Wilmette, Community

Wilmette blood drive on Super Bowl Sunday is one of Red Cross’ biggest — and there’s still time to sign up

Wilmette is home to a lot of interesting trivia: the “Home Alone” church is here, Bill Murray (and his siblings) grew up here, famous photographer Vivian Meier captured many images here.

This one you probably don’t know: The largest American Red Cross blood drive in Chicagoland (maybe in the state) is held in Wilmette.

Hundreds of participants are already signed up for the ninth annual Super Sunday Blood Drive scheduled from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11, at St. Francis Xavier, 808 Linden Ave. in honor of Kevin Joseph Smith Burke.

Jeff Later, who founded the drive, said more than 350 people have registered and he expects more than 400 to donate blood during the Super Bowl Sunday event, as organizers try to fill 450 available appointments.

Later and company welcomed about three dozen donors the first year of the blood drive eight years ago. The event then grew but it took on new life in 2017, when Later connected with Kathryn Smith to dedicate the drive in honor of her son, Kevin Joseph Smith Burke, who died earlier that year.

Kevin graduated in 2008 from St. Francis Xavier and in 2012 from New Trier High School, where he was a rower and a swimmer. He was a Loyola University student when he died in Chicago at the age of 23.

Kevin Joseph Smith Burke during his days at New Trier High School.

Kathryn Smith has gotten more involved since then and has helped turn the event into much more than a blood drive.

“It’s an incredibly emotional day for me when I’m there,” she said. “So many people come to honor him and our family. … It’s just really heartwarming.

“It’s great to know that each pint of blood can save up to three lives. It’s really wonderful we can honor him in that way.”

While organizers like Later and Smith hope for 400-plus donors, certainly more than that will be in the SFX gymnasium to enjoy the community affair, which also includes a potluck of chilis, soups, sandwiches and more. Even the Girl Scouts come out — with their cookies of course.

The drive is especially important this year. A few weeks ago, on Jan. 8, the American Red Cross issued an alert saying that it is experiencing the lowest number of blood donations in 20 years, and the number of blood donors reportedly has dropped 40 percent in 20 years.

“Small changes in blood donor turnout can have a huge impact on the availability of blood products and dramatic consequences for those in need of an emergency blood transfusion,” said Dr. Eric Gehrie, executive physician director for the Red Cross, in the statement. “More challenges may lie ahead as the potential for severe winter weather and seasonal illness may compound the dire blood supply situation.

“Donors of all types — especially those with type O blood and those giving platelets — are urged to give now.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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