Tuesday blood drive will honor Kim Degrave’s valiant struggle
By Hugh Fisher
CLEVELAND ó When Kim Degrave learned in 1992 that she had melanoma, she and her husband, David, began the fight of a lifetime.
Sixteen years later, that battle is in its final stage. After several recurrences, Kim’s cancer has spread.
“The doctor said she had about six months,” David said. “That was three months ago.”Her treatments have left her blood count low. At the peak of her last round of treatments, she was receiving transfusions of blood and platelets on an almost weekly basis.
“At one point, she had 10 units in two weeks, not counting platelets,” David said.
Kim and David have lived in Cleveland since 1986. Until the first of the year, both worked at Freightliner.
Through the years and especially most recently, the couple’s family and friends have fought alongside them, and now, one of her colleagues wants to honor her life and support others in need.
Sally Menius has known the Degraves for years. Currently, Menius chairs the Community Service Committee of United Auto Workers Local 3520 in Cleveland.
The UAW is co-sponsoring a blood drive Tuesday in honor of Kim Degrave, along with the Cleveland Lions Club and Cedar Grove AME Zion Church.
“I want people to know that there are people out there who need help,” Menius said.
She wants to support Kim Degrave just as Kim has supported Menius.
Degrave was working at Community Grocery in Cleveland when Menius first went to work there.
“She took me under her wing,” Menius said. “They’re wonderful, caring citizens in my opinion.”
At home in Cleveland, Kim speaks humbly of the aid her friends and coworkers have given her.
“Everyone’s pulling for me and praying for me,” she said. She’s especially grateful to employees whom she met during her four years at Freightliner. David said some had given help to cover the family’s expenses during commutes to Duke University Medical Center in Durham for Kim’s chemotherapy.
David said many have told him they’re keeping the Degraves in their prayers, while others brought gifts of food.
With tears in her eyes, Kim said she’s grateful for these things and for the community’s response when local families hit hard times.
“When they do, everybody pulls together,” she said.
During the summer days, Kim spends as much time as she can time with family, especially her grandchildren and her nephew, who happened to be playing nearby as she spoke.
Their son, Dave Degrave, brought his fiancée and their respective children to spend time in Cleveland during his leave from the U.S. Army. He’s stationed at Fort Eustis, Va.
“We’ve been going outside,” Kim said. “They play here and visit with us. We’re spending time together, as much as we can.”
Dave said he’s proud of the way people have rallied around his mother. “You walk around Cleveland with Mama, and everybody knows her,” he said.
He hopes that hearing about the blood drive will remind people of the needy in their community ó especially those whose conditions require blood transfusions for strength and survival.
“I hope it draws people in and makes them realize that there is a need for blood,” Dave said.
“I’d tell people, as long as they can, give blood, volunteer and do it as often as they could,” Kim said.
The blood drive takes place from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Cleveland Lions Club on Cemetery Street.
Hot dogs and drinks will be served. Door prizes, including gift cards and a homemade cake, will be given away hourly.
Those who donate may also enter a drawing for one of three $1,000 gasoline gift cards.
Advance appointments to donate blood are available but not required. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Elaine Hewitt of the Cleveland Lions Club at 704-278-0661.