Lorelei Decker is alive in part because of the blood she's received from anonymous donors and the encouragement she's received from a not-so-anonymous basketball team.
Which is why Decker wants to spread the word about the Thunder-sponsored Holiday Blood Drive on Friday at the Cox Convention Center.
“I've been saying all day, it's kind of my two loves,” Decker said.
Decker, a recent graduate of Putnam City North High School, is battling Hodgkin lymphoma. She has undergone chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, and could be facing radiation therapy.
Through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Decker was a Thunder coach for the day and formed a bond with coach Scott Brooks. Brooks even skipped a Thunder scrimmage in October to fly to Phoenix with Decker and her family for a Make-a-Wish event.
“The Thunder has always been there to encourage me,” Decker said. “Now it's my turn to take a step back and team up with them, help the community.”
The Oklahoma Blood Institute's blood drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Donors can park free in the garage beneath the Cox Center and will receive collector's edition “I Bleed Blue” T-shirts. Also, a donor will be selected to receive two lower-level tickets to an upcoming Thunder game.
“The Oklahoma City Thunder provides great motivation for good-hearted Oklahomans to give Friday, when so many are traveling or involved in holiday activities, and blood donation typically declines,” said Oklahoma Blood Institute president John Armitage. “We're hoping Oklahomans will rise together so we can all ring in the New Year without concerns about a sufficient blood supply for those who need it.”
Decker knows about needing blood.
“For me, it's been vital,” Decker said Thursday, fighting through a cold. “I had a bone marrow transplant midway through October. I had to have blood transfusions, seemed like every night. It was extremely necessary, because the chemo depletes all my blood counts. Vital is all that you could say about them.”
And people like Decker are vital to the blood message. They put a face and a name to the cause.
“Blood donors are selfless people who give a part of themselves, not expecting to ever know who has been helped by it,” said Leslie Gamble, director of community relations for the Oklahoma Blood Institute.
“No one wears a badge saying, ‘I've received blood.' So when people considering giving blood hear the story of someone like Lorelei, who is alive and full of enthusiasm for living, it makes blood donation so much more purposeful.”
This is the Thunder's fifth year sponsoring the holiday blood drive.
Decker grew up a die-hard OSU football fan, but the Thunder captured her attention.
“I just fell in love with the players,” she said. “I like basketball because you get to see players' personalities on the court.”
Then when the Thunder invited Decker on the inside through Make-a-Wish, the franchise had a friend for life.
“I wish I could verbalize it, the impact they've had on me,” Decker said. “The main thing, it gives me something else to think about, something to look forward to.
“Going through chemo, I'm tired and I'm sick, but I have something to get up for. Something to root for. It's those little goals and that journey you have to set for yourself, to keep your whole person going.
“Even when I was discouraged, getting text messages from Coach Brooks, or even Sam Presti texted me once, those things continue to amaze. I feel special, and I feel my life is worth fighting for. They don't let me get discouraged.”