Aug. 27, 2011, was an inspiring day for donors and staff at the blood donor clinic in St. John’s, NL. A special additional Saturday clinic was held to help boost collections but more importantly this clinic was a chance for friends, family and strangers to celebrate the birthday of a very special little girl, Olivia Reardon.

Olivia was diagnosed with Pearson Syndrome, a cellular disease in which the mitochondrial DNA deletes itself leading to anemia and multiple system dysfunctions. It is most often fatal within the first five years of life.  A very rare condition with only 100 cases ever documented, it is likely that Olivia will be the only Newfoundlander to ever face it.

Olivia and her family chose to celebrate Olivia’s second birthday at the clinic as a way to thank donors who give one hour of their time so Olivia and her family can enjoy more time together.  This event also gave the community the opportunity to support Olivia and her family by making a blood donation in her name. Olivia receives a blood transfusion every 10 days and a platelet transfusion each month as part of her treatment.

Olivia’s parents, Colleen Kennedy and Brendon Reardon, are desperate for a cure.  They know it’s unlikely. However, what is remarkable is that they have found a way to cope.  They celebrate every day they have with her. They don’t just say it, they really live that way.  Everyday with Olivia is a celebration of her life.

At two years old, Olivia is an inspiration. Her story and bravery prompted 76 islanders to visit the clinic and make a blood donation in her name.

For Olivia and her family the simplest pleasures mean the most, like blowing out the candles on her birthday cake.

Five minutes after she blew out the candles she said to her dad, “Blow out the candle again, Daddy?” Brendon responded with a smile, “As many times as you want Olivia. As many times as you want.”

This is the gift blood donors give.