Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center - How Life Flows Through Our Community



My name is Julie Ray Kunkel.  I have O positive blood and am a whole blood donor, having donated 11 gallons to date.  Donating blood is my way of giving back to the community.  I give for my mom, because of her, in honor of her, in memory of her.

My first donation was when I was a senior in high school (1979/1980).  There was a blood drive at my school.  I thought it would be a good opportunity to try being a blood donor as my mother, Betty Ray, was a long-time regular blood donor.  I didn’t pass out, thank goodness.

I continued to be a blood donor, giving when the blood center called in need of O positive blood.  It took me awhile then to reach my first milestone, 1 gallon.

I remember my first donor recognition.  At that time, blood center members read each donor’s name aloud as they were presented with a pin and a handshake.  Richard Navota, CEO of the Blood Center at the time, and fellow church member of mine, happened to be reading names as my name came across the list.  He was truly excited for me - for me, a 1 gallon donor.  I figured then if he was that excited for me, I could do more for the Blood Center, so I said, “Call me more often.”

My donations increased and soon I was up to 2 gallons and so on.  I always knew how my donations helped others and was, and still am, proud to help the community.

And in 2001, my life, or should I say my mom’s life, changed and that is where the Blood Center helped her.

My mom and I were at the donor recognition in April 2001.  I had just reached 5 gallons.  She hadn’t been feeling well and in another week or so she would be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Mantle Cell Lymphoma.

Throughout her 4 year battle with cancer, she would receive transfusions.  She would always feel better after a transfusion.

In the spring of 2002, Richard Navota passed away and as I reminisced at a memorial luncheon for him, recalling his excitement for me and my first gallon, I again decided since I am healthy, the Blood Center needs me – time to increase the donations.

So again my donations would increase – every 56 days – no need to call – just schedule my next appointment right away.  I felt I had to give back to the Blood Center in a way even more now.  For my mom, for Richard Navota, for me.  The circle of life – life goes on.

In 2003, my boyfriend (now my husband) began to donate as he felt it was something he could do for my mother, in a way – give back to the Blood Center for her, for all cancer patients.

Sadly my mother passed away in May 2005.

I continue to give blood every 56 days for her, because of her, because she was a long-time blood donor, for cancer patients, for burn victims, for little kids, for grownups, for the community, for Richard Navota, for myself, because I am healthy.

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