A wonderful cause in Pelham Bay received overwhelming support from the Bronx community.
A blood drive in memory of the late 20-year-old Jason Michael Concepcion-Elukowich was hosted by the American Red Cross at American Legion Post 620 at 1530 Hutchinson River Parkway on Thursday, January 3.
Called ‘Do It For Jason,’ the blood collection drive filled the American Legion Post with willing donors, eager to give back in memory of a young man that left this world too soon.
Jason had just finished his sophomore semester at SUNY Plattsburg when he returned home for a May dentist appointment to have a wisdom tooth removed
One week after the procedure, he fell ill and was admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, diagnosed with a rare disease called hemophagocytic lymphohist-iocytosis.
HLH is an acquired or inherited blood disease caused by the over production of certain white blood cells, which leads to organ damage and the quick formation of tumors, according to Histiocytosis Association.
Jason’s dormant disease was triggered by the infection related to the dental procedure, his mother Irene Guanill recalled the doctors telling her.
He passed away soon after that on Friday, June, 22.
After donating a pint of her own blood, Guanill reflected on her son’s memories and the special bond she and Jason shared for two decades.
“He was good to everyone, if you were cool or if you were a bit nerdy, it didn’t matter,” she said recalling his high school years at Archbishop Stepinac High School.
While Jason enjoyed sports like pole vaulting in high school, he also enjoyed the role as Stepinac’s mascot for some time as well, showcasing his fun-filled and energetic personality that would literally light up a room.
He loved and was loved by many, but nobody could come close to sharing the bond between Jason and his mother Irene, she said.
The bond was so special that even in high school, Jason would allow his mother to walk him to the bus stop every morning, never giving a second thought to how his actions would be perceived by his peers.
“We all knew he was too old to have his mom walk him to the bus, but he didn’t care, he loved me and he let me be a mom,” Guanill said, mentioning how there were times when she offered to make him breakfast on some mornings and he would literally sit her down, and say “No mom, I’m going to make you breakfast.”
As a proud member of Boy Scout Troop 182, Jason achieved the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout before heading to Plattsburgh to pursue a major in Psychology.
In college he took up rugby and quickly fell in love with the sport. During the blood drive, a group of six-foot tall college rugby players arrived to make their blood donations, telling Guanill what a difference her son had made in their lives.
The next blood drive for Jason will be held in April at Stepinac. Following that one another blood drive is being planned for July; one donation of blood gets distributed to three patients in need.
Currently, Irene is working on creating a mural of Jason for her home called ‘Pennies From Heaven,’ made entirely from of loose change.
When attending one of the upcoming blood drives, bring pennies for Irene, so she can complete her memorial to Jason’s memory.