September 16, 2019

VERSAILLES, Ohio - Lois Knapke looked around at all the blood donors in the Versailles Knights of Columbus St. Denis hall and her eyes widened. "It's been like this all day," she said, "and people keep coming!"

The Knapke family first partnered with the Versailles Poultry Days Committee blood drive in 2017 to co-sponsor a blood drive in honor of Louis' husband Steve Knapke.  Steve became a dedicated blood donor after surviving a 1988 accident caused by a drunk drive. Another accident in 2016, again by a drunk driver, took Steve's life and left Lois with injuries that still impact her health.

The third annual Steve Knapke Memorial Blood Drive on Sept. 16 was another successful collaboration with the Poultry Days Committee and Community Blood Center. It totaled 150 whole blood donors and 14 platelet donors for 111 percent of collection goal.

"It's very important for the family and myself to honor Steve for what he did in our lives, and what he did for the community," said Lois.  "He had to get blood after his first accident and he's never forgotten that."

She spoke while holding one of the teddy bears made with Steve's blood donor t-shirts.  The dolls and family photos were part of a display welcoming donors to the blood drive.

Her daughters Lisa DiRenzo, Rachel Durham and Emmy D'Antonio and son Doug Knapke came to donate, greet neighbors and join Poultry Days Committee volunteers in serving donors in the Donor Café.

"I feel very strongly about continue doing it because it was so important to him," said Rachel. "To see the people coming, it would make him so proud."

Ansonia donor Michelle Bennett made her 53rd donation at the Steve Knapke Memorial Blood Drive and was glad to receive the "My Compassion Defines Me" blood donor shirt, honoring Blood Cancer and Breast Cancer Awareness months. It's the final shirt in the "3C" series that includes the themes Courage and Commitment.

Michelle said lung cancer claimed her brother's life last year and her sister succumbed to brain cancer in May. "I just lost by brother and sister to cancer," she said.  "That's why I wanted to do the '3C's.'"