Dream comes true for ‘Wild About Alaska’ winner

Staff report

DAYTON — Hamilton donor James Finnegan needed a reality check after getting the news that he would be traveling to Alaska as winner of the Community Blood Center “Wild About Alaska Adventure for Two Summer Blood Drive” drawing. The news came as shock, even though he had predicted it.

“Wow! I never won anything in my life,” he said. “Seriously, I told my son Colin ‘I’m going to give blood and win a trip to Alaska for you and me.’”

Everyone 18 and older who registered to give blood with CBC from May 2 to Sept. 3 was automatically entered in the drawing. Jim entered the drawing when he made his 48th lifetime donation on June 1 at the Fort Hamilton Hospital blood drive.

“Honestly, what you are doing is changing people’s lives,” CBC Donor Relations Director Andrew Keelor told Jim. “We were able to sustain an adequate inventory throughout the summer. When there was a national shortage our donors stepped up to the plate.”

The reward of a dream vacation comes at a time when both Jim and Colin are setting personal goals and taking on new challenges.

Colin is the second youngest of Finnegan’s seven children. He recently completed service in the U.S. Army and is now studying architecture at Miami University Hamilton. A stand-out football player in high school, Colin plans to walk-on at Miami University Oxford next year.

Jim spent 37 years as an educator, including 15 years teaching religion at Badin High School, but is now transitioning to a new career in trucking. A Butler County grant has covered the cost of his training.

“There’s not a lot of opportunity teaching religion in Catholic school,” he said. “I want to be in the area for my son in college and playing football. I’ve been unemployed for two and a half years now. I was looking for teaching jobs and saw all these trucking jobs.”

He’s excited about starting a new job and planning a special adventure.

“That’s a chance of a lifetime,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. It’s always been a dream. This is a dream. It’s wonderful. It’s a dream come true. Like I said to my son, ‘we’re going to Alaska.’”

Colin remembers his dad’s prediction about winning the Alaska trip. “I was kind of like – ‘whatever,’” he said. Now he says, “I’m pretty excited about seeing all the nature up there, bears, moose!”

Jim has donated the equivalent of eight gallons of blood during his lifetime. As both an O negative donor and a CMV-negative donor, his blood type is in constant demand, especially for young hospital patients. He knows it’s important to stay healthy so he can help others. He considers it simple maintenance, much like taking care of a truck engine.

“I think it’s just a wonderful thing to do,” he said. “It always makes me feel better physically. I understand engine parts and how important oil is, and blood is same way for the body. It’s like changing my oil, I feel better.”

Jim and Colin celebrated the Alaska trip by donating together during their Friday, Sept. 16, visit to the Dayton CBC. It was Jim’s 49th lifetime donation and Colin’s fourth. Jim’s donation was immediately designated for a pediatric patient.

“I’m O negative, a universal donor,” he said. “So it’s nice getting a phone call, ‘three babies received your blood at this hospital.’ It’s a lift. That’s what life is all about.”

Staff report