Family urges blood donations for son with cancer, others fighting disease

By Marshanna Hester

September 5, 2013 Updated Sep 5, 2013 at 10:26 AM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- A big Cardinals fan, Nathan Pennington, 5, was always ready to step up to the plate but he and his family never expected the curve ball thrown their way in April.

At four years old, Nathan was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

"He had an MRI, which found two tumors in his brain and one along his spine," said Corey Pennington, Nathan's dad.

"Heartbreaking," said Julie Pennington, Nathan's mom. "I call it punch in the gut moment, you just can't take away what's happening to him."

Nathan's tumors are now gone, but he has five rounds of chemotherapy to undergo at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Peoria.

The treatments have left him, at times, with zero white blood cells, leaving Nathan nothing to fight infections.

"Nathan actually has had four transfusions," said Corey. " He had three in Chicago and one here in Peoria."

His parents Corey and Julie know there will be more.

That is why family and friends are holding a blood drive in honor of Nathan.

It will be Tuesday, September 10 at Crossroads United Methodist Church in Washington from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

To make an appointment call 1-800-Red-Cross or visit the website,

There is an urgent need for types "O" negative, "A" negative and "B" negative blood.

"Whether it's you, a family member, a friend or even a complete stranger, it's an easy way to make someone's life better, to make someone's day better," Julie said.

Right now, Nathan can't walk or use his right hand but therapists tell his parents they are confident things will return after chemo.

Now, he just needs a simple roll of the sleeve from you to really enjoy life again.

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