Those passing through Aurora Municipal Airport on Saturday could easily have believed that some sort of party was going on, but those who were there were actually saving lives.
The third annual “A Pint for Kim” – one of the largest blood drives in the country – was held in memory of Kim Benedyk Sandford, a 49-year-old Naperville woman who died on March 3, 2020, following of an eight-year battle with cancer.
The event included a car show, food truck, live music, free plane rides and other activities, but the real goal was to raise over 1,000 pints of blood, which would be a new record. of state.
The Sandford sisters christened it “A Pint for Kim”. It was first held on March 8, 2020, just five days after Sandford’s death, and has now become an annual gathering on Mother’s Day weekend.
The first time it was held they raised 500 pints, which was a new record they surpassed last year despite the pandemic. This year they exceeded it again.
“I kind of feel like people are planning to go out and spend a few hours here doing the car show, plane rides, food trucks and bands,” Kristyn Jo Benedyk, 41, of Naperville, Kim’s younger sister and co-founder of the blood drive.
“In the past, it was sort of a case of making an appointment, showing up and coming home. The festival vibe gets more interest from people going out for the day,” she said.
She said she noticed two changes about this year’s event – the responses they receive from strangers to their efforts and the way survivors are dealing with the loss of Kim.
“A (PR) person working with us messaged us about a post she saw on Facebook from a stranger that none of us know who put up a photo of the one of our garden signs that she says “are all over town,” says Benedik.
“The woman wrote: ‘I got curious and read the story and cried and wish I had known Kim and signed up. We all want to make time for mothers this year for Mother’s Day and I have space on my bus and I’m willing to drive if anyone wants to come with me.
Benedyk said his nephews, who were just 11 and 13 when their mother died, are becoming much more expressive two years later “about what it means to them and taking ownership of it.”
Blood donations were handled by the Versiti Blood Center in Illinois at collection.
Emily Alanis, regional head of donor recruitment at Versiti, said she was overwhelmed by the number of volunteers in attendance on Saturday, noting that there were “more volunteers than staff” at the event.
“We have over 145 volunteers today and 70 staff, which is wonderful,” Alanis said. “We use about 20 volunteers for the blood collection and the rest are at the party to greet the donors (and) help them get to other places on the site. We are fine and the beds are filling up.
Alanis said donors “are only in the chair for 15 minutes.”
John and Darrien Nitto, a father and son from Yorkville, said it was their first time seeing the “Pint for Kim” effort.
“I know the need for blood when people go to hospital is there and we are here doing our due diligence for what we can do for people and help in any way we can,” John Nitto said. . “It’s a small sacrifice and it feels so much more good. It’s my first time donating blood and it’s not a problem.
Darrien Nitto said he was surprised at the turnout and “for sure I’ll be back next year”.
“We wanted to go out today for the car show, but what’s happening here today is awesome,” he said. “It’s great that people want to do this.”
Karen Sitzman of Naperville said “my youngest daughter is in the same grade as Kim’s (Sandford) youngest son.”
“We are also neighbours,” she says. “I’ve been here for all three years and it’s been amazing to see the support and how it has grown since the first one. The volunteers are amazing and his sisters and family have done a fabulous job.
Rob Sandford, Kim’s husband, called the event “humbling and bittersweet”.
“It’s something Kim really wanted to see happen before she passed away after many transfusions and all the procedures she went through,” he said.
“She joked with her doctors saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll refund you,’ he said. “Kim’s sister and cousin have really gone out of their way to put this together and the support we’ve had and outsiders saying they wanted to do something, it’s kind of a movement now.”
David Sharos is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.