LEWES, Del. – The local community rallied around 13-year-old Madison Handley and turned out en masse for the In Honor of the Handley Family Blood Drive held Saturday, June 3 at Cape Henlopen High School.

Blood Bank of Delmarva Vice President Emily Cunningham (left) poses with Madison Handley (center), her family and blood drive coordinator Cathy Ramsey.

Member of Girl Scouts Troop 703 and Capel Henlopen School District students sold baked goods to raise money for the Handley family as a steady stream of people entered the gym to donate blood. They also gave out yellow ribbons to show support for Madison.

Madison Handley is a rising eighth grader at Beacon Middle School.

Blood Drive Coordinator Cathy Ramsey worked with Blood Bank of Delmarva Account Manager Ralph Groves to book an impressive 67 appointments. Cathy recruited a combination of teachers, fellow Cape Henlopen parents, Cape Henlopen graduates and colleagues of hers from Beebe Medical Center, where she works in anesthesiology.

Madison is a rising eighth grader at Beacon Middle School. She is a talented swimmer and travel soccer player, an active Girl Scout Troop 701 member and sings in the Beacon Middle School chorus. Madison completed all her seventh-grade course work at home, and she was just inducted into the National Junior Honor Society.

The road has not been easy for Madison, however, as she has battled two stints of childhood cancer. At the tender age of 2, Madison was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, and in the fall of 2022 Madison was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. She has had surgery, chemotherapy and several blood and platelet transfusions.

“The Blood Drive Honoring the Handley Family was born through the ideas of Girl Scout Troop 701,” Cathy Ramsey said. “Knowing that blood donations can save lives, the Girl Scouts wanted to honor Madison and her family by organizing a blood drive, while also supporting other community members who may also benefit from blood donations.”

Julie Stevenson was among those who answered the call and donated blood on Saturday.

“Cathy’s youngest daughter and my youngest son are in the same grade,” she said. “My son competed with Madison on Odyssey of the Mind. This is my first time donating and it’s because of Madison. Cathy did a good job promoting it and, especially in a small town like this, people come out to help each other.”

Michael Curry donated in his Cape Henlopen High School T-shirt.

“A lot of us are supporting Madison Handley. She goes to school with my daughter,” he said. “They’ve been in Girl Scouts together since they were 3. I’m glad to do it. It’s nice to have this in your backyard.”

Madison’s grandparents, Susan and John Hall, were also among the donors.

“I said to my daughter, you’ve got an army here,” Susan Hall said. “You’re not alone. The Girl Scouts, the Blood Bank and the community have been very, very supportive.”

This was the first time John Hall donated in a long time.

“I don’t like needles, but this is for my granddaughter,” he said.

The In Honor of the Handley Blood Drive came a few weeks after the Color Run held in her family’s honor, said Erin Handley, Madison’s mom.

Seeing all the community support was amazing for Erin. This was her first time donating in nearly 13 years.

“I used to donate before I had the kids,” Erin said. “I don’t know why I didn’t come back [until now]. So, I’m going to get back on it. She needed blood quite a few times. She needed both platelets and red cells.”

“I got blood once or twice,” Madison said. “The rest were platelets. It took about 45 minutes to an hour. I called it pineapple juice [because of the color].”

After giving that juicy quote, Madison was off to spend some time with her friends from Girl Scouts and school at the entrance to the gymnasium.

Blood Bank of Delmarva Vice President Emily Cunningham enjoyed spending time at the blood drive where she knew several of the donors , including First State Orthopedics surgeon Dr. Joe Farrell and his wife, First State Health and Wellness chiropractor Dr. Audrey Farrell both donated blood.

Dr. Joe, who has O positive blood, in turn recognized a number of colleagues from Beebe, where he has privileges. That included Dr. Stephen Fanto, an anesthesiologist at Beebe, and his wife, Kelly, who reminded her husband to sign up.

Thank you to all the Beebe donors, members of the community and, of course, the Handley family for sharing their story. Emily also thanked Cathy for doing a great job with this community blood drive. Please click here to see more photos from this wonderful blood drive.