NORTH EAST, Md. — Hunter McCoy Smith will turn 1 on his birthday next week, i.e. Tuesday, November 23, but this baby boy is already moving the community of North East, Maryland to do extraordinary things.

On Friday, November 19, 90 family members, friends and general members of the community signed up to donate at the inaugural In Honor of Baby Hunter Blood Drive held at the VFW in North East, in conjunction with the Blood Bank of Delmarva. The Blood Bank of Delmarva considers a blood drive a success if at least 30 to 35 people sign up to donate.

Hunter’s aunt, Connor Bouchelle, coordinated with the blood drive, and exceeded that minimum threefold. While Hunter’s parents, Jordyn Yedinak and Bruce Smith had planned to attend, Hunter’s illness prevented them from doing so.

Hunter has been battling childhood cancer, and he has received nearly 100 transfusions of blood products as chemotherapy tends to destroy red cells and platelets.

It’s an illness that has caused many thoughts and prayers for Hunter. Friday’s blood drive was a chance to do something concrete for the infant as well.

“I think Hunter has motivated a lot of people,” said Connor Bouchelle, Hunter’s aunt and Jordyn’s best friend. “He motivated me. Everybody that is here is here for him. I’m really excited to see first-time donors too – to see people who are afraid willing to come and donate.”

“We’re really grateful,” she added. “Jordyn and Bruce are really grateful. We know that when we share with Hunter, he’ll be grateful too.”

In a word, the blood drive had a strong showing that included Hunter’s great grandmother, his grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, first time donors and lapsed donors.

Hunters’ grandmother, Becky Young, volunteered at the blood drive.

“We’ve got to credit Connor,” Becky said. “She basically organized everything. She was very passionate about doing this probably going back to the spring, when we realized Hunter was going to need several transfusions of platelets and red cells through his treatment. A ton of credit to her, and our community is a strong community.

“We had a benefit for Hunter at the end of September and we did some socializing and lot of stuff social media of this event,” she said. “The community has definitely come together for Hunter. It’s been an awesome experience.”

Becky’s husband, Wayne Young, was among the 90 blood donors at the VFW on Friday.

“I have belonged to the Blood Bank for 30-something years. I’ve been donating blood just about every year,” Wayne said. “I do it for other people. I’ve done platelets. I was due to give.”

Hunter’s family knows all too well how the local and national shortage have affected hospital patients. For instance, Hunter recent platelet transfusion came from Boston, Massachusetts, and he’s often been on a wait list for transfusions.

That is all the more reason to give credit to his family and friends for coming together for this event.

“The drive held on November 19 helped us locally in a big way,” Blood Bank of Delmarva Account Manager Mary Moore said. “They gave us 90 of the 350 donors we need daily. That’s remarkable. I hope to work with Connor again.”

Hunter’s aunts, Annie Barker and Barbie Barker, were also among the donors.

“I honestly have never donated blood and this was a good cause,” Annie said. “I hope everyone thinks about doing it. You save a life. It’s easy to do. Everybody takes good care of you here.”

Barbie had a personal message for Hunter as she gave blood.

“We’ll do anything for you, buddy,” she said.

That goes for Hunter’s uncle and godfather, Matt Barker, as well. He had not given blood in a long time, and his nephew’s predicament was a powerful impetus to get back into this good deed.

“I tried to do it twice but she [the phlebotomist] said I couldn’t,” Matt said. “In my opinion, this is a big showing for a small town like North East, with 90 people donating blood. It’s pretty good. It’s a good thing to be able to give something back. It took me twenty minutes. It’s a small price to pay.”

In addition to family, the Cecil County blood drive featured friends, such as Tanner Bollinger, the head chef at Snatcher’s Creekside.

“Becky and Wayne [Young] are great customers of ours and this is my first time donating blood. I figured it was for a great cause,” Tanner said. “I wasn’t allowed to donate in high school because I had just gotten a tattoo. What better time to start than for a good cause?”

Another Snatcher’s Creekside employee, bartender/server Trish Moore came to the blood drive with Madison Friend.

“I love doing it,” Madison said. “Trish posted it on Facebook and asked if anyone wanted to go.”

Added Trish, “Becky and Wayne are two of our best customers. I did it to support them because they support us.”

Anna and Jeff Douglas were in a similar position to Madison and Trish in that Anna follows Hunter’s progress on social media. So, when she decided to make an appointment to give blood, her husband, Jeff, decided to book as well.

“It’s taken me a while [to convince Jeff], but now I can get him to go every time,” Anna said. “I always like to support blood drives when I can.”

Among the other donors at the VFW on Friday were Paul and Crysta McKenna.

“Anything we can do to help, my wife and I will give more,” Paul said. “God bless you, Hunter.”

Added Crysta, “I just want to keep baby Hunter in our prayers, and we want to help any way that we can.”

Last but not least, Hunter’s Pop Pop, Lewis Yedinak, and his great grandmother, Grammie Donna Yedinak (Lewis’ mother), enjoyed giving blood in honor of Hunter.

Lewis said the blood drive was an awesome experience.

“I think more people should sign up to do things like this, whether it’s for a loved one or not,” he said. “I’ve had some surgeries where I didn’t actually need transfusions but it was nice to know the blood was there if I needed it.”

Donna, Hunter’s Grammie, took a minute to appreciate the busy scene at the VFW as she settled into the donor chair.

“It just boggles my mind at all the people that give their blood, time and their prayers for baby Hunter and all the people in this world that need it.”

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