Blood drive honors Riverview staff members

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Two local women will host a blood drive at a Riverview Charter School later this month, offering donors the opportunity to honor two beloved members of the Riverview staff.

Joy O’Kelley, school receptionist, and Jon Strebe, physical education teacher and coach — both young parents — are also battling cancer.

Joy O'Kelley
Joy O’Kelley

The drive in their honor, to be held on Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 7:30 a.m. till 3:30 p.m. at Riverview, 81 Savannah Highway, Beaufort, is the third “Appreciation Drive” to be organized by friends Kim Durham and Ryan Christian of Beaufort for The Blood Alliance, a not-for-profit community blood bank that is the sole provider of blood to Beaufort Memorial and all other nonmilitary hospitals in Beaufort and Jasper counties

In 2009, a rare bleeding disorder in the wake of a miscarriage nearly claimed Durham’s life. So grateful was she for the doctors at Beaufort Memorial Hospital who saved her — and for the unusual number and variety of blood products the hospital had on hand the night she desperately needed them — that she vowed to help others as she had been helped.

Jon Strebe
Jon Strebe

“When you’re young and healthy, you don’t think you’re ever going to need blood,” said Durham, a Beaufort CPA who serves as the accountant for her husband Stephen’s dental practice. “But what happened to me could have happened to anyone. We’re all busy, but we need to make the time to give blood. If the people who donated the blood I received hadn’t taken the time, I would be dead.”

Christian, who shares Durham’s commitment to blood donation, having working for the Red Cross in Atlanta prior to moving to Beaufort, happily agreed to collaborate and the two of them began to host an annual “Appreciation Drive.”

“When I brought Kim a meal after her near-death experience, she asked me, ‘what on earth do you do for someone who saved your life?’ ” said Christian. “But our conversation revolved around how much blood she received, how impressed she and medical professionals from other areas were that our local hospital was so well-stocked with the blood products that ended up saving her. That led to the idea of hosting a blood drive in honor of the two physicians who were instrumental in reacting and responding to her condition so quickly.”

The first “Appreciation Drive” honored Durham’s doctors, Robert Bell and Glenn Werner. The second brought friends and family together again to replenish blood stores for The Blood Alliance. And the drive on Feb. 27 is dedicated to O’Kelley and Strebe, favorite staffers at the charter school attended by Christian’s three sons.

“Joy and Jon aren’t just staff members at Riverview, they are beloved community members, church leaders, parents, spouses and friends of people way beyond just the scope of the school,” said Christian.

“There are just so many casseroles one can make for someone going through such hard times, and giving blood saves lives, encourages the two people who we are honoring, and turns something bad like cancer into an opportunity to show our love and support for people who mean so much to us.”

To schedule an appointment to donate blood, e-mail Liz Murdaugh at elizabethmurdaugh@gmail.com. Walk-ins are welcome; babysitting will be available.