STRASBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Ryan Smith’s motto was “be relentless,” Beth Brightup said, “And he was. Before his battle with leukemia, he was relentless, through his battle with leukemia, he definitely showed being relentless.”
Smith, a Lampeter-Strasburg High School graduate, passed away in March at the age of 21. On Wednesday, the Lancaster County community organization Mitzvah Moms organized a blood drive in his honor.
Brightup is a close friend of the Smith family and a volunteer with Mitzvah Moms.
“[Ryan] made a big difference in our community, so we wanted a way to give back, and the best way that he had always asked for was doing a blood drive,” she said.
Encouraging people to donate blood might seem like an unusual wish for a young adult, but Smith experienced first-hand how important blood donations can be.
“Through the time that he went through leukemia, he received hundreds and hundreds of blood transfusions,” Brightup said,” so Ryan basically said, ‘The best thing that you can do for me, to honor me in my life and death, is to just donate blood.'”
Brightup donated for the first time on Wednesday, and many others were inspired to do the same.
“We have so many people coming for the first time because they knew Ryan and because they want to give back to that family,” Brightup said.
As the nation faces a blood shortage, Mitzvah Moms leadership team member Heather Reynolds hoped the event would honor Smith’s wish while also encouraging people to donate and help combat the widespread shortage, boosting the supply for others who may need transfusions as Smith did.
“I learned about the Smiths’ request for encouraging people to donate blood…so I donated blood through the Red Cross, and then I thought I might just organize a blood drive,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds and Brightup worked with the Smith family to put together the event, and Brightup was very happy with the result.
“I just know that Ryan would be so excited and so proud and so pleased at how many people have had the courage to come out, who’ve come to support him, but also just to give back to the community,” Brightup said.
Mitzvah Moms is a volunteer group that works to do kind deeds for the community. It started with two Jewish mothers teaching their children about mitzvahs, or kind deeds, and since the beginning of the year, it has expanded to an interfaith group of more than 200 volunteers helping support and uplift their community.