ROCHELLE ⏤ The Flip Flops and Blood Drops blood drive collected 62 units of blood during its operation Monday at the REC in Rochelle, exceeding its goal of 50.
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 the past four 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.
“That's a possible 186 lives saved,” Gabrielle said of Monday’s 62 units. “It went really well. It was steady and we had all the appointments come in. It was a great turnout. It makes me feel incredibly proud and happy."
Gabrielle said “a ton” of work went into the day that included getting donors to come in and setting up appointments. She had t-shirts made and the Red Cross had to haul all of the equipment in and set up and close down and clean up at the end of the day.
Derek has enjoyed seeing how the drive has gotten bigger and more donors over the years. There weren’t any no shows Monday and the drive saw “a lot” of walk-in donors. He enjoyed being able to use the new REC facility. Gabrielle said a good location was hard to find in town in recent years.
Gabrielle previously worked as a Red Cross employee and drew blood in drives just like Monday’s.
"It's emotional sometimes,” Gabrielle said. “But I love to jump in and help. It's kind of bittersweet. I miss that job a lot but it's nice to not have to worry about that. I can socialize and see everybody."