Seven-year-old leukemia patient inspires Calhoun County blood drive

Abby Usher received a blood transfusion during her treatment for leukemia earlier this year. She now wants to help others get the blood that they need. The seven-year-old Wellborn girl spent Thursday afternoon at the Abby Strong Compassion blood drive. Doctors diagnosed Abby with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the end of April. Supporters across the state, including some familiar ABC 33/40 faces, flexed their muscles to encourage her to be strong as she began chemotherapy."She's doing great right now. She's almost her normal self and plays with her brothers," Jeff Usher said Thursday about his daughter. "She got a blood transfusion while we were in the hospital and it made her feel like a totally different person. It brought all her energy back."He said Abby started asking questions about the treatment. She asked why doctors put blood in her, "We tried to explain to her that she needed more blood. Her counts were too low, and she had to have some blood, and that's why they were putting it in her," Jeff said. "She started asking where it came from and we told her and it just kind of went from there," he said. "She quarterbacked the whole thing. She wanted to find a way to help." A team effort led to the organization of Thursday's blood drive. Ginger Bunn hosted the event at her store, Anytime Fireworks. She heard about the Usher family and the Abby Strong campaign through mutual friends. They are all now members of Team Abby, "I've had several friends recently who have experienced the same type of things [Abby] has, and her face just kind of spoke to us, so we just wanted to reach out to her family and help," Bunn said. Two bloodmobiles and a lot of cars filled the Anytime Fireworks parking lot on Highway 431, near the intersection with Highway 204 in the Angel community, between Alexandria and Glencoe. "The third [of July] is always a busy time, so we just wanted to use the crowd that comes out on the third as a way to benefit Abby and her family," Bunn said. Red Cross representative Donna Brittain said this was her first blood drive at a fireworks store. She was glad for the partnership and said Thursday's event comes during a time when the red cross really needs donations. "Most of our donations come from schools, and schools are out in the summer, so the blood drives that we have in the summertime are critical," Brittain said.The Angel Volunteer Fire Department brought a large grill and cooked hamburgers, hot dogs, and pulled pork. They also sold drinks and snacks, and donated all proceeds to help with Abby's medical bills.Abby and some of her friends set up a lemonade stand next to the fireworks store, with brownies and cookies for sale, as well as Team Abby t-shirts and bracelets. She turns eight in September and hopes to return to school in January.