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Despite pandemic, Bobby Natalini Jr. Blood Drive will continue to build supplies for Red Cross – The Times Herald


EAST NORRITON Since 2003, the Bobby Natalini, Jr. Blood Drive has collected more than 1,800 blood donations in honor of the East Norriton native who sadly passed away in 2002 from a rare bone disease.

The 18th annual blood drive will be held the day before Thanksgiving, just as its always been.

However, the pandemic has necessitated some changes in the event that many folks regard as an annual gathering, noted Natalinis mother, Debbie Natalini.

The Red Cross had contacted us to see if we still wanted to do it, and we did, just to keep the consecutive years going. Typically, the Red Cross provides a little snack after youre done giving blood, but because ours has become like a family reunion gathering type thing, with a big buffet where people come to remember Bobby and sit sometimes for a few hours and enjoy each others company, they said we had to do it as a typical blood drive, Natalini said. Weve always provided all the food. Its a way to remember our son and the blood is really needed, and we like to connect with all the people we know. So were doing it the Red Cross way this year in the hopes that next year we can be back the way it always has been, maybe bigger and better. Typically people would stand in line and make a platter at the buffet but were not allowed to do that because of COVID and there wont be any hanging around eating, itll just be give your blood, get a treat and we hope to see you next year.

Roughly 200 people have shown up for the event, although not everyone has qualified as a blood donor, noted Natalini, who organizes the blood drive with her husband Bob.

Sometimes people will come out to give blood and their blood pressure will be too high, or theyll have a slight fever, or maybe they got a tattoo or a piercing the previous week, which increases the chance of infection, she said. There are a lot of different reasons that they cant accept blood. When Ive been turned down it was because my blood pressure was too high or my iron was too low. We have probably 200 people who can come out every year but people are fearful this year, understandably so, so were just going to hope for the best. Whatever the Red Cross gets is more than they had before.

Flyers posted around town indicated that the event would be different, so people wont be too surprised when they show up.

The blood drive will be held at St. Titus Church, 3006 Keenwood Drive, East Norriton, Nov. 25, 1 to 7 p.m. by appointment only.

To make an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code Natalini.

You can also call 1-800-RedCross, or download the Blood Donor app.

Bobby Natalini Jr. had attended Norristown Area High School. After being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, he received multiple blood transfusions. The blood he received from anonymous donors granted him more time with family and friends during his three year battle with the disease. He passed away in 2002, just two months before his 18th birthday.

We originally started it the day before Thanksgiving, mostly because we knew Bobbys friends would be home from college, Natalini said. We wanted to be thankful, even though we had such a loss and we wanted to give back to all the people who were so supportive of us during the three years that Bobby had been sick on and off. The Red Cross didnt think that was a good time that people would want to come out but they did and so we kept with it. The date changes but its always Thanksgiving Eve.

Guy Triano, CEO for the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Region, noted, Patients from across our region rely on the generosity of blood donors and blood drive hosts to ensure they have access to lifesaving treatments during this pandemic. The Red Cross is grateful to the Natalini family for their continued dedication to our mission. This years blood drive may look a different, but its impact remains critical.

For the Natalini family, the event has become a tradition that they didnt want to see interrupted.

Its a tradition that I dont want to break. Even though we cant do it the way we want to were still going to do it to remember Bobby and hopefully get some donations, said Natalini. So many things have been put on the back burner this year I didnt want to give up on this too. Everything is different this year, but different is better than not at all.

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Despite pandemic, Bobby Natalini Jr. Blood Drive will continue to build supplies for Red Cross - The Times Herald

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