Joy is a popular word this time of year. It's defined as a state of happiness. It also happens to be the name of one of James' favorite teachers, and I know James was always a source of joy for her. The word joy has always meant a great deal in our household with all three children through the years, especially during the Christmas season as we pause to reflect on the many blessings in our life. This year is quite different. A big reason for our joy is missing this year, and we've been through some really dark and challenging days. But yesterday was a day of great joy. The Red Cross held the James Eunice Legacy Blood Drive, and it was a great event. James gave blood for the first time last year. Our church held a blood drive on December 23rd, and we went as a family to donate. He was excited afterwards, and told Sara Wilder the next day about it and said, "someone is going to get some awesome blood." The Red Cross asked CrossPointe to sponsor another drive this year on the 22nd, and asked us if they could use James' name with the drive. We were honored, and said absolutely. Will Fricks from Red Cross did an amazing job getting everything organized, and arranged support teams from Valdosta, Albany, Savannah and Atlanta to assist with the donations. The church did a great job supporting the drive. Many of the local radio stations allowed us to promote the drive, both school systems promoted it, the Valdosta Daily Times wrote an article about it, WALB and WCTV covered it, and many local businesses helped to promote it. One of the great sources of joy yesterday was watchig so many of James' friends get involved. Many donated blood for the first time, others volunteered with signing in donors, and some just stopped by to say hello and encourage others. Many others within the community stepped up to volunteer and donate. I met a lady who had lost a son years ago in a car accident. She found out about it by reading the article in the newspaper. She said when she read it, she had to come donate. Many donated for the first time because of James. Many regular donors scheduled their giving to coincide with this drive. Many others tried to donate but couldn't. Lindsey flew in from DC to surprise Tammy, which helped make the day even better. All told 277 signed up to donate, and 236 pints of blood were collected. We were thrilled.
As I was stopped at the traffic light two blocks from the church on my way to the drive that morning, I looked at the back of the car in front of me. They had a sticker that read, "Just one drop." I thought how ironic. That's what we were trying to do all day, collect that drop of life giving blood. It's a season of miracles, and the blood collected will be miraculous for many lives over the next several weeks. We were honored to be a part of this effort, and, once again, overwhelmed at the support from this community.
As we wrapped up the blood drive, we headed home for an open house for many of James' friends. It was a wonderful evening, and joyful perfectly describes it. Over 50 of his friends stopped in to visit and say hello. The last ones left about 2:30 this morning. It was great. James has wonderful friends, and we feel so fortunate they continue to visit. It was definitely a day of joy, and we were so blessed by everyone involved. One of our very dear friends, Stephen See, and his wife Ashley and son Ethan stopped by the church yesterday and visited with us for several hours. They were in town from Tucson for the day and spent it with us. As they were leaving, I told Stephen that I was sorry we weren't able to spend more time with them, and he said, "it was a great day. We were able to see everybody today, and being here for the blood drive gave us a sense of James being here, too." That was a good way to describe the whole day. A day of joy, with feelings of James all around.