Jeanne and Maggie
In honor of family loved and lost, Jeanne and Maggie host blood drives to inspire others to generously donate.
Jeanne Kucera’s son, Tom, was born with Fanconi Anemia, an extremely rare blood disease for which there is currently no cure. Most children with Fanconi’s don’t live past their teenage years.
Despite enduring more than 60 surgeries, Tom faced every challenge throughout his short life with courage and dedication to spreading the word about how blood donations made his life-saving transfusions possible. Tom was a popular spokesperson for Memorial Blood Centers.
“Tom’s multiple birth defects led to a blood disorder and eventually leukemia,” said his mother, Jeanne Kucera. “In fact, he was transfusion-dependent for the last five years of his life.”
While Tom never grew beyond the size of a three-year old, he attended a regular grade school. “He loved his third-grade teacher so much, we kept him at that level for three years,” said Jeanne. “His classmates would stay in with him during recess, helping him eat through his G-tube. Part of his birth defect was that he only had four fingers on each hand, ‘just like on Sesame Street’, he would explain. His friends thought that was funny.”
Jeanne remembers fondly how much Tom enjoyed his role as a Memorial Blood Centers ambassador. “He would go with donor recruiters to talk to groups,” she recalled. “And now every October, we hold the Tom Kucera Memorial Workshop to teach high school students how to run blood drives in their schools.” Since Tom’s death in 1997 at the age of 11, annual workshops have given hundreds of young people tools and encouragement to inspire donations and catch the attention of kids at a very important time. “My daughter Maggie is a senior now and helps with blood drives at her high school,” said Jeanne. “She helps to host multiple blood drives each year and they get a full turnout. It’s been proven that kids who start donating early in life will continue throughout their lives. And it’s fun. They get out of school for an hour, get cookies, and get to save lives.”
Kucera receives first-ever Roslyn S. Jaffe Associate Award, Published by Duluth News Tribune (November 2015)
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