Leavers 2021: Graduates join blood drive in leavers4lifeblood campaign

Taylar AmoniniBusselton Dunsborough Times
Family and friends of Blake Wilson Lily-Belle Taylor, Lisa Van Vlemen, Kristin Wilson with Lifeblood's Fina Tracey.
Camera IconFamily and friends of Blake Wilson Lily-Belle Taylor, Lisa Van Vlemen, Kristin Wilson with Lifeblood's Fina Tracey. Credit: Picture: Skygrove Media

In a world without leukaemia, 18-year-old Blake Wilson would be watching the thousands of leavers hit the Dunsborough foreshore and reflecting on his celebratory antics last year.

Instead, it was Blake’s family, friends and former peers watching on as they mourned the loss of their beloved son, brother, grandson and friend to acute myeloid leukaemia.

They are honouring Blake’s memory, his legacy and goals by creating an awareness campaign with one simple message to leavers — donating blood can and will save lives.

Delaney Wilson, Will Valmadre, Cameron Dean, Tim Valmadre.
Camera IconDelaney Wilson, Will Valmadre, Cameron Dean, Tim Valmadre.

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The Leavers4Lifeblood campaign is the brainchild of the late teen, who wanted to encourage his peers to donate the lifesaving blood he received during his treatment, and has come to fruition thanks to his family.

Blake’s mum Kristin Wilson said the campaign was a way to continue Blake’s legacy and help other families facing the same battle the family had in 2019 and 2020.

“It was a heartbreaking time as Blake’s fight with leukaemia was never supposed to end that way,” she said.

“Blood donations and two bone marrow transplants from unrelated donors helped Blake during his cancer treatment.

“Without them, he wouldn’t have survived more than a few months after his diagnosis in 2019. He got to spend 18 more months fighting leukaemia — time his family will be forever grateful for.

“Leavers4Lifeblood was Blake’s idea. Blake wanted to give back and say thank you to the generous donor community who donated well over 200 units of blood, platelets and plasma during his treatment.”

Donning T-shirts with Blake’s handwriting on them, family and loved ones joined WA’s class of 2021 on the Busselton and Dunsborough foreshores with the help of Australian Red Cross, spreading the message to leavers to become donors once they finish their week-long celebrations.

Tim Valmadre, Delaney Wilson, Will Valmadre, Cameron Dean
Camera IconTim Valmadre, Delaney Wilson, Will Valmadre, Cameron Dean

The group of passionate loved ones and Red Cross volunteers managed to grow the Leavers4Lifeblood social media following to more than 700 and sign up dozens of teens to the blood and bone marrow registry.

The team used the occasion to remind leavers and the community how easy it was to join up and save a life.

“Having just gone through their Year 12 exams during a pandemic, we think that this year’s leavers are a similar group of young people who, like Blake, have faced many challenges in the last 18 months,” Mrs Wilson said.

“We want leavers and Australians to recognise the importance of becoming a blood donor and bone marrow donor.

“Twelve months ago, Blake should have been with them celebrating but unfortunately we don’t live in a world without cancer.”

During the campaign, teens were given red wristbands that had been printed with a QR code to link them to the Leavers4Lifeblood Instagram page with information about donating blood and signing up to the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

The Leavers4Lifeblood volunteers at the Dunsborough foreshore.
Camera IconThe Leavers4Lifeblood volunteers at the Dunsborough foreshore.

Lifeblood Group account manager Gina Tracey congratulated Blake’s family for starting the Leavers4Lifeblood team and said the two-day event was one of the biggest outdoor blood drives the organisation had been a part of in WA.

“One in three Australians will need blood or blood products at some point in their life, and with demand at its highest in nearly a decade, now is the perfect time for a new generation of blood donors to sign up and start a lifesaving habit,” she said.

To book a blood donation, visit lifeblood.com.au, call 13 14 95, or download the free Lifeblood Donate Blood App.

To join the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, visit abmdr.org.au/donors or phone 02 9052 3333.

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