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Inaugural blood drive held in memory of beloved child

Posted at 8:54 PM, Jan 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-17 16:39:52-05

BILLINGS-

Riley Knickerbocker made people smile - even when she often only felt pain.

It was one of her gifts.

This past week marked the one year anniversary of Riley's passing, after a long battle with cancer.

So her family and community wanted to do something in her honor, that hopefully will prevent others from having to go through the same heartbreak.

At age 3, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor on Riley's spinal cord.

In the process of having it removed, she became a quadriplegic.

Riley was unable to attend the Relay for Life at West High, due to her inability to regulate temperature.

Her community celebrated her at their own "Relay Recess" that year.

"The last time we spoke was for the Relay Recess for the cancer survivors and what not. Our daughter Riley was a part of that," event organizer (and mother of Riley) Jessica Knickerbocker said, "We are doing a blood drive in Riley's name."

The drive took place at Worden's VFW Post 7407.

"She passed away last January 7th, so it was a year ago yesterday. So perfect timing for the community to come together and support us in Riley's name donating blood," Knickerbocker said.

The event saw a large turn-out, with over 38 reservations not including walk-ins.

"When Riley was in Denver six years ago fighting her cancer she had to have blood transfusions to help save her life," Knickerbocker said, "And so this has always been extremely important to me."

The Huntley Project PTA sponsored advertised, and promoted the event.

If you missed out on this drive, but would still like to donate on Riley's behalf, you can still do so at Vitalant for the next two weeks.

"And if anyone is scared to donate, Riley used to call I.V. pokes butterfly kisses. So you can just think of little butterflies giving you kisses, look away, and it's done before you know it," Knickerbocker said.

Jessica Knickerbocker donated at the drive as well.

"Yes, I'm up next, so little bit nervous, but it's in Riley's name so I'll do whatever needs to be done," Knickerbocker said.

Speaking of Riley's name, Jessica says, keep saying it.

"In order for someone to help anyone who has lost someone, especially a child, is never be afraid to speak that child's name or how they impacted their life or what they remember most about them. We love hearing stories about how Riley would light up a room when she would wheel into it in her wheelchair and would smile," Knickerbocker said, "She would help other kids read or do their homework so we love to hear that. So don't ever be afraid to say her name. To keep her name alive."

The Knickerbocker family plans to continue this event as a yearly tradition.

Visit https://www.vitalant.org/Locations2/North-Dakota,-South-Dakota,-Montana/Billings.aspx to make an appointment.