Steve Harrell is on a mission — one that will take nearly a decade of his life to fulfill, and will also save lives.
Harrell, originally from Jacksonville, Florida, wants to donate blood in all 50 states, and on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, Harrell is coming to Asheville.
Harrell, 65, is retired and a veteran of the U.S. Army. And while most retirees may dream of playing golf or sailing during their retirement — Harrell is choosing to travel across the United States in his RV and promote awareness about the importance of donating blood.
Harrell has a rare blood type — O Negative, which is the universal blood type, meaning it can be used in transfusions for any blood type. Type O is routinely in short supply and in high demand by hospitals – both because it is the most common blood type and because type O negative blood is the universal blood type needed for emergency transfusions and for immune deficient infants.
Thus, Harrell wants to donate his blood in every state to save lives and raise awareness of the cause. Harrell has to wait 56 days before he can donate again, so his entire journey will last seven years.
What inspired Harrell to pursue this goal? His 10-year-old grandson.
“My grandson’s school did a blood drive, and he wanted me to donate, and of course I said yes,” Harrell said. “Then he said, Poppy, you travel so much, you ought to give blood in every state.’ And here I am.”
To date, Harrell has visited and donated blood in nine states, and has recently ventured to North Carolina from Bristol, Tennessee. He is staying in his RV at a campground in Bryson City, and is rallying local support for his blood donation on Nov. 11.
“I’ve been on the road for 14 months,” Harrell said. “And I won’t go back to Florida until I’m done.”
But while he awaits his blood donation day, Harrell isn’t just sitting around in his RV. Since Harrell is a veteran and a lifetime legionnaire and member of the VFW and Moose Lodge, he visits the local VFW chapters and American Legion chapters to help spread the word and garner support.
“They really do a lot with me,” Harrell said, referring to the veterans organizations he has visited. “They will donate money to the cause — that’s what those organizations are all about, to help people and help the community.”
Harrell works with The Blood Connection on his journey, and he donates blood at local The Blood Connection sites in every state. By donating to The Blood Connection, Harrell said the blood is saved and used in the local community.
“You’re being a hero,” Harrell said about blood donations. “Every person who gives blood saves lives — tell me that’s not cool.”
Want to join Steve and donate? On Monday, Nov. 11, Harrell will be at the Blood Connection Site located at 225 Airport Road in Arden. He will be on site from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and he hopes to get at least 50 members of the community to come donate blood with him.
Members of the community are welcome to stop by Nov. 11 and meet Harrell and donate blood. Or if anyone wishes to donate funds to help Harrell on his journey, he can receive donations made out to “Steve O Negative, 3023 Addie Lane, Jacksonville, Florida, 32223. Account number 0271131310.
Harrell will stay in Bryson City until Nov. 23, until he moves on to his next state — South Carolina where he will arrange his December blood donation. After South Carolina, Harrell said he would be going out west to Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington.
“I feel like God has blessed me and I want to give back,” Harrell said. “It’s pretty awesome to be able to save lives in every state.”