Boy aims to collect 200 pints of blood

Twelve-year-old Brandon Snell, a Merrimack sixth-grader, is a busy boy these days. Brandon is readying for the upcoming third annual Heroes Blood Drive, a project he originated to help the American Red Cross secure donations of blood.

The Heroes Blood Drive is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 11, from 2-7 p.m., at St. James United Methodist Church, 646 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack. Appointments are encouraged but not required. Participants are welcome to stay for some tasty treats ranging from home-baked pastries and cookies to more substantial fare such as hot chili and soups.

Brandon, who won the American Red Cross Youth Hero Award in April for his blood-drive efforts, said he recognizes blood is needed year round. He began thinking about hosting a local drive three years ago, after helping at a drive in another town.

“I told myself we should have a blood drive, too,” said Brandon. “My idea took off from there, and in the first year we held the drive, we got 76 pints. The second year, people donated 119 pints. This year, I’d like to reach my goal of 200 pints.”

There are lots of reasons people need blood, he said. People need blood in the wake of many types of accidents. They need blood if they require transfusions.

“People who give blood are giving the gift of life,” said Brandon, a sixth-grade student at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School on Baboosic Lake Road. He noted that “Kathleen,” a friend from school, is one among many who quickly volunteered to help out at the upcoming blood drive. Parents, church members and their friends also have signed on.

Kerri Snell, Brandon’s mother, and his father Brian have been highly involved in the blood drives. In fact, Brian’s designs have graced the event’s T-shirts. Kerri Snell said a plan is underway for a team at Brandon’s school to participate in next year’s blood drive. She said mostly everyone who hears about Brandon’s project quickly gets behind the effort.

“The Merrimack Police Department and the Merrimack Fire Department are playing a big role in the drive because of its heroes theme,” she said. In addition, Snell said, All Basics Stove Shop and Merrimack Firearms have backed the production of this year’s T-shirt giveaways and a bounce house for the kids is being provided by It’s Your Party LLC.

American Red Cross Blood Services representative Tom Houle has helped coordinate each of the Heroes Blood Drive events.

Snell said Houle has been a stalwart supporter of her son’s dream to have bigger crowds and more donations of blood with each passing year.

“Brandon is my blood drive buddy,” Houle said. “Blood is something that has to be given. It can’t be manufactured. One pint can save three people. It has a 42-day shelf life, so we need lots of healthy donors who make giving a priority in their lives.”

Snell said each person participating in the drive can donate the recommended limit of one pint.

She, too, noted available supplies of blood are crucial for elderly people, newborns, children and people of all ages who are facing medical problems

“This year, if we meet our goal of 200 pints, that would mean we potentially could help up to 600 people,” Snell said. “Can you imagine that? Six-hundred people helped. We are so proud of Brandon for getting this effort started.”

Brandon is a youngster like many others, in many ways, she added. He loves to play golf, chess and video games. He wants to be in the Coast Guard when he grows up.

Already, he has visited area Coast Guard stations and been given the grand tour at each, his mom said.

His bedroom, decorated in a Coast Guard theme, is filled with souvenirs of his visits – hats, stickers, pins and other memorabilia.

Now, however, all things nautical are on hold while Brandon is occupied with the upcoming Heroes Blood Drive at the church.

The Snell family credits the Rev. Sharon Lovejoy for wholeheartedly supporting the drive. Snell said the reverend is an enthusiastic force behind the blood drive, the church’s annual food drive and many other community events.

Snell said she expects the third annual Heroes Blood Drive to be an outstanding success. She invites everyone in town to come and “be a hero.” She said an endeavor on the scale of a 200-pint blood drive is always a joint effort and everyone’s help is needed.

The past two drives have given her a deep realization of community spirit, and the difference one youngster can make in bringing neighbors together for a good cause, she said.

Brandon fluffed off any kudos and hustled away to unfurl a long, white banner upon which the details of the event and some eye-catching graphics were imprinted.

He inspected the banner carefully to make sure all its information was accurate. Then, he shared his thoughts about the drive.

“I just feel happy,” Brandon said. “I think lots of people will be coming to the drive even though everyone is busy doing their own stuff – like cleaning up trees knocked down by the storm. I just hope they’ll be all rested up by the day of the blood drive. We need more heroes. And not all heroes wear capes.”

To make an appointment for the Nov. 11 Heroes Blood Drive and for more information, call the church office at 424-7459.