Local blood drive in 4th year: ‘That’s a lot of lives saved’

A recent photo of Gabrielle and Derek Troha on the beach with their daughters, Lilly and Lana.

Flip Flops and Blood Drops honors Lana, Ellie Troha

ROCHELLE — The Flip Flops and Blood Drops blood drive has collected 157 units of blood in its three years of operation. 

This year’s drive will be held on Monday, Aug. 2 from 1-6 p.m. at The REC Fieldhouse multi-purpose room at 802 Jones Rd. in Rochelle. The drive is in honor of twin sisters Lana and Ellie Troha, who were born prematurely, weighing just over one pound each. 

While in the hospital, both girls received blood transfusions. Sadly, Ellie passed away at five days old. Her sister, Lana, received eight units of blood within the first five months of her life. 

For three years, Lana’s parents, Gabrielle and Derek, Rochelle natives, have partnered with the American Red Cross to host a blood drive in honor of her life and in memory of Ellie. 

“157 units in three years, that’s a lot of lives saved,” Gabrielle Troha said. “I’m proud to do this. I’m proud of the community coming together to help.”

Troha was a Red Cross employee for eight years as a phlebotomist and drew blood, even before what happened with her daughters. She never thought the need for blood would affect her own family. 

When she went back to work, she knew she wanted to give back. It gave her a greater purpose. It made her more grateful. She started the blood drive. The need has been there, and still is. 

“Right now I know there’s a really big shortage of blood,” Troha said. “For a while they weren’t doing elective surgeries and were turning donors away. The need is back again now. People couldn’t donate because of COVID-19. There’s an extreme need right now.”

The Red Cross’s official goal for this year’s event is 50 units donated. Troha’s personal goal is 70. Every year since its inception, the donation number has gone up. It started off at 40 units. Last year there were 64 units donated. 

Troha said the event coming around each year is “bittersweet” for her. 

“We picked the summer because they were born in Florida and it goes with the theme,” Troha said. “August is around the time Lana was able to come home. But thinking about Ellie is tough. But it’s a good day. I talk to donors and everyone all day. Mostly it’s about celebrating. 

For appointments, contact Gabrielle at (815) 501-9899 or Derek at (815) 792-9148 or [email protected] or 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767 or visit redcrossblood.org. 

You can save up to 15 minutes when you donate blood by using RapidPass. Visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass for more information. 

Come to give blood and you’ll be sent a $10 gift card via email, courtesy of Suburban Propane. 

Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are welcome.

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