By MARGIE NETZEL - email@example.com
A little thing like a national helium shortage isn’t going to stop Mike Mikulin’s family and friends from a Thanksgiving tradition, both so personal and at the same time so public, from liftoff.
Michael Mikulin died in a traffic accident on Thanksgiving Day, 2006. He was 20 years old. The Geneva High School graduate and Barry University soccer star is far from forgotten, as family and friends gather each year for a community blood drive and balloon release on the day after Thanksgiving.
The blood drive in memory of Mike Mikulin will be held Friday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Assumption Church, 594 W. Main St., Geneva.
Mom Patti Mikulin said the drive is frequented by Mike’s friends and family, but the community also supports the American Red Cross and her son’s memory by donating blood on that day.
The event marks the six-year anniversary of Mike’s death. Patti Mikulin said she hopes to collect more than 70 pints this year.
The “In Memory of Mike” blood drives have collected close to 200 pints in Mikulin’s memory since 2008, helping to save the lives of nearly 600 people in Northern Ohio, said Denise DiDonato, donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross.
To schedule an appointment to donate call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org for more information. Donors 17 years old or older must meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on height) and in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. Please bring your Red Cross blood donor card or other form of identification to donate.
Patti Mikulin said no helium means no balloons for the annual balloon release at Mike’s grave site, so the group will release sky lanterns instead.
“A sky lantern is like a small hot air balloon,” she said. “We are praying for no wind and no rain. It should be a beautiful site to see.”
The sky lanterns will be released at 3:30 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, near the back of the cemetery.
Patti Mikulin said she is always touched by the number of people who remember and honor her son every year.
“Thank you for honoring Mikey,” she said. “He was an amazing son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson, teammate and friend. We miss you Mike.”