You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate about blood donation than Canadian Blood Services’ very own Melissa Smith-McGuire. She has dedicated her life to inspiring others in tribute to her mom, Josephine.

As the Oshawa-area territory manager, Melissa spends her days educating residents on the blood system, booking blood donation appointments and connecting with donors, volunteers and recipients. But this blood donation advocate considers her job far from over at the end of the day.

“I always have my Canadian Blood Services pin on and people often approach me to ask questions,” she says. “I’m very, very blessed to get to do what I do.”

Whether she’s buying a steak, trying on a pair of jeans, or making a hospital call, she’s bound to strike up a conversation about blood donation.

It’s her job, yes. But it’s also her daily opportunity to honour the spirit of her beloved mother, who received several hundred units of blood before passing away in 1995.

“Every day I come into work carrying a picture of my mom in my wallet. I look at her and find renewed inspiration. Knowing that I’m providing those extra moments for other people with their loved ones makes everything worthwhile.”

Melissa was just 16 when her mother first needed blood after experiencing a life-threatening reaction to kidney surgery. Seeing her mom on life-support, receiving bag after bag of blood, changed Melissa’s life forever.

“I watched my mom come back to life because of that precious blood,” she says. “I looked at my brother and said, ‘We need to make a pledge to give back because if those strangers hadn’t given their time and blood, we wouldn’t have mom here.’”

Melissa, her brother and her sister in-law became regular blood donors after that experience, unaware their mother would end up needing even more blood years later due to further health complications. In fact, Melissa herself would need blood transfusions following the births of both of her daughters in 2004 and 2008.

Holding blood donors near and dear to her heart for more than 20 years, Melissa jumped at the chance to share her passion by working for the organization five and a half years ago.

“I tend to be a job hopper,” Melissa notes. “I was always trying to find a [professional] home. When I came in for the interview, I thought immediately that this is where I’m supposed to take my skills, knowledge and passion and put it to good use.”

“Those moments I had with my mom inspired me to give everything I have to help other people.”

Photography by Lorella Zanetti