NORTH EAST, Md. – Hunter McCoy Smith will turn 3 on November 23, and that is thanks in part to the transfusions of blood products he received as he battled childhood cancer early on in his young life.

An Atypical Teratoid Rhabadoid Tumor in his brain was surgically removed when he was just 6 months old, and he continued with chemotherapy treatment. Since then, he has continued to improve, reports his mother, Jordyn Yedinak. That includes beginning to walk.

“He’s doing really, really well,” Jordyn said. “He’s walking and taking steps. His awareness and communications kills have gotten so much better. We just had an MRI scan; he has a routine scan every six months. Everything looks great; everything is clear. We don’t have to go back [to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia] for another six months.

“So far, so good. We’re super grateful,” she added. “He’s a trooper.”

His family, friends and the North East, Maryland community at large are thankful for Hunter’s continued improvement and health, and they continue to give back for those lifesaving transfusions Hunter received during the season of Thanksgiving each year in November.

Indeed, Hunter’s aunt, Connor Bouchelle, held the fifth, biannual “In Honor of Hunter Blood Drive” on Friday, November 3, at the VFW in North East, in conjunction with the Blood Bank of Delmarva. There, 30 people signed up to donate in honor of Hunter.

In addition to autumn, Connor holds the blood drive in the springtime. The blood drives attract a combination of the North East community, customers from her farm (Cedar Springs Farms) and folks looking for a convenient place to donate in quaint Cecil County, Maryland.

The inaugural blood drive held in November 2021 drew 90 donors. It’s not easy to maintain those numbers, but Connor worked hard right through this blood drive. She even recruited friends Beth Rose Walker and Amber Pucci to donate on Friday morning after the blood drive began.

“We were at breakfast, and Connor texted, ‘Come donate blood,’” Amber said. “We’re walk-ins So, here we are.”

Among the booked appointments were regulars (and family members) Barbie Barker, Jenny Barker, Lisa Conner, Wayne Young and Kelly Weber.

Barbie has donated all five blood drives for Hunter.

“As long as I’m able to, I’m going to be giving blood,” she said. “And I love that you guys come here and make it convenient for everybody.”

The drive also brought out first-time blood donors Alicia Trembler, Jessie Snuffer and Bryant Hurley who turned out to be O negative and A positive donors, respectively!

Jessie said donating blood was something she recently became aware of.

“My mom’s cousin had a liver transplant a year ago,” she said. “And I know how much blood they need in general.”

Alicia Trembler, meanwhile, was similarly inspired by Hunter’s story.

“I’m helping Connor out,” she said. “My daughter rides at her farm.”

Connor even managed to talk the caterer at the VFW, Greg Halsey, into donating as a walk in.

“I came in here to cut a bunch of beef up for [Saturday night’s] event, because I’m the caterer,” Greg said. “I know Connor and I said, hey, I can give some blood.”

In the double red cell section, Grant Handley donated his A positive blood. He had previously given blood with North East High School and Cecil College.

“I work for the town of North East, and I thought, there’s a blood drive today,” Grant said. “You’ve got to show up and lead by example. I’m not saying I’m a hero…”

His friend, Neil DeMatt, thanked him for donating at the blood drive held for his cousin, Hunter.

“I appreciate Grant coming out and doing this,” Neil said.

For Connor Bouchelle, the strategy was the same as always. She reached out to people from previous draws, and she tried to get as many friends as possible to donate blood, including a few first-timers. 

“Thank you to everyone who continues to come out to support Hunter and all of those in need of blood,” she said. “I also want to thank the VFW for allowing us to use the hall for this event. And, most importantly, thank you to the Delmarva Blood Bank for making it all possible. I am honored to be part of such an amazing cause!”

BBD Director, Donor Services Nicole Pineault and Director of Donor Recruitment thanked Connor for continuing to hold this blood drive with Account Manager Mary Moore. Connecting with the community in the community is tantamount to the mission.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone.