September has been a busy month for Shawn Flynn. As the dad of a pediatric cancer survivor, Shawn and his family fought alongside his son Liam as he battled cancer. In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness, Shawn had a grand plan to schedule 30 blood drives in his community. He booked 38!
How has pediatric cancer impacted your life?
Pediatric cancer doesn’t impact your life. It changes it. During treatment, especially if it’s in-patient, the cancer becomes all-encompassing. Trying to balance family, work etc. becomes nearly impossible. You just need to focus on the child and the rest of your immediate family, including yourself. You’re also never “done” with cancer. It’s part of you and your child. It’s something that is a part of his/her life forever.
What motivated you to create the Little Heroes Blood Drive?
During treatment, our community was amazing. Family and friends took care of so many things so we could just focus on our son. This is just one way for us to give back. Liam required eight blood transfusions during his treatment. It was CRITICAL in his recovery. That’s 8 people who took the time to roll up his/her sleeve to help save a life. This is our way to thank them (indirectly) and help other families going through the same journey.
What has the Little Heroes Blood Drive taught you?
People want to do good, PERIOD! Fellow pediatric cancer families want to also pay it forward. It’s a way for them to help and give back. It’s a way to honor or remember our little heroes who endured this horrible disease. We hear a lot of negative things in the news, but inherently most people are good and just want to help support each other.
How many gallons of blood have you donated?
Tricky question. I’ve donated a gallon of blood since Liam went through treatment. Over my lifetime, you could probably add another couple of gallons. While I always supported blood donation, I always made up an excuse not to donate at a higher level. Most often it was “I don’t have enough time.” Thinking back, that’s ridiculous. Carving out an hour of time every couple of months to help save a life is so worth it.
What do you hope the community takes away from the Little Heroes Blood Drive?
I don’t think a lot of people understand how critically important blood is for all cancer patients. You don’t need to ask, “what can I do”? You can just do it. I also hope donating becomes something people regularly do, not just when some dad has a crazy idea.
What words of encouragement would you give to someone who has never donated blood?
DO IT (if you can)! It’s one small pinch that WILL SAVE LIVES. Seriously. Think about it. You are a hero every time you donate. You may be saving the life of a child. This drive will hopefully collect 1,000 units of blood. That blood stays in our area. If any child is receiving a transfusion this month, it most likely came from one of these drives. Think about a loved one who is, or went through, cancer treatment. They need blood. No medicine can replace it. Donate. Become a hero.
How did you start the process of planning 30 blood drives in 30 days?
I knew there was a blood shortage because of COVID-19 impacting drives. I thought out loud to a couple of people about doing 30 drives in 30 days to bring awareness to both the need for blood donation and childhood cancer. Someone said it had never been done before. Challenge accepted! The pediatric cancer community is really tight. When I put out a call to help, they were quick to answer. Sprinkle in some support from the Mint City Collective (soccer supporter’s group), a couple of radio stations, and some good friends, and WHAM – 38 drives scheduled!
Watch the Little Heroes journey
Little Heroes blood drives are happening now through the end of September in North Carolina. See locations here.
Right now there is an urgent need for blood throughout the OneBlood service area. If you are eligible to donate please make an appointment to give blood today. Find a blood drive near you.