Route 66 Blood Donor Carries on Life-Giving Tradition to Honor Father

Becky Colwell-Ongenae has one of the best motivators for donating blood: her late father, Jerry.

Jerry Colwell in 1991. Always one to tell a joke, share a laugh and make his coworkers and patients smile, this is Jerry at his 50th birthday celebration, thrown by his employer – Meriter Hospital in Madison, WI. This is the hospital where he made all of his blood donations.

When Becky was growing up in Wisconsin, her dad spent his career as a physical therapist at their community hospital and volunteered for the local EMS. He was also a dedicated blood donor and ultimately gave 25 gallons of blood in his lifetime. Becky’s family still has his collection of Red Cross donor pins as a reminder of Mr. Colwell’s generosity and life-giving efforts.

Following in his footsteps, Becky started donating blood in high school and has given at least 40 units of blood. Although her schedule is hectic – Becky is the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Manager for Will County and has a family with two young children – she finds the time to donate several times a year. Becky maximizes her giving by being a Power Red donor, meaning each single donation gives nearly twice the amount of red cells and helps even more people. She has already made her appointment to donate on July 21st at the American Red Cross’s 5th Annual Blood Drive on Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois.

While Becky donates blood in memory of her father, she also sees the opportunity to pay it forward: “You never know when you might need it. Life changes quickly and can go sideways in a flash. I want blood to be available when – or if – the people I love, or anyone, needs it.”

Becky Colwell-Ongenae supporting blood donation in honor of her father on WJOL.

Becky looks forward to the all-around positive experience of blood drives, including good snacks and cookies at the canteen afterward, and the welcoming volunteers on-site. For first time blood donors, or anyone who might be afraid of the donation process, Becky offers simple advice: “If you’re driven to give, but not feeling confident about the needle, look away. It’s over before you know it! Focus on this simple act of kindness to fellow human beings.” 

Make your appointment to donate at the Blood Drive on Route 66, July 21st:

July 21st, 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Rialto Square Theatre
102 N Chicago St, Joliet, IL 60432

Written by Communications & Marketing Volunteer, Virginia Hopley

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