121 turn out to donate blood in memory of Arlington Heights girl
The family of Emily Holum is drawn together by strong ties of blood -- in more ways than one.
Each year, family members and friends contribute time and blood to the Emily Holum Memorial Blood Drive.
On Sunday, at the 14th annual drive, held in the gym at Our Lady of the Wayside School in Arlington Heights, their efforts were rewarded with the highest turnout in the event's history,
Robin Holum, Emily's mother, said the goal this year was to draw 114 donors, in honor of Emily's birthday, which falls on Valentine's Day.
Robin and Emily's father, Tom Holum, were ecstatic when the final tally showed 121 donors.
Emily died of acute myeloid leukemia at age 6 in 2007, But her memory was very much alive at Sunday's event. The Holums wore buttons with Emily's picture. Tom's button showed Emily before she became sick, her blonde hair topped by a neat bow.
For the Arlington Heights couple, the event is a way of giving back to the many blood donors who helped prolong their daughter's life.
"We have no idea how many units she actually went through," Tom Holum said. "Wherever we were at, and we were at three different hospitals, we never knew who donated. There is no way we could ever thank those people. They gave us Emmy for another two years. We feel like this is helping those people that helped us."
Robin remembers a girl who brightened the spirits of other children, including another patient she comforted with a remote control tarantula she received from her grandmother as a gift.
"She loved to help people. So this is one way that she can give back," she said.
Among those attending the event were Emily's sisters: Caroline, a student at Rolling Meadows High School, and Nicole, who recently graduated from DePaul University.
In 2006, Caroline donated her bone marrow to her older sister for one of her two transplants.
Robin's sister, Beth Chamberlain, called the annual event heartwarming.
"It's amazing that so many people come out every year. The same people have come out year after year," she said.