CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A lot has changed during the pandemic — but not the need for blood donations.

Once again, we’re teaming up with Community Blood Services for our annual “Gift of Life” blood drive. And in doing so, we’re still honoring two important members of the WCIA 3 family. It’s a way to honor Dave Benton and Robert Reese, who both battled cancer.

Reese’s daughter, Rachel Hall, says donating blood is a habit her dad instilled in her.

“I remember going with dad growing up, we went every opportunity he had. Like as soon as we had that card, we were at the blood bank doing his donation,” she says.

Benton’s wife, Terri, says she also donates whenever she can. It’s those regular donations that keep Community Blood Services going throughout the year — but donations are always low around the holidays. This year’s drive is more important than ever because of the pandemic. All donations will go to hospitals in Central Illinois.

“One of my children was born super early so he was in the NICU and so I’ve seen babies that have had to have blood transfusions — and knowing that someone out there took that hour to donate that blood to save just that baby or  someone’s mother, grandmother — it’s just an awesome feeling,” says Hall.

That’s why Reese and Benton’s families are encouraging all of you to make an appointment to donate. They’re grateful the Central Illinois community has given the “Gift of Life” because of their loved ones. They hope that continues … in remembrance of two men who are loved by so many.

“You don’t realize what a difference you make to people just by doing your job — and that’s what he felt. He was doing his job, he was just the average “Joe Schmo” — but for everybody to feel that way about him he would be so, so humbled and in regards to doing things in his honor — he would be so embarrassed but he would be very pleased,” says Terri Benton.

“I miss him a lot and to know that he’s left such a legacy, not just in my life or my children, but to know that others are still affected just by his giving, giving character, just speaks so much to who he was,” says Hall.

The blood drive is next week. If you’ve like to donate, you can make an appointment by texting “WCIA” to 999777. We have several locations — you can check them out and make an appointment online by clicking here.