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Donations Benefit Pint Sized Recipient
There were so many donors, they couldn't take them all. They did take enough, however, to come away with 79 units of blood in a replacement drive for young Sofia Rose Conde. The drive was put together by the Escalon High School Interact Club and blood drive officials said 90 donors registered during the May 19 drive, with 11 deferrals for the 79 unit total.

"We had to turn away some students," said blood drive coordinator Cheryl Kirwan of Delta Blood Bank, noting that there were some time constraints having the drive at the school.

Anyone that wanted to donate and was turned away or for those unable to attend the school drive, they can take advantage of the upcoming community blood drive, Tuesday, June 8 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Escalon Christian Reformed Church on California Avenue.

Blood donations on Wednesday made by students and staff at the school were dedicated to Sofia, a 22-month-old who was born with Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency, a condition that requires her to have blood transfusions on a regular basis. Her body does not produce the enzyme needed to support healthy red blood cells, so the transfusions are required when her blood count drops too low for her to have the energy for normal, everyday activities.

Students on hand for the drive agreed that knowing their blood donations would help the little girl was a big reason to roll up their sleeves.

"This was my second time," said senior Miranda Garza of donating. "It just felt good to give blood, help someone out ... and get a T-shirt."

Students joked about the T-shirts and getting some cookies, crackers and juice after donating, but it was little Sofia - on hand Wednesday for the blood dive in her honor - that clearly was the reason students and staff were there.

"We try to get to the ones (blood drives) they have for her benefit, schools and community both," Sofia's mom Rachael Conde added, noting that they live in Lathrop and try to get to those drives in the local area. "We've had all three high schools in Manteca do one and a senior did one for her final project. I found out later that the senior had had leukemia and she had needed transfusions herself."

Though there have been multiple drives for the little girl, her mom has only set up three herself. The rest have been organized by school, church and community groups.

Spending a portion of the day at Escalon High on Wednesday at the blood drive, young Sofia charmed donors with her quick smile and a seemingly limitless amount of energy.

After her birth in July, 2008 she was transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit and eventually went to Lucille Packard Children's' Hospital at Stanford for extensive tests and observation to help determine the reason behind her rapid loss of red blood cells.

"After two and a half weeks, they diagnosed her," explained Conde. "She goes (for transfusions) abut every five weeks."

The hope is that when she is five, she can undergo an operation to remove her spleen, which should help reduce or even eliminate the need for the regular transfusions.

"She's a very happy child," her mom added. "We try not to let her deficiency affect her life until the day of her transfusion."

Kirwan said Delta staff members enjoy having Sofia there at blood drives.

"That's one of our favorite people right there," Kirwan said, motioning toward Sofia as the youngster wrestled with a Delta Blood Bank T-shirt, trying to get her arms and head through the proper holes.

Sofia's mom said the feeling was mutual, with the little girl lighting up each time Kirwan came in to view.

"We've known Cheryl since Sofia was eight months old," Conde said.

Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Dave Mantooth, who serves as the Interact Club advisor, said having the young girl there was inspirational for all those donating.

"It was just a good feel," he said of the entire day. "The kids were showing up and we sort of overwhelmed the system ... they had to turn away the last couple of groups."

Kirwan said that there were 39 first time donors at the drive out of the 90 that registered. That means many of the students have given at school before.

"A lot of our kids have been doing it two, three or four times," agreed Mantooth. "That's good to see."