ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A rallying cry from Grand Valley State University athletes broke out during a Wednesday blood drive honoring pole vaulter Jaden Blake, who died late last year.
“Even in his death, his legacy has continued. So what they’re doing at Grand Valley today blew me away, that people wanted to come and honor him in that way,” Yvonne Blake, Jaden Blake’s mother, said. “So what I’m finding is he’s still making an impact, even though he’s not here.”
Jaden Blake was killed in November in a crash on Lake Michigan Drive not far from the university’s Allendale campus. Critically injured with no chance of survival, doctors kept him alive for several days, fulfilling his wish to be an organ donor. Four people received his organs.
“They made sure they got him over the finish line. So I’m forever grateful to whoever donated that blood (that Jaden received),” Yvonne Blake said.
Her son’s athletic prowess was only part of his life story. His willingness to help others began in eighth grade when he raised money to help fellow students who couldn’t afford to go on a school field trip. As he got older, he became an activist for social justice.
His mother hopes the students, faculty and staff stretched out on the cots at the Kirkhof Center at GVSU Wednesday morning add to his legacy in another way.
“African Americans make up, I think, less than 1% of the donors. And particularly if you’re talking about sickle cell trait or any of those types of things, having matches really matter,” Yvonne Blake said. “We want to increase the number of African American donors, people of color in general. And then, just donations in general. I mean, there’s a shortage.”
The Jaden Sebastian Blake Foundation, formed by his mother after his death, promotes blood and organ donations and provides financial support for young athletes. It’s Yvonne Blake’s way of dealing with her loss and carrying on her son’s legacy.
“As a mother, you can’t let go,” she said. “You feel the need to continue your child’s legacy. It’s all you have left of them.”
The blood drives at the Kirkhof Center on the Allendale campus were scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. You can schedule an appointment online.