Memories of Katrina help pump-up blood donations

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Many south Mississippians marked the sixth anniversary of Katrina by doing their part to help save lives. On Monday, the American Red Cross dedicated its blood drive to those who lost their lives in Katrina, as well as the survivors, the volunteers, and the heroes.

Judging from the turnout by mid-afternoon, there was no shortage of donors. Within the first hour of the blood drive, more than 100 people had lined-up at Edgewater Mall.

Gina Kasper of Gulfport and her son Adam were among the initial group of donors.

"First of all, I had the day off," said Gina Kasper. "I think the significance is pretty amazing. It's just so good to help people."

"I was off of work and this is pretty close to my house," said Adam. "I figured it would be a good way to start. It's my first time."

Most of the people in the crowd have rolled up their sleeves many times before. But on the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, their donations had more meaning.

"We are little bit surprised to have many folks come through initially as we did and that's a great thing," said Evan Duffy, American Red Cross Communications Manager. "That means many lives will be saved and it also means that what happened here six years ago is still alive in everyone's memory."

"I drive down from Wiggins to donate blood every year at the Katrina Blood Drive," said John Bullen. "It's a way to give back to others. So much was given to us."

Bullen had another, more personal reason for wanting to give back.  He told us about a family member who lost her baby and desperately needed blood.

"She actually pulled through and made it because of blood," said Bullen. "So it brought a reminder to us how important it is to give blood, because there's no other way to make it. So you have to donate it."

And as they waited for their turn to give blood, many reflected on the day that changed their lives.

"I can't help but think back. We had a house and a couple of vehicles that went down with Katrina, so we were out of place for several months," said Richard Williams of McComb. "You never know when you're going to need something and I figured if I donate blood, I can always make some more. And then if I need some, somebody will be there to help me."

The blood collected Monday will stay in south Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. However, there is a possibility that some units may be sent to the east coast, where some 60 blood drives have already been canceled because of Hurricane Irene.

"They're not able to run blood drives obviously without those basics, power, running water and that kind of thing.  So they need our help now and we can help them. We want to do the same thing for them that they did for us after Katrina," said Duffy.

The blood drive ended at 7:00 PM. The goal was to collect 227 pints of blood.

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