive would be perfect,” she said. During the first blood drive last year, 44 pints were collected. Her goal had been 25.

She’s hoping to do even better this year, and has spent hours advertising, organizing and checking the Red Cross website, coordinating appointments for her Dec. 28 drive at Blaise Baptist Church.

“He was so special to me,” she said of her grandfather. “I spent as much time with him as I could.” Her grandmother died when she was 5, and that brought her and her grandfather even closer together. He never hesitated to visit, to make her things, or to call.

She remembers when her grandfather decided to build the girls a playhouse. A master carpenter, the playhouse was more like a cabin from Little House on the Prairie. It still stands, as does a swing, one of his last projects for his granddaughters.

She’s looking forward to a successful blood drive.

“I really enjoy meeting people in the community,” she said. “It meant a lot to me that a lot of friends came out to help.”

She’s recruited several to help at the event, and hopes even more will come to donate blood.

Walk-ins are welcome, or donors can register at the Red Cross website, type in 27028 or McKenna Oakes, or email her at