March 16, 2020

RICHMOND, Indian - "Cooper is Chasing 8!" was the NASCAR racing theme of the eight annual "Cooper Newton Memorial Blood Drive" March 14 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church. The stands are empty at racetracks and sports arenas as the nation takes safeguards against the coronavirus.  But blood donations are needed more than ever, and that gave new meaning to Cooper's blood drive.

"My husband said, are you sure they didn't cancel it?'" said Williamsburg donor Kimber Kingman. "I said no, because they still need the blood."

Clint and Beth Newton first hosted a blood drive in their son's memory in 2013. Cooper was just seven months old when he died from complications related to the congenital disorder Noonan syndrome. He received multiple blood transfusions during his treatment, and they wanted to give back.

Saturday's eighth annual blood drive totaled 38 donors and 37 donations, including four double red cell donations and three first-time donors.

A wet snow fell on Richmond Saturday as they continued the tradition of celebrating Cooper's memory with a birthday party theme. Cooper's 14-year-old older brother Gavin is a NASTAR fan who counts driver Jimmy Johnson as a friend.

"Jimmy Johnson has been his favorite driver since the age of two," said Beth. "He started watching with my dad. He got to meet him at a race and talk to him backstage and Jimmy did a video for him."

When Jimmy had to rush to a driver's meeting, he made special arrangements to meet with Gavin afterwards. He was honored by the special attention. "They said he gave off a presence that was so welcoming," said Beth.

Gavin and his brother Gunner handled the honors of presenting the Cooper Newton Memorial Scholarship to the 2019 winner Sierra Fegan from Lincoln High School, whose mother had passed away during her senior year.

"The boys presented it, they were the only kids there and they did a great job," said Beth.

"I work with Beth," said Hagerstown donor Raeshelle Murphy, a long-time supporter of the blood drive. "We did a workday where you could wear jeans to raise money for the Cooper Foundation."

New to the blood drive this year was the addition of automated double red blood cell donations.  Red cells are frequently needed for surgeries and trauma and a double donation results in two units.

Clint's aunt Susan Newton was one of the first to make a double donation Saturday. "I live in Bowling Green and I've done double donations there," she said. "I think I've missed the blood drive for Cooper once since we started it. I'm O-positive. It's the first time it's been available here. I figured this is more people I can help."

Northeastern High School senior Alicia Quinn is out of school for four weeks because of the precautions against COVID-19.  Her first goal on this unexpected spring break was to donate. "I got a text saying it was still on," she said.  She added to Cooper's blood drive legacy Saturday with her 12th lifetime donation.