Some disregarded sleep; others heeded the call to service to honor the life Burbank High School student Evie Swierczynski, who passed away in October 2018.
No matter the reason or the way, dozens of Burbank residents donated blood and joined the bone marrow registry at Sunday’s Evie Birthday Blood Drive at Burbank High School’s cafeteria.
The event, run by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, was established in the memory of Evie, who fell to complications battling acute myeloid leukemia on Oct. 30. Swierczynski was diagnosed on May 30, 2018. She would have celebrated her 16th birthday on Monday.
Swierczynski’s parents Meredith and Duane, who led a blood drive prior to their daughter’s passing, were at the center of Sunday’s event.
“Evie was really special and people remember her,” Duane Swierczynski said. “It’s bittersweet today. It brings back memories of the hospital and that’s not pleasant.
“But it also brings back memories about how much she was loved, how much people really cared and how Burbank cared about her and our family,” he added.
According to Children’s Hospital, 49 participants donated 36 units of blood, which could “save up to 108 lives.” The donations are going directly to the Children’s Hospital blood donor center.
She was an angel on earth. The minute I met her, she was just amazing.”
Children’s Hospital nurse Meghan Patterson didn’t rest, finishing a 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. shift before driving into Burbank and serving as one of the day’s first donors.
“I work with these patients every day,” Patterson said of the children that benefit from blood donations. “I just worked last night and I see exactly what these donations actually do for them. You hear people say, ‘Oh, it saves lives,’ but to actually see, it just makes it so much more impactful.”
Patterson befriended Evie during the latter’s cancer treatments, often joking with the youngster, while earning the designation of “Evie’s favorite nurse” by Meredith Swierczynski.
“[Evie] was an angel on earth,” Patterson said. “The minute I met her, she was just amazing.”
Patterson’s arrival prompted a big hug from Meredith Swierczynski.
“The idea that Meghan worked all night and then came here,” Meredith Swierczynski said, “that just means so much.”
Burbank Teachers Assn. president Diana Abasta was also in awe of Evie as the duo founded a future teachers club at Burbank High School.
“I thought when I first met her she was older,” Abasta said. “She was only a ninth-grader. She’s just kind of one of those old souls.”
Abasta also felt obliged to reach out to Meredith and Duane Swierczynski.
“As a mother, I think of her parents,” Abasta said. “I just want to add a little bit of the community’s invisible hug around them to let them know we’re here.”
Unlike many donors, Burbank resident Jennifer Greene did not know Evie personally. Yet Greene was compelled to act.
“I was aware of Evie through the pastor of my church, which is American Lutheran Church [Burbank],” Greene said. “So, I donated last year and when I saw that they were doing this to honor her again, I wanted to do it again.”
While the one-day drive finished Sunday, interested community members can still join the bone marrow registry by texting TeamEvie to 61474. They will receive a registration form digitally and a kit with information.