Turning personal tragedy into a life-giving opportunity is the motivating force behind the American Red Cross’s upcoming Flip Flops and Blood Drops Blood Drive.
In 2014, Gabrielle and Derek Troha were vacationing in Florida. She was 23-weeks pregnant with twins and prematurely gave birth to daughters Lana and Ellie. Both girls weighed just over one pound each and required extensive care in the NICU. Ellie contracted a bacterial infection at five days old and was given a blood transfusion. Sadly, she passed away the next day from the infection. Lana remained in the NICU in Orlando for another three months, with an additional month in the hospital near home in Rockford to overcome the many obstacles associated with prematurity. Lana received eight units of blood within the first five months of her life.
Fast forward to today, when Lana is a thriving, happy and healthy seven-year-old; she is also a beloved big sister to Lilly. Lana starts second grade this fall, loves fast-pitch softball (Mom is the coach!), and is an avid fan of Star Wars books and movies with Dad.
Gabrielle knows a great deal about the importance of blood donations: before having her daughters, she worked for the American Red Cross Biomedical Services for eight years as a phlebotomist and staff supervisor. Experiencing their family crisis first-hand really hit home for Gabrielle; she wanted to step up for others in need of lifesaving blood. The Trohas have partnered with the American Red Cross since 2018 to host an annual blood drive in memory of Ellie, and to honor Lana’s life. “This is our way of giving back and making sure there is blood on the shelves for other families who need it, like it was there for us when we needed it,” says Gabrielle.
The Flip Flops and Blood Drops Blood Drive is a reminder of carefree summer fun, but this is also the time of year when our nation’s blood is often in critically short supply. The first three blood drives have resulted in 157 units of donated blood, with the numbers increasing and exceeding goals each year. The goal for this year’s drive is 50 units, and will take place on August 2nd at the Flagg-Rochelle Park District in Rochelle, Illinois.
Visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to schedule your appointment to donate blood on August 2nd.
Flagg-Rochelle Park District
802 Jones Road
Rochelle, IL 61068
1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
You can also make an appointment to donate in the days, weeks and months to come at redcrossblood.org. Enter your zip code to find a blood drive near you.
Blood drive safety
The Red Cross has updated its pandemic safety protocols in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Fully vaccinated individuals, including staff and donors, no longer need to wear masks or socially distance. Unvaccinated individuals continue to be required to wear masks and socially distance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.
Written by Communications & Marketing Volunteer, Virginia Hopley.