Blood drive a way to give back 20 years after deadly bus accident

  • Michelle Kunz of Cary donates blood Saturday at the Fox River Grove blood drive, started by Deputy Fire Chief Jim Kreher in honor of the Oct. 25, 1995 tragedy where seven students were killed when a train hit their school bus. Kunz said she was supposed to be on the bus the day of the accident but was not.

      Michelle Kunz of Cary donates blood Saturday at the Fox River Grove blood drive, started by Deputy Fire Chief Jim Kreher in honor of the Oct. 25, 1995 tragedy where seven students were killed when a train hit their school bus. Kunz said she was supposed to be on the bus the day of the accident but was not. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Patty Mitchell of Crystal Lake donates blood Saturday during the Fox River Grove blood drive, started by Deputy Fire Chief Jim Kreher in honor of the October 1995 tragedy where seven students were killed when a train hit their school bus. Mitchell who is retired from Flight for Life, was working the day of the accident and transported two patients from the scene.

      Patty Mitchell of Crystal Lake donates blood Saturday during the Fox River Grove blood drive, started by Deputy Fire Chief Jim Kreher in honor of the October 1995 tragedy where seven students were killed when a train hit their school bus. Mitchell who is retired from Flight for Life, was working the day of the accident and transported two patients from the scene. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Fox River Grove firefighter/paramedic Jason Kedrok donates blood Saturday at the Fox River Grove blood drive. Kedrok was a student on the bus in October 1995 and is now a captain with the fire department.

      Fox River Grove firefighter/paramedic Jason Kedrok donates blood Saturday at the Fox River Grove blood drive. Kedrok was a student on the bus in October 1995 and is now a captain with the fire department. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • People donate blood Saturday during the Fox River Grove blood drive.

      People donate blood Saturday during the Fox River Grove blood drive. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/24/2015 9:57 PM

Twenty years after a school bus accident that left seven students dead, Cary resident Barbara Cummins said donating blood at Fox River Grove's annual blood drive is a way to put good back into the community.

"It's something we can do in a situation that was horrendous, just unbelievable," Cummins said. "It's really something we can do to just keep paying it forward."

 

Cummins says her son was the same age as the students on the bus, and knew most of the children.

"This is just something we will never forget," Cummins said.

Deputy Fire Chief Jim Kreher was the incident commander Oct. 25, 1995, the day of the accident. He started the blood drive seven years ago to ensure the fire department is doing all it can to give back to the community that helped it through the difficult time.

"We take for granted where the blood comes from," he said. "So many people helped us out when it was needed, and we're just trying to keep that going."

Residents of Fox River Grove and surrounding communities greeted each other with hugs and handshakes at the fire station before Lifesource representatives helped them prepare to donate their blood.

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Kreher says that in such a small, close community, everyone in town was affected by accident.

"We really knew everybody who was on the bus, and you still see the parents of kids around today," Kreher said.

The blood drive is held at the fire station in May and again around the anniversary of the accident.

The fire department worked with Lifesource and Flight for Life in organizing Saturday's blood drive.

Patty Mitchell was the duty nurse on the flight that transported two students the day of the accident.

Mitchell said she looks at the memorial dedicated to the students every time she drives past the intersection, and can't help but think about the families of the children who died. She comes back every year to donate blood because she knows the importance of having blood readily available.

"I see the critical use of blood every day, and it really matters. It's life changing," said Mitchell, a Crystal Lake resident. "And the families of the students come back, and it's just good for them to see people still care."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Organizers of the blood drive expect to collect about 60 pints of blood.

Each pint of blood helps three people, Kreher said, but he always wishes more people would donate.

"Seven years ago, over 100 people showed up to donate, and we couldn't get everybody in," he said. "It's great to see that kind of community support."

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