A blood drive that has become an annual event will once again honor the memory of a beloved son who inspired those he knew before his life was cut short.
The third annual blood drive in honor of the late Ryan Steelman will be held July 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at La Vergne High School’s auxiliary gym. The drive is organized by his father and stepmother, Jamie and Stacy Steelman of Murfreesboro.
Ryan came into this world a fighter, his father said. He was born in November 1994 when his birth mother Karen McMillan had a troubled pregnancy: her placenta had separated. She was rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and had two blood transfusions and an emergency Caesarean section.
Ryan had the blood type AB negative, which his family said is the rarest type in the world.
Jamie Steelman said it was fortunate Ryan was born at Vanderbilt, with its access to ample blood supplies, because he and McMillan were told that a rural hospital would have struggled to gain access to AB negative blood.
Jamie Steelman said he began to donate blood from that point – he is A positive.
Ryan, whom his family described as living life to its fullest without fear, died at age 21 on May 31, 2016 in a motorcycle crash.
Stacy Steelman said that her stepson’s impact was “pretty phenomenal. We still have to keep his memory alive.”
One reason for the memorial blood drive is that Ryan donated blood while in high school, his stepmother said. Generosity was part of his identity.
“His friends talk about how he would do anything for anybody,” his father said. “We feel it’s fitting to honor him in that way.”
Also, organizing a blood drive gives them something to do over the summer months during the accident’s anniversary, he said. And, Ryan’s friends are college-age, so a summer blood drive gives them a chance to come home to donate.
“It’s something you never stop thinking about,” Jamie Steelman said. He called Ryan a “daredevil” who had no fear.
As young as age 16, Ryan would tell people that you never know what tomorrow will bring and to live life to the fullest, his father and stepmother said. For his 20th birthday, he asked for an airplane ticket to fly to New York City by himself to see the sights. Although he went alone, he was a very social person who would strike up conversations with anyone. He often spoke to homeless people in Nashville and loved hearing their stories, his family said.
Ryan loved the outdoors and activities like camping and kayaking, Stacy Steelman said. The day before the accident, he had spent Memorial Day at the lake. He lived away from home but visited home to pick up some items for the lake, which was not even a mile away. He waved good-bye; that was the last time she saw him, she said.
To honor his memory, the family began holding the blood drives in 2017, they said. They partner with the Red Cross, which tells them that one blood unit saves three lives. They typically provide memorial wrist bands, T-shirts and food donated by restaurants to donors, they said. They have more than two dozen volunteers at the blood drives.
In 2017, they collected 144 units, they said.
“It was pretty phenomenal to add it up to see how many lives it saved,” Stacy Steelman said. Last year, they collected 117 units.
You can go online to redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive to schedule a donation time, Jamie and Stacy Steelman said. Type in “ryansteelman.” Better yet, they said, text Jamie on his cell at 615-238-7426 to tell him what time slot you need. Since a number of relatives and friends donate, the Steelmans can easily move their time slots to fit you in so you can donate.