A son follows in his mother's footsteps

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:52

    HIGHLAND MILLS-As Brian Flannery looked around at the many people who came to the gym of St. Patrick's Church in Highland Mills Saturday, the soft-spoken 15 year-old said, "My mother was a very strong woman. It didn't stop her. I didn't even know she had it until a few months before." Brian's mother, Marian Flannery, had been the chairperson of the fall blood drive at St. Patrick's. She died from cancer two months ago. Her son stepped in as the coordinator of the drive last Saturday. "My mother passed away at the end of this past September after fighting cancer for two and a half years," Brian said. "She had been the chairperson of the fall blood drive for many years, but this year, I took over in order to continue our participation in my mother's memory." This year, in memoriam of the 43-year-old mother who volunteered in the effort every year, it was named the Marian Flannery Blood Drive. "This is a great tribute to my wife's memory," said Marian's husband, John. "My sons Brian and John helped out a lot and so did my daughter. "The gift of blood and the gift of life have never been so prevalent," he added. "In the past we never had so many donors; there's a great turnout this year." Between 150 and 160 people donated blood on Saturday, according to Diane Girdharry of the New York Blood Center, who oversaw the event. "The average blood drive usually brings in about 35 or 40 donors," said JoAnn Cella, another New York Blood Center coordinator. "This blood drive is an absolute success. "I think it's a wonderful tribute pulled together for Marian Flannery and a great way for people to help. Support from the community is overwhelming, it's a very strong community," Cella said. Tim McGuire, 43, of Highland Mills, was one of those community members who came to donate. "I saw the sign when passing by, had time and wanted to do a good deed," said McGuire. "It's always a good thing to support others after a tragedy. There is nothing but an upside to giving blood. It helps people and if it transforms lives, it's even better." People of all ages, shapes and sizes came out for the event. One young woman in a wheelchair donated, as did several teenagers and those who wore Monroe-Woodbury High School sports jackets. "Friends of my children have come out to volunteer and help us and there are also many young donors who have come in memory of Marian," John Flannery noted. Added Cella: "We need to remember people who need blood in case of emergencies, fires, disease, and also newborns. It would be a tragedy if a newborn lost its life because there was no blood for a transfusion." A person needs to be at least 17 years old to donate blood so it will be another two years before Brian can roll up his sleeve. But he speaks from experience when his talks about the need to donate and how one in three people need blood. His mother, he added, became involved in the program because "my sister needed blood when she was young, and this was the spark that made my mother believe that donating blood is very important." As the blood drive drew to a close Saturday, Brian was asked if his mother would be proud of him. "I hope so," he said. "I tried my best."